OK, IN THERE —
Who’s really running the show?
PREVIOUS: Ego States – Basics (Part 1)
SITE: Ego State Maps
1. HEALTHY parts of the Self (E.S. = ego state) form in childhood as a response to positive, affirming relationships within a family that is loving & able to connect to the child in all 4 PMES ways.
AS ADULTS – the E.S. become integrated into a larger whole with the Healthy Adult in charge. They work well together internally, in part because they include adaptive introjects of caring, supportive people. This allows such people to function successfully in the world because they have flexible rather than rigid ways of thinking, live ‘in the present’, feel and manage the full range of emotions, hold positive beliefs about themselves & the world, and act in appropriate, productive ways.
EXP of healthy person’s inner dialogue:
Healthy ADULT: “OK, I want my place to look, feel & smell nice, so I’m going to clean it up tonight.”
Playful CHILD: “NOOO, I want to play. I want to go to a movie with my friends & have fun!”
Loving PARENT: “I know little one, but the place is not in good shape right now, & you know you feel much better here when it’s all clean & fresh. We can go play with them another night, & then we’ll have even more fun knowing we’re coming back to a nice home.”
EXP for recovering ACoAs: After a stressful event, the WIC may feel scared & think it’s bad, obsessing about the situation – while the Loving Parent can sooth & comfort, and the Healthy Adult helps to re-frame the event in the light of self-esteem & present day reality. Then the kid calms down & can ‘breathe’.
• The Ego State model provides a way to look at our internal world in the context of our personal history. Under stress we revert to old patterns, which for ACoAs would likely be the WIC & PP being in charge:
a. Either the patterns is the one we absorbed from our parents, made up of subgroups, so the (P) ego state may include one for mom, one for dad & possibly some for other people. Most often one of them is bigger & stronger than the others, from the parent who was the most available, the loudest, meanest, most controlling….
b. OR the ones we had as kids (C.) – so now our Child state can have a strong layer at age 2, lots of stuff from age 6, leftover issues from our teenage years….. That’s why we speak of the C. ego states in the plural & connect with more than one version of the wounded Inner Child – of different ages, possibly of both genders, and each one holding an aspect of our early self – sad, angry, scholarly, defiant, carefree…. the suicidal one, the determined one, the caretaker, the bully…. (See next post for info on diagram)
2. REACTION to Trauma – To survive overwhelming trauma, rejection & other kinds of abuse, children will form internal E.S. which either end up in constant conflict (Bad Parent vs Natural Self…), either engaged in internal battles OR get cut off from each other (dissociated) to save the child’s sanity, both ways preventing a feeling of security & the ability to extract the most from the outside world.
EXP: Healthy children can create a temporary imaginary playmate but eventually don’t need it, replace it with a real-life friends.
A lonely, isolated child may remove part of its True Self to produce such a ‘friend’ to interact with, making the imaginary companion feel very real & hard to give up (like killing a part of oneself – instead of it getting re-integrated). When such a child is forced to push that part of the Self out of awareness, because of conflict & environmental pressure, it can show up later in life in a different, more damaging form (“We, the Divided Self”, Watkins & Johnson, 1982), but this is not what happens to most ACoAs. We sometimes channel that cut off part into work, the arts… or hide & withdraw from others.
AS ADULTS : All the states are supposed to keep developing throughout life. However they can become contaminated when current reality is overlaid with emotions & memories of childhood experiences. Unfortunately, because of family dysfunction (becomes psychological weeds), E.S. growth becomes stunted so that many ACoAs get mentally & emotionally stuck in Child Mode – which is not our fault, but needs to be corrected.
● Therefore our immature ‘Parent & Adult’ parts are being expressed mainly (or only) from the Wounded Inner Child’s point of view, with a child’s emotional range, & only with a child’s limited, perhaps twisted, knowledge of reality. So we can mistake our parents’ rules / slogans for here-and-now adult reality (PP talking), so that beliefs are taken as facts. Or we may be sure that everyone is laughing at us because “they” always laughed at us (WIC’s thinking). That’s even true in spite of years of education & a wide variety of experiences.
When the PP or the WIC gets activated:
● it will take over, while the others recede, have less control, less of a say. Since the E.S. are often in conflict with each other (PP vs Healthy Adult, WIC vs N.C., PP vs N.C.), we waste a lot of time with internal debates but with no resolution, OR we end up paralyzed, not being able to decide on a course of action.
● also, each E.S. will act differently when trying to accomplish something, no matter what the goal is. How the Adult part handles a situation is not the way the WIC’s would, & they could be different again from the PP or LP. This makes it hard to feel grounded & comfortable, especially when under stress. It often makes ACoAs think we’re crazy. We are NOT!
— The WIC’s version of an (A) can make us very hard-working & usually very intelligent, but most of our efforts are meant to quiet some internal anxiety (FoA, guilt, S-H, shame…)
— The WIC’s version of a (P) – actually the Introject – is internally very harsh toward the C’s child, while being very dedicated, clever & kind – but only towards others outside of oneself, OR very mean to others while feeling scared & vulnerable.
EXP. of an unhealed person’s Inner Dialogue:
Bad PARENT voice: “Why can’t you do anything right?”
Victim CHILD: “I know I’d dumb. Nothing I do every works out!”
Disconnected ADULT: “Let’s see, next I need to –, & then I’ll go –, and then I can –”
The more we know about each Ego State, the better we can make use of them. Emotionally healthy people can easily switch between ES, depending on what is needed in the moment. When the 3 main ones act as a whole (not including the WIC or the PP), we’re in sync with ourselves. Then we can choose how to act (As) & what to think (Ts) – instead of being driven by anxieties & rules we’re barely aware of. AND then we can accept & know how to process our emotions (Es), no matter which ones, without having to suppress or deny them.
NEXT: Ego States – basics (Part 3)