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Archive for the ‘Inner Child’ Category

Our most habitual and compelling feelings and thoughts define the core of who we think we are.  If we are caught in the trance of unworthiness, we experience that core as flawed.  When we take life personally by I-ing and my-ing, the universal sense that “something is wrong” easily solidifies into “something is wrong with me.

Tara Brach in Radical Acceptance: Embracing Life with the heart of Buddha

 

Okay, it has been almost two weeks since I last blogged.  I get into the zone of my life, and I forget about the blog until I start to get a nagging pull to write.  I started feeling this way two days ago, and  I decided to observe my process since it is emblematic of how I operate. It is interesting that I responded to my internal blog due date, since I have not established one officially, the way I use to react to professional writing deadlines; in other words, the way I react to responsibility.  As you may recall from past blogs, I (or should I say, my inner child) hates and avoids responsibility; and, I see now that I have turned this blog from something I love to something I HAVE to do.  It’s no wonder I have not been blogging!  Achh!  Why do I do this?

Perhaps David Friedman’s Thought Exchange system can help me get to the bottom of this; I finally got the book on Monday, and I am actually reading it!  So, according to Friedman, thoughts lead to physical sensations that lead to thoughts and beliefs, and, ultimately, to a manifestation.  My not writing my blog on time is the manifestation of my thought/belief; and, even shallow digging reveals that I have always felt like a Slacker, and on some level, I believe I am one.  I had so much adult responsibility as a child, that anything else I did as I grew older paled in comparison; hence, I always feel like I am not doing enough.

As I think about this, the belief that I am a slacker probably originated out of guilt for not wanting to do serve as my parents’ translator and English scribe when I should have been doing kid things.  I have the belief, but what is the thought, since the two are different?  I am thinking that the belief is “I won’t do it”, or, is it, “I can’t do it.”  Aha!  As a child, I probably doubted my ability to complete the adult tasks assigned to me, so I developed the thought that “I can’t do it.”  But that is different from slacking, isn’t it?  Slackers don’t want to do whatever “it” is, whether they can or not.  But then again, our thoughts and beliefs are often based on falsehood, and they don’t make sense.

Byron Katie, whose system, The work, also deals with thoughts, would ask me to interrogate whether I know that my thoughts are true; and, they are not.  I am not a SLACKER!  If I were, I would not have graduated from college at 16, from college at 20, and from graduate school at 22.  I also would not have completed a doctorate at 32, but I admit that I was disappointed that I was not done by age 30.  I am reciting these accomplishments not to brag but to dissuade myself of the “SLACKER” belief.  But, again, because I didn’t want to be forced into doing things, like publishing for the sake of publishing, I concluded that I was a master SLACKER.  David Friedman advises that I exchange my thought “I won’t” to “I will” and my slacker belief to “I am industrious.”  And, Byron Katie would ask, who would I be without those thoughts?  A happy and productive blogger!

 

 

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Do you ever delude yourself?  I, do, regularly.  My Delusion is insidious, as are her good friends, Denial and Rationalization.  So, this past week, I was thinking about my next blog topic, and how I had plenty of time to write it and still keep my weekly schedule, when Reality interjected: “Na ah!  It’s been two weeks, not one since your last post!  What time zone are you on?” Oops, I did it again.  When I was in academia, I believed, once, twice, three, and four times, that I had plenty of time to publish, only to find that five years had evaporated.  But, this is another story.  Today, I am writing about Scrabble.  Yes, I have been playing Scrabble instead of blogging, reading, studying for my clinical exam, or cleaning the house; but this is when Rationalization steps in, telling me that play enhances creativity, abstract thinking, mastery, and cognitive development, among other benefits.

