The Three-Step Anything ProcessBy Phyllis Stein, Ph.D.
January 29, 2009
The three-step process is not just for anger.
The three-step anger process is familiar to most Inner Bonders but bears repeating here. The first step involves noticing that you are angry with someone or angry about something. For example, you went to renew the license plates for your car and you had to wait on a long line at the license bureau. Although you are free to continue to tell yourself that your anger is, in fact, caused by, say, having to wait in line, you also have the choice of using this as an opportunity to learn something important. Assuming you choose that and have moved into the intent to learn, without judgment, what this is really about, the first step is to allow yourself to completely get into your anger. This is not a time to wonder about what is "politically correct" Innerbondingwise. This is a time to put the object of your anger in front of you (the motor vehicle bureau) and allow your angry self to blame, dump, hit, yell, write in a journal, whatever you want to do about what happened to you. As you do this, almost like catching a wave, you begin to realize that there is a theme to all this and as the first wave of anger subsides, you can probably put a name to what you are feeling, for example after waiting on the long line: "It's not fair" or "You don't care about me," or "My needs are never important."
Once you have a good handle on the feeling, the second step of the anger process is to tune in and ask your inner child if this is a feeling that he or she had when you were growing up. Almost always, you remember a time, a place, being a certain age. Often it can be a surprise and you might think "Oh, this is something very minor." It never is. Go there anyway, to the memory, however it shows up and tune into how you felt at the time. Who were you mad at then? Be present, without judgment and allow your inner child to express what he or she never got to say at the time. It is almost guaranteed that you will find yourself saying pretty much what you said to the motor vehicle bureau: "It's not fair" or "You don't care about me," or "My needs are never important."
As most of you already know, the critical part is step 3 where you ask your inner child if you are treating her or him in a way that makes her or him feel the same way. This is the step that is missing is so many therapies that stop at step 2, at what seems like the "explanation." You put yourself where you had put the motor vehicle bureau and you hold your child as she or he expresses what will again probably turn out to be exactly the same thing. These things that make your child angry are the actions of your wounded self. You realize that the cause of your present time anger actually has very little to do with the motor vehicle bureau, but everything to do with how you are treating your inner child. Your child says: "It's not fair." "You don't care about me." "My needs are not important."
This is what you came to learn, that you are the reason for what you are feeling. As you continue the Inner Bonding process, you ask for guidance about the loving action, about how you could treat your child differently so the he or she can feel safe and loved.
What I want to suggest here is that this 3-step process is not just for anger. Anything that you have a strong emotional reaction to is fodder for a 3-step process. The strong emotional reaction is a gift, a wonderful doorway to healing. Does a story make you sob? Start by telling yourself the reasons in the present that it does. Does something you heard make you feel scared? What is going on in the present that you think is making you scared? Does something make you tense? What is causing it in the present? Is there something that you need to express now to someone because of these feelings? Do it by putting them in front of you. Then, just as with the anger, find the feeling in the past and tune into what was causing the feeling then. What was going on then? What did you need to express then? Your past can even be as a baby and you could even find yourself expressing the same feeling by wailing. Whatever it is, you have the option of learning from it. And then again, finally, take this feeling to the level of your inner child and to the experience of how these really are the feelings of your child and that you are, in reality, creating these feelings right now by how you are treating him or her.
The 3-step process is almost a magical one. Inner Bonding, at its core, is about taking responsibility for our own feelings so that we can choose peace and love over misery and suffering. The power of the 3-step process makes it real by allowing us to fully experience the direct link between what we are feeling now and what is going on inside. So, next time you feel strongly about anything, something that happens at work, something you hear on the news, something that happens in your family, remember that you can choose to turn this into a gift if you want, a gift directly from the universe to your inner child.
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What is your first reaction when someone is harsh, critical, sarcastic, angry, judgmental, attacking? Do you attack back? Do you withdraw and get silent? Do you defend and explain? Today, honor the feeling in your body that says "This doesn't feel good" and either speak your truth without blame, defense or judgment and open to learning, or lovingly disengage and compassionately take care of your feelings.
By Dr. Margaret Paul