When My Inner Child Behaves Like a Brat
Lately I've been asking myself why the therapist isn't following her own advise. It's so easy to tell people to exercise a little every day, to stay away from sweets and alcohol, to get eight hours of sleep a night. Too easy.
So much harder to actually do it myself. Lately when I wake up, instead of doing my usual prayer of gratitude for the new day, I moan, "Why did you eat those cookies, that pie, those potatoes!" I whine, "Do I really have to exercise? It's so cold!" I kvetch, "You stayed up too late watching TV!" I could blame the lack of sunshine, the busy schedule, the fact that I'm middle aged. It doesn't matter. It's got to stop or at least slow down or I will end up looking like Jabba the Hut in no time.
Remember when I got into my skinny jeans? Well, forget that!
Counting calories? Still a good idea but am I doing it? Uh….
David Rock, Are Our Minds Going the Way of Our Waists, apparently thinks the reason I have so much trouble with regulating my eating is that there is so much temptation in my face all the time and the part of my brain that provides restraint is puny. I don't doubt it.
How could the therapist help herself? There is a concept that seems to resonate when I'm counseling people. When we have trouble doing the right thing for ourselves consider this simple idea:
In theory our psyches are made up of three entities, the Child, the Parent and the Adult. Transactional analysis, a humanistic school of psychology, used these terms. Sigmund Freud identified these constructs as the Id, the Superego and the Ego respectively. We get out of whack (scientific term for neurotic) when either the Child or the Parent stomps all over the Adult.
Like when I see a brownie. The child in me jumps up and down and demands the brownie now! The adult might say, "You know, eating the brownie is contrary to your goal of losing weight. No brownie. Eat an apple instead!" The Parent is silent. At least it is until I've ignored the Adult, given in to the Child and gobbled down the brownie. Then it yells, "What is wrong with you! Don't you feel bad? Well, you should!"
Our goal is to have a healthy balance between the three as long as the Adult is in charge, like a CEO with two assertive VPs. Sometimes the Adult will choose to let the Child have its self-indulgent, creative way, like dancing at a party, taking a nap or laughing too loudly at a silly joke. Sometimes the disciplining Parent is allowed to express restraint, judgment, remorse. The Adult is the decider.
Strengthening the Adult with good self-esteem is what helps us do the right thing even when it's not pleasant. Our inner Adult is the good, self-nurturing part of us that can be disciplined but also kind, gentle but firm, independent and strong.
When I need to be immediately gratified that's my inner Child being a brat. Then I can call up the Adult to say something reasonable like, "If you're good and do your exercise, I'll let you have half. How would that be?"
Yeah, maybe the therapist can follow her own advise after all.