As a child, play bored me, as did other children.  Instead, I wanted to be around adults to listen to their conversations.  Don’t ask me why, as the adults in my life were not particularly interesting.  As an adult, I found games a waste of time, until this summer, when my husband introduced me to electronic Scrabble, which I play with friends via facebook and my iphone.   Some of you may be double squirming right now, thinking that facebook is bad enough, but wasting time on electronic games?   I was once where you are, but I will tell you what I have learned from playing Scrabble.  Spiritual lessons are everywhere—other humans, animals, bed bugs, and even electronic games!

At first, I was afraid to play out of fear of losing—I played with my husband, and Mrs. D., an aquaintance who mirrors my fanaticism (we play three games at a time). But, true competitor that he is, he encouraged me to stick to it, and 356 games later, I am more engaged than ever, and I, for today, I am at the top of the list of my friends who play Scrabble.

Lesson 1: You have to play, to win.

Had I given up after my first game, I would not have not gained a new friend or connected with old ones.  And, I would have missed out on learning these lessons.

Lesson 2: If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again:

I have learned not to give when I am losing because the tiles can turn, and I only need one point to win.  The possibilities to form new words are there, but I need to look for them, once, twice, or three times.

Lesson 3: Don’t get cocky.

Although I may score a Bingo (letter points and a 50 point bonus), again, the tiles turn, and if I am dealt all consonants or all vowels, I may lose despite my skill.

Lesson 4:  You see it when you believe it.

I use to think that Bingos were rare, but this week I’ve seen differently.  If I believe they are rare, I won’t look for them, but if I do, I will find them.

Lesson 6:  Non-attachment

Because the tiles can change at any moment, I have learned not to become attached to winning or losing, though I strive to score.

I have also learned about myself.  I never saw as being competitive because I shied away from competition.  But today, I see that I was hiding my competitive nature in my shadow.  I am competitive, and if own that side of myself, I can manage it instead of it managing me.  And, surprise!  I have fear of success.  When I scored three Bingos last night, I found myself panicking that my Scrabble partners were going to quit on me.  Picture my inner child, alone on the playground, rejected by her playmates; it’s no wonder I have always been reluctant to shine my light out of fear that I would be left alone in the dark.  Practically, Scrabble helps me to manage my anxiety and my boredom.  A close game can be exhilarating after hours of tedious online grading, and it is cheaper than compulsive shopping, a coping strategy from when I had money to spare.  But, I also know that, Scrabble can be my accomplice in avoiding life.  Want to play?  I warn you, though, that I have made dictionary.com my homepage.

Reference:

Benefits of Play

via Play = Learning – Benefits of Play.

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A week ago at this time, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene had moved on, leaving some relieved that they’d been spared and others devastated that their homes were surrounded by water so high that they needed to be rescued in boats.  Although the intensity was expected to be so great that the NYC Transit System was shut down, and parts of the city were evacuated, by the time it reached us, Irene had been downgraded.  We got off easy; our basement was flooded and we lost power for 24 hours, though I admit that I was a frantic that I could not charge my two computers.  But the thought that people we know in Haiti, through our church, never have electricity or running water, snapped me out of my pity-party .

 

The thought that a hurricane would strike NY, where we typically get Nor’easters, storms resembling hurricanes, was surreal.  In my ignorance, hurricanes only happened in the tropics—in places like Cuba and Haiti.  Cuba!  I wondered if my mother had ever experienced a hurricane during the thirty-three years she’d lived in Cuba. “Of course,” she said, “I grew up in Cuba!”

 

Then she started reminiscing about the hurricane of 1932!  She remembered it “as vividly as if it were today” even though she was five at the time.

“I can still see ‘Lala’ (her mother), holding Mimi (the fourth of her ten siblings) throughout the entire hurricane.  She would only put her down to changer her diaper.  It’s funny how you can remember some things so vividly and others that happened more recently, you can’t remember.”

“What about you, who was caring for you,” I asked?

“Oh, the entire family was gathered—-aunts, uncles, grandparents during the entire storm.”

But she did not identify an adult that comforted her and her other two sisters, one six, and the other four, while their mother cradled their infant sister.  Witnessing her remembrance I was flooded (and still am) with profound grief that my mother was deprived of her mother’s comfort during a time so terrifying that it is fixed in her mind, 79 years later.

