Book Club Notes on “Healing the Child Within”

healing-the-child-within

Notes on “Healing the Child Within” by Charles Whitfield M.D.

(Here is a link to Healing the Child Within on Amazon if you are interested in reading the reviews and learning more about it. The link is an affiliate link which doesn’t cost you any extra, but Amazon does give me a small percentage of any sales–all the funds raised go towards running this site.)

To join the discussion on the book, click here.

My top 11 takeaways:

  1. Our “inner child” is our true self. It is playful, curious, open, honest, sincere, and knows our likes and dislikes. 

 

 

  1. Most of us have some degree of damage from our childhoods. The vast majority of parents have some degree of unaddressed mental or emotional dysfunction from their own childhood, and because of this they either intentionally or unintentionally create (at best) some sort of emotional damage in their own children, and at worst they create C_PTSD.

 

  1. The core behaviors found in a “troubled” or dysfunctional home: inconsistency, unpredictability, arbitrariness, rigidity, and/or chaos. These traits often lead to guilt and shame which tend to lead to the development of “core issues.” Not all of these traits need to be present in order for there to be dysfunction in a family.

 

  1. PTSD can be developed after any type of trauma. If there is significant interruption to healthy development due to repeated trauma, then the child develops an out of control “fight, flight, or freeze” state (aka PTSD) and that distressed and impaired development as a child can also lead to difficulty in feeling arousal or pleasure as an adult. Neglect and emotional abuse are equally as devastating as physical or sexual abuse.

 

  1. Abuse and neglect leads to C-PTSD. The resulting defense mechanisms of fight (narcissism), flight (avoidance), or fawn (codependency).

 

  1. No solid sense of self is generally able to be cultivated in troubled homes. In troubled or dysfunctional homes, family members are not allowed or able to have a solid sense of self, and instead either develop a false self (narcissism) or a lack of self (codependency).

 

  1. A lack of a solid sense of (or healthy) self leads to a lack of a solid sense of (or healthy) boundaries. Basically, people that struggle with codependency tend to have very enmeshed boundaries with others—meaning, they may overshare and be too openly honest with people they hardly know, and/or they may have trouble enforcing a boundary (walking away) from a situation that is destructive or dangerous. It’s important for us to realize what healthy (and unhealthy) boundaries look like in a variety of dynamics.

 

  1. What is a “core issue?” A “core issue” is unresolved trauma which often presents itself as a repeating pattern/behavior in our lives. Either with being emotionally triggered by things, or getting into relationship or friendships with the same types of dynamics (such as dating more than one narcissist/emotional manipulator), etc.

 

  1. How we can tell if our inner child needs healing:

 

If we struggle with boundaries, having a sense of self, being in disempowering, toxic, or unhealthy relationships with others, have addictions, have issues with anxiety, depression, or potentially reoccurring physical symptoms such as pain, fatigue, etc.  Or overall if our lives aren’t working or if we struggle with having a solid sense of self.

 

  1. To heal the child within there are 4 actions:

 

  1. Discover and practice being our real self (aka child within)
  2. Identify our ongoing physical, mental-emotional and spiritual needs. Practice getting these needs met with safe and supportive people.
  3. Identify, re-experience and grieve the pain of our ungrieved losses or traumas in the presence of safe and supporting people.
  4. Identify and work thru our core issues.

 

  1. Recovery often occurs in 6 stages:

1.Survival

2.Emergent Awareness

3.Core Issues

4. Transformations

5. Integration

6. Genesis (or spirituality)

Recovery can also be seen as: awakening, exploration, integration, being—or thru the lens of the journey of the hero: separation, initiation, return.

Full notes—

What exactly is our “Inner Child”?

The concept of the Child Within has been a part of our world culture for at least two thousand years. Carl Jung called it the “divine child” and Emmet Fox called it the “Wonder Child.” Aka “the true self.”  It refers to that part of each of us which is ultimately alive, energetic, creative, and fulfilled—it is our real self, who we really are.

It’s our true self, and when properly nourished and supported, we are able to have healthy boundaries and in turn have a healthy relationship with ourselves and others.

The child Within is our “real self” and it’s spontaneous, expansive, loving, giving, and communicating. It accepts ourselves and others. It is in touch with its feelings and expresses them. Intuitive, assertive, compassionate, accepting of self and others, giving, communicating (cooperative), trusting, self-indulgent (?), open to the unconscious, remembers our oneness, free to grow, has a private self.

How do we know if our inner child needs healing?

If we struggle with boundaries, having a sense of self, being in disempowering, toxic, or unhealthy relationships with others, have addictions, have issues with anxiety, depression, or potentially reoccurring physical symptoms such as pain, fatigue, etc.  Or overall if our lives aren’t working or if we struggle with having a solid sense of self.

The vast majority of parents and homes cause some sort of damage at best and are C-PTSD causing at worst.

Many parents are mentally and emotionally impoverished. A likely reason is that their needs were not met as infants, children, and/or adults. They are thus so in need that they tend to use others in an unhealthy and inappropriate way to get these needs met—and they will do so in ways that are often unconscious.  In order to survive, the child who cannot develop a strong True Self compensates by developing an exaggerated false or co-dependent self.

Inconsistency, unpredictability, arbitrariness, chaos are the resulting guilt and shame that follow are usually at the root of troubled families. Not all of these traits need to be present in order for there to be dysfunction.

Inconsistent. Many are inconsistent, and some are not. One way that many troubled families are consistent is through denying the feelings of many family members and having one or more family secrets. Troubled families that are rigid tend to be more consistent and predictable, but because they are excessive, these qualities function to control and shut down family and individual growth.

