Exercising Your Loving AdultBy Phyllis Stein, Ph.D.
November 14, 2007
Creating a loving adult is not something that happens all at once. The loving adult is a part of us that needs to be strengthened. If you don't know where to begin, these easy exercises can help you start to build your loving adult self.
We know that the unhappy feelings we are feeling now are coming from our inner kids, our wounded selves, who are frozen in the past. As part of the healing, our spiritually connected loving adult may literally return to the past, walking into events that actually occurred and making them turn out differently, because the first time around there was no one there for us, no one who cared, no one who held us, no one who would stand up for us, no one to tell us the truth. But developing a loving adult who is capable of doing this often a huge challenge. This is especially true for those of us who had little modeling of loving behavior and grew up in the chaos of intensely dysfunctional families. The Inner Bonding process is one of strengthening the loving adult so that it can do this, but where to start?
I think for people who are struggling, it may help to begin with easy exercises, exercises that are doable, rather than expecting to be able to do the heavy lifting all at once. One easier exercise might be to just imagine what it might be like to be a loving, compassionate, powerful person, just like your child might have imagined what it would be like to be a cowboy or a movie star. As a child, you knew perfectly well that you were not a cowboy, but that did not keep you from imagining what it was like. Use someone you know, or someone you've heard about, or someone in the movies, just like you did when you were little. Imagining your self as someone like Jesus might work, or it might be too much of a stretch. There is no right way. You are just trying to get a handle on what it would feel like, nothing more. Keep imagining it, however it works for you. Maybe that would include imagining that you are full or light, or protected by a guide as well. Once you can do it, you might try the next exercise.
For this exercise, go back to the first memory that comes up of growing up, the first one that you can really feel in your body. It may not even be a specific event. Your child lives in how your body feels, rather than in the specific details of events. Now return to imagining what it would feel like to be loving, compassionate and powerful and hold that feeling while you walk into the past. Maybe you walk into a room and your father is yelling at your child, and your child feels scared and helpless. Don't worry about solving it all yet. That will come later. This exercise is just to hold onto how it would feel to be loving, compassionate and powerful and just walk into the scene. If you lose it (which you probably will at first) and the scared, helpless feeling (or whatever else you felt then) overwhelms you, back out of the room and move back into imagining how it would be to be a loving, powerful, compassionate person. Anchor it in a little more strongly and walk in again. Keep trying. Your goal is simply to be able to go in the room with your little one and not lose your power. You goal is to notice what happens inside yourself when you go in the room. Your goal is to experience what it is like to feel safe, strong and compassionate in the presence of what was so unsafe back then. You might even have to break it down a little more, to dilute the experience so that you only approach the room at first. Stop and regroup as soon as you lose the feeling. The point of the exercise is to reinforce the feeling of what having a loving adult feels like and to give you a way to get back to it.
Doing these exercises also can strengthen the experience of having and making a different choice. When we try to do Inner Bonding from the place of being caught up in the emotions of the moment, there is no loving adult, no one to walk into the past and change things so that our child is no longer trapped in what was. There is no one for the child of the past to trust. To help our inner child, we need to choose to shift into a loving adult state and to be able to stay in that place when our child is overwhelmed. This exercise is only a beginning, but it can build a foundation that will make it possible, as you get stronger, for your loving adult to take action on your child's behalf.
When I started this column, my purpose was to suggest an exercise that would help to begin to create a loving adult. But, even when there is usually a strong loving adult available, there are times when we are trying to dialogue, that what we really need to notice is that the person talking with our child is not that loving adult. So, as I am finishing, I realize that any of us could use the exercise of noticing when we are not feeling powerful, loving and compassionate, backing out of the room and regrouping in order to make sure that it is our loving adult, not our wounded self who is there.
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