EATING LOVE GUIDE - Emotions 2
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EMOTIONS 2 - EMOTIONAL REINTEGRATION
"What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams. -Werner Herzog"
THE INNER CHILD
Just because a person is grown up doesn't mean that they are a grown up in every sense.
The most brilliant among us who can run kingdoms and engineer skyscrapers can also be emotionally run by a little child inside them. It's quite a paradox actually. To see a fully grown man or woman with the leadership and intellect to do what all children and most adults cannot, still have tantrums or act childish in some form.
These people are mature physically (they were fed adequate nutritional food consistently throughout their life), intellectually (they received training by going to school consistently throughout their life), but didn't get enough nurturance or emotional attunement and processing (consistent unconditional love and exposure to emotionally mature adult role models) so that they could develop that aspect of themselves.
So we call that immature emotional part of ourselves our 'inner child' and that child is where we'll start our focus.
To get started try closing your eyes and get an image in your mind of what you think your inner child looks like. It should be a very strong image that's full of feeling.
The image can be of what you looked like when you were between 2-5 years old or it can be of a little girl or boy who is in need in general. Many therapists will ask their patients to find an old picture of themselves between the ages of 2-5 and keep it at their desks or somewhere where they can see it at least once per day.
If you don't have a good one or can't find any, look for one online that really resonates with you. A picture that, when you look at it, really makes you FEEL the same emotions your own inner child is feeling.
For example, an image like the one below evokes lots of forgotten hurts and feelings ...
Looking at this image one can associate following emotions:
- Danger (where are the parents?)
Or this one:
- Feeling unwanted
Most of us can relate to how those 2 girls are feeling in some way or other (nobody gets out unscathed no matter how good your childhood was.) The intensity of these feelings and how deeply they are buried will in part determine how you are feeling now as an adult.
Your aim here will be to establish a relationship with her and get to know her (or him) after denying her existence for so many years. This process is called reintegration and basically means allowing her to be apart of you, a part of the group (if we assume you have many parts inside of you) once again, after living in exile for so long.
To do this, pick a time of day where you can spend 5 minutes connecting with her. It's best if it is the same time each day and a time where you are sure you will be able to do it consistently. Some people like doing it when they are about to fall asleep after everything in the day is done, and there is nothing else to attend to.
Start by getting a good, mental picture of her to see what she looks like. Each day you'll try to make that picture clearer and clearer in your mind.
Next ask her how she is feeling and FEEL IT WITH HER. She may say she is feeling 'not great' or 'down' and that is well. Ask her more about it. Try to get specific.
Your job is to get to know her without trying to fix her, judge her or make anything better. Just listen and feel.
It might not be so easy though. She has hidden and been shunted away from the world for a long time. She's been hurt and overwhelmed and had to go into survival mode to take care of herself so she's not going to suddenly open up and trust anyone anytime soon. You have to be patient and then patient some more, but also persistent.
Become a Detective Your conversations can go in any direction you like and wherever your inner child takes you. Ask lots of questions in many different ways to get the answers you are looking for.
The answers you'll get (if you get any at first) may be clear and concise or very abstract and if that's the case you'll need to start learning her language to be able to properly interpret her, in the same way people interpret events and symbols in dreams.
Start Where You Are At
Ask these and other questions over and over in different ways but start your session off wherever she is at. Close your eyes and focus upon her and if she is in a dark room by herself ask about that. If she is thinking about her mother ask about that. Always start where you (she) are at and you'll find a way in.
Getting clear and detailed images and answers from her are key to building a strong and solid relationship between you both, and you can't do that unless you apply yourself with focus and consistency and make your inner work a priority.
It takes lots of patience and much of the time you won't seem to be getting anywhere which can be frustrating because you are suffering somewhat, and want things to move along in your life.
The word 'seem' above is important because the process of doing the exercise itself moves you forward even though you don't notice it. Then, one day, after a few days or weeks of doing it, something clicks and you feel a surge of energy and know that you are on the right track.
That progress gives you the motivation to keep going, pushing you further and further ahead, where you will once again feel lost, wishing you had a map and feeling frustrated.
It's like looking around in the dark for something without knowing what that something is. This will go on for a time until something clicks once again and you again push forward etc.
YOUR DEFENSES ARE NOW OBSTACLES
As you work your way through the exercises above you'll see that, like I mentioned above, it is not easy and that is because of the defenses your inner child created against the hurtful and tumultuous environment he or she had to deal with.
These defenses usually have layers to them too and their function is to make it hard for you to connect to the inner child and those unbearable, intolerable feelings he/she had to deal with when you were young. Although they started being built at a very young age it wasn't a one time deal where they were set by age 5 and then held for the rest of your life.
Fortified and Added To
Over time these defenses were used so often that they became entrenched in your personality. On top of that new ones were created too as you ventured out into the world and learned that it too was hurtful.
By the time you were an adult you were encapsulated by layers of defenses.
Each layer piled onto the next until the inner child was covered up, protected and eventually forgotten.
To get to the forgotten part of you means taking on these defenses one by one, and to do that you first need to know that they exist.
A helpful exercise here is to try to think about your family and friends and evaluate them all in your mind. Try to figure out what they don't want to see about themselves and/or about their life circumstances, and then pretend that someone you liked and trusted very much was doing the same to you.
What would they say?
What do you do to keep the truth from yourself?
One good way of becoming aware of your defenses is to watch what you say repeatedly and with feeling.
"I just like things a certain way."
"He's not cheating."
"I have no issues whatsoever with my parents. Everything is good now."
The best defense is a good offense and if you catch yourself aggressively 'pushing' an idea or statement then it might be something you want to look into.
What feelings are off limits to you?
For men it is a very difficult thing to feel anything more than anger and some joy. They are taught at very young ages that men don't cry and should not feel helpless, powerless, vulnerable or scared because REAL MEN are not like that.
For women it is a 'tad' easier as they are allowed to express more feelings than men, but they are still cut off from expressing Anger (good girls obey) and from any sexual impulse they may have.
Depending on our culture and our parenting, any one of us, male or female could have grown up with any number of messages about what is and is not acceptable to feel.
We listen and obey these messages because the consequences for not doing so, especially when we are young and dependent are dire.
Children are powerless and know that acceptance is equivalent to survival. So when we are told by our parents (who are our whole world from 0-5) that our feelings, behaviors or needs are unacceptable then we learn to repress or deny them so that we can feel safe.
This is done at the adult level too. The difference as an adult is that you are not so powerless anymore and have a much more critical mind with mental and emotional tools that were unavailable to you when you were younger.
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