Unpredictable. They can be predictably unpredictable, where they know to expect the unexpected at any time. Or they will know what to expect, but they may know that they can’t talk about it. Continually walking on eggshells.

Arbitrary. No matter who the family member is or how hard they may try, the troubled person or persons would still mistreat them in the same way. In a family where rules have no rhyme or reason, the child loses trust in the rule setters (parents) and in their own self. They are unable to understand their environment.

Chaotic. Chaos can be manifested by any of the following:

  • Physical or emotional abuse which teaches the child shame, guilt, and “don’t feel”
  • Sexual abuse which teaches the same, plus distrust and fear of losing control
  • Regular and repeated crises, which teach a crisis oriented life
  • Predictable closed communications which teaches “don’t talk” “don’t be real” and denial
  • Loss of control which teaches obsession with being in control, and fusion or loss of boundaries or individuation
  • Chaos can be either overt or covert. The threat of crisis, threat of mistreatment of any form, or threat of seeing another family member mistreated can be just as damaging. Because it instills fear, and fear blocks being real and creative and growth. We cannot have peace. Even if active chaos occurs only once or twice a year, the threat of its unpredictability, impulsiveness, and destructiveness to self and others is enough to chronically destroy peace.
  • When chaos is routine or “normal” most people don’t recognize it as chaos. (this principle is true for all the characteristics in this chapter).
  • Mistreatment (either maltreatment or abuse) in various forms can be subtle, although still very damaging to growth.
  • Denial of Feelings and Reality. Troubled families deny feelings—especially painful feelings of the members. However, each family usually has at least one member, generally the alcoholic or troubled person, who is permitted to express painful feelings openly, especially anger. In such families where anger is chronic and unexpressed directly by members, it often takes other forms—abuse of self, others, and other anti-social behavior, and various forms of acute and chronic illness, including stress related illness.

 

What the child sees as reality is denied, and a new model, view or false belief is assumed as true by each family member. This fantasy often binds the family together in a further dysfunctional way which stunts the growth of all areas of the child.

Some terms for mental, emotional, and spiritual trauma that may be experienced by children and adults:

 

–           Abandonment

–           Neglect

–           Abuse

–           Physical: spanking, beating, torture, sexual, etc.

–           Mental:

–           Emotional

–           Spiritual (belief of a God that involves shame, guilt, fear)

–           Shaming

–           Humiliating

–           Degrading

–           Inflicting guilt

–           Criticizing

–           Disgracing

–           Joking about

–           Laughing at

–           Teasing

–           Manipulating

–           Deceiving

–           Tricking

–           Betraying

–           Hurting

–           Cruelty

–           Belittling

–           Intimidating

–           Limiting

–           Withholding love

–           Withdrawing

–           Not taking seriously

–           Discrediting

–           Invalidating

–           Misleading

–           Making light of

–           Breaking promises

–           Raising hopes falsely

–           Responding inconsistently

–           Stifling

–           Patronizing (If only you were better/different)

–           Threatening

–           Inflicting fear

–           Overpowering or bullying

–           Controlling

–           Disapproval

 

Characteristics of troubled families (often include at least one of the following):

–           Neglectful

–           Mistreating

–           Inconsistent

–           Unpredictable

–           Arbitrary

–           Denying

–           Having one or more secrets

–           Dis-allowing feelings

–           Disallowing other needs

–           Rigid

–           Chaotic at times

–           Quiet and functional at times

The dynamics of shame and low self-esteem.

Both play a major role in stifling our Child Within and is nearly always a part of growing up in a troubled family.  We each adapt to shame in our own way. The major similarity is that nearly everyone operates primarily from their false self, meaning, the family operates out of shame and is shame-based.

Shame and guilt are different. Guilt happens when we do something wrong and feel bad about it. This is appropriate guilt and tells us that we have a functioning conscience, and helps us to correct our mistakes, or to improve our relationships.  People who don’t have guilt are narcissists and sociopaths.  Survivor guilt—getting out of a toxic situation, or surviving in life after others have failed.

Guilt can be relieved substantially by recognizing its presence and then working it through—meaning we experience it, discuss it with trusted and appropriate others. Guilt is usually easier to recognize and resolve than shame.

Shame. Uncomfortable or painful feeling that we experience when we realize that a part of us is defective, bad, incomplete, rotten, phony, inadequate, or a failure. Guilt stems from doing something wrong. Shame stems from being something wrong. Guilt may seem correctable or forgivable, whereas there seems to be no way out of shame. The true self feels the shame and can express it in a healthy way, the false self pretends to not have shame, and would never tell anyone about it. We all have shame—it’s universal to being human. If we do not work through it, it accumulates and burdens us more and more until we become its victim.

In addition to feeling defective or inadequate, shame makes us believe that others can see through us, through our façade, and into our defectiveness.  Shame can feel hopeless, like no matter what we do, we cannot correct it. We feel isolated and lonely in our shame, as though we are the only one who has the painful feeling. We may disguise our shame as if it were some other feeling or action and then project that onto other people.

Shame is often masked as other feelings such as:

  • Anger
  • Resentment
  • Rage
  • Blame
  • Contempt
  • Attack
  • Control
  • Perfectionism
  • Neglect or withdrawl
  • Abandonment
  • Disappointment
  • Compulsive behavior
  • (people pleasing)
  • (apologetic)
  • Alienated
  • Withdrawn

Shame comes from what we do with the negative messages, negative affirmations, beliefs and rules that we hear as we grow up from parents, clergy, teachers, and others in authority (friends too), that we are somehow not okