Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Inner child deluxe

It may help those therapists who are dedicated to roots, causes and relative resolution of problems to give new respect to the idea of the inner child – that personification of our ungrown identity – but to see it in a different way.  It is to conceive that persons with neurotic or psychotic dysfunction do not “have” an inner child – they are their inner child.  This conceptualization goes even further than the Primal understanding that personality is a constellation of defenses, and asks you to consider that the adult life in its countless aspects is often the necessary fallback adopted to carry our crippled child into the future.

To see essentially a deluded child (who believes, that is, that he or she is actually grown up) in the chair doesn’t mean you must hold her or sing her lullabies or accept all his bad behaviors.  Adultness is like free will: We must act as though it is genuine despite all the logical evidence against it (, and accept that it contains imperatives of social behavior.  What's essential, though, is that you see the ultimate child beneath everything and therefore have compassion for irrationality and immaturity, and understanding that his confusion is not ignorant or willful.  The depressed and repressed little girl cannot know.

You will see that the haughty narcissistic police officer is a bitter child whose father kicked him around.  That the philosophical young phobe fell upward into his mind early on to escape unsustainable pain.  That the psychotic woman has, as Modrow describe it, “undergone terrifying, heartbreaking, and damaging experiences, usually over a long period of time, and as a consequence [is] emotionally disturbed – often to the point of incapacitation.”*  I have found in myself an extra quality of compassion, which I could call universal, that sees our adultness as a fix we are in, as translucent discolored lenses through which we try to see a bright and crystal clear world.

This perspective has helped me work with men who present with domestic violence or other rage reactions.  They are boiling inside as there has never been any justice in their boyhood.  Get slapped often and be ordered to be mature.  We need to see – probably for the first time in the man’s life – that boy, to reach a hand out to him.  I see him whenever I get angry -- deeply and disintegratively angry – at a computer screen that refuses to refresh as quickly as I require.

I, in fact, don’t understand how therapists work with the adult as the primary field.  Beyond some weeks or months of support, education, reasoning and persuading –

“When years of interpretation have failed to generate change, we may begin to make direct appeals to the will: ‘Effort, too, is needed.  You have to try, you know.  There’s a time for thinking and analyzing but there’s also a time for action.’  And when direct exhortation fails, the therapist is reduced [. . .] to employing any known means by which one person can influence another.  Thus, I may advise, argue, badger, cajole, goad, implore, or simply endure, hoping that the patient’s neurotic worldview will crumble away from sheer fatigue.”  (Irvin Yalom, Love’s Executioner, pp. xvii & xviii.)
– what is there left that you do?  But more: To look at the grown man or woman and see an entity simple – changeable by a new or “rational” idea; or shallow – bendable by the brute force of necessity, as in anger management; or appeasable by soothing – DBT “mindfulness,” EMDR “installation,” or imagery, is to limit yourself to such a foreshortened horizon!  A newspaper instead of a history book!  The inner child – the real self – is the field as deep as time, and capable of extending intimacy into the past, where we felt the endless horizon.

* John Modrow, How To Become a Schizophrenic, pg. 9.

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.