 

Her hurricane story helped me to see why my mother often reminds me of a vulnerable child, why she is hypersensitive to rejection, and why I don’t remember her ever holding or comforting me when I was little.  I do remember, however, my Tia Elba hugging and kissing me.  I also remember Tia sitting at her sewing machine with me sitting on her lap. Today is Tia’s 88th birthday.  She is still alive, continuing to defy the odds, just like daddy did.  She will go when she is ready and when we least expect it.  As I write, tears flood my face.  I am crying for the little girl that weathered the hurricane of 1932, for myself, and for my aunt, who will never again tell me that she loves me.

 

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So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us.

~Gaston Bachelard

via Inner Child Quotes and Sayings.


This week, I have been avoiding sitting down to write; I either become paralyzed by indecision over topics, or by the fear that I have nothing to say—that I’ll show up, but the words won’t. That has always been my fear; or that what I have to say is STUPID. I don’t entirely believe that, but part of me does. Perhaps, it’s my little fat girl, who couldn’t speak a word of English when she started first grade, a month after classes started in 1961. The one who was taught to write her name with an Anglicized spelling; the one that felt shamed when reading aloud to the class, was immediately told to sit down when making a mistake. Twenty years into the future, that same little girl would be reinjured, this time not by a first grade teacher, but by a Cuban-born professor at the University of Chicago, who would publicly slash her paper (and her self-esteem) with a red pen. Ironically, another twenty years later, I would write a chapter for this professor’s book, and she would include it in an exam that my, now, friend took in the doctoral program. Yes!

 

I think I know what today’s blog is about—though I cringe to say it, “the inner child.” I cringe because this is not a respected concept in academic circles; but I am in recovery from academia, and this is a term popular within the Twelve-Step movement, which considers healing the inner child as essential to recovery. It’s funny that, though I referred to myself as a child in my last post, I didn’t consciously connect my adult experiences to my inner child, but my friend S. did, and I thank her for that. So, what is the inner child, for those of you who may not be familiar with the concept? Hypothetically, it is the childlike aspects of one’s psyche, viewed as a separate entity; the residual effects of a person’s subjective childhood experiences from earliest memory. Kneisl (1991) sees it as “the core of the personality that has been molded by the directions on how to act to be loved” received in childhood. Although this is used in varying forms within different schools of psychotherapy (e.g., transactional analysis and analytic psychology), John Bradshaw, an American educator and self-help guru, popularized it.

 

Back to me: if I analyze my current struggles using the “inner child” lens, this is what I come up with. As a 6-year-old refugee, I had crushing demands placed on me! I had to learn to read and write, not one, but two languages; I had to attend to my parents’ affairs once I learned English, because they didn’t have the opportunity to learn it themselves; in school, I had to prove that I could be as smart as American kids, as I was placed in the slowest first grade class and, at home, that I could be as worthy as the male child my father longed for, but never had. My social identities as a girl and an outsider condemned me to always being “less than.” Regardless of my talents, I would never be a boy, or a slim blonde American girl.

 

Fast-forward twenty, thirty, forty years, and those “not-good-enough”, whether internally, or internally, still persecute me. But, I have stood up to these “bullies” by refusing to jump the hoops that move as soon as I come near them. My friend once said, jokingly, that I was suffering from oppositional defiant disorder, and I laughed, but wondered if I, indeed, was. Here is a counter-medical model interpretation that I like better. Viewed through a feminist lens, my “oppositional behavior” are acts of cultural resistance. In other words, I have been resisting attempts to diminish and devalue me because I am a woman, or because I am different. And, it is a full-time and over-time job that depletes me; I am tired of having to prove myself. My inner child would much rather PLAY.

References:

Kneisl, C. (1991). Healing the wounded, neglected inner child of the past. The Nursing clinics of North America, 26(3), 745.

 

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