MY ADAPTED, CONFORMING SIDE
usually gets me into trouble
PREVIOUS: Ego States – CHILD (Part 3)
The ADAPTED CHILD reacts to the world around it, either changing itself to fit in or rebels against the forces it encounters. When anyone is in this E.S. they are regressed, experiencing their inner needs & the outer world as they did in one of their earlier developmental stages. Although they may seem to be ‘in the present’, they’re actually reacting thru their childhood mental & emotional eyes. For ACoAs this means distorting current reality.
● In functional families, every child occasionally feels uncomfortable or threatened (a new siblings, a poor school grade, a divorce, a serious illness….), but most of the time they don’t have to worry. BUT for ACoAs – our sense of dread & anxiety came from being constantly stressed (neglect, abuse, confusion, loss…). All kids come up with strategies to get through difficult situations, but when a child endlessly needs to protect itself, those strategies become a habit, then a False Self, and later a default position in all situations, no matter what the circumstance.
REACTIVE: the defensive parts of our inner child formed in reaction to wounding caregivers, in Thought / Emotion / Action groupings:
Ts – actual memories of traumatic events
Es – all the pain (loneliness, despair, shame, hurt, humiliation….)
As – the child’s coping behaviors (overeating, drinking / drugging, withdrawing, being hostile….).
ALL reactive parts are trying to help us survive (good intentions) but have harmful consequences. When adults regularly / automatically use those old coping mechanisms, it often causes more pain and suffering than protection. So even if a person is no longer in ‘danger’ in the present, the Adapted C. thinks it has no choice but to keep using them.
● As long as the original trauma is still lurking in the background as unfinished business, those experiences become psychological fixations* (being stuck). This means that behaviors, beliefs, or emotions connected to unresolved childhood experiences can still be triggered today.
*FIXATIONS: The damage in the -AC is a mirror of the PP, rather than a representation of our True Self, which is capable of being in respectful harmony with self and others. Mal-adaptive introjects keep the Child wounded and trapped in the past. Newly discovered mirror neurons appear to explain how this happens. It is not a choice; it is a biological reflex (MORE…..) – but we can reprogram the brain.
— A person can become stuck in the past because of verbally, physically & sexually abusive parents; physical & emotional neglect; unmet developmental needs; and generally unskillful or inadequate parenting. Children get confused when their needs are misunderstood, ignored or trivialized – intentionally or not. When this happens often enough, we get stuck in those wounds.
— But even with caring parents, some people can get fixated in a childhood developmental stage if their family wasn’t able to care for them properly because: the child’s needs were particularly complex or obscure; a parent had their own unresolved emotional issues or was under extreme stress; various hardships (severe financial or health problems, natural disasters, war….) making it impossible for parents to meet their children’s needs – which they would normally have wanted to & been capable of providing.
▶ There are several ways to understand the Inner Child:
a. The broadest form is divided into Natural & Adapted, subdivided into healthy & unhealthy versions, expressed inward toward self & outward toward others. While the +FC is our most basic self, the +AC is equally important, using learned behaviors to avoid pain and get what it wants/needs without being over-compliant, but functioning within set boundaries – to get along well in society.
The -FC refuses to adapt appropriately to society, over-rebelling against early abuse & neglect, while the -AC adapts in harmful ways (rescuing, over-conforming, being helpless, easily influenced by others…). Both styles are compulsive, usually unconscious, applying their pattern to all circumstance indiscriminately. They’re run by Toxic Rules, such as ‘Don’t feel, Be perfect, Hurry up, Don’t ask for help….’, the -AC obeying them, the -FC denying any rules exist.
b. We can also look at the Child’s internal PAC ego states, & further – into the 3 ego states of the Child’s Parent aspects! See ‘Parent, part 1’ post.
● C’s Parent: Electrode (zaps you with a toxic command, causing a knee-jerk reaction), Witch Mother or Fairy Godmother
● C’s Adult: the Little Professor (more in Part 5)
● C’s Child: Natural or Compliant Child, Magical Child or Little Fascist
The -AC is the network location of accumulated trauma. In the 3rd order position we have ego-states embedded in ego states, embedded in ego states. In general, the Child’s Parent ‘voice’ is absorbed from all our important caretakers (usually one louder than the others). If those people were very damaging to us, our Inner Child’s Parent has it’s own negative 3 aspects as seen in this chart, all of which we internalize as if they were us!
X: Our Child’s Parent’s Critical Parent, the neural map containing all the negative parental rules & cognitive distortions which our caretakers carried about themselves. The younger we were when subjected to this part of our parents, the more receptive / vulnerable we were….called Injunctions in TA.
Y: Our Child’s Parent’s Angry/Defiant Child – the neural network holding our caretaker’s rage, reflected in our own 8 to 12 yr old self
Z: Our Child’s Parent’s Vulnerable Child – a map of our caretaker’s youngest self, mirrored by our 1 to 7 yr old, carrying all their woundedness, trauma, loneliness and fear of abandonment.
VERY IMP: This deeper, hidden set of ego states (actually belonging to our parents, but now living in our Introject/PP) needs to be identified & separated out from OUR early experiences, since those of our caretakers could well have been very different from our own.
EXP: A father may have been orphaned very young, or mentally / emotionally scarred by serving in a war, a mother may have been sexually molested as a child or battered in a relationship…… but didn’t happened to us. Yet their unhealed pain & resulting harsh or neglectful treatment towards us were inevitably absorbed – as if we’d lived thru those events too!
● Once we’re clear about what baggage we’re carrying of theirs, we can ‘pack it all up’ & give it back to them – symbolically. We have enough of our own, thank you very much! This can be done (over & over – until we feel less burdened) via visualizations, in drawings, 2-handed dialogue between the Healthy Adult & the PP, in Bio-energetics, Primal or Gestalt (2 chairs) Therapy….
NEXT: CHILD Ego State (Part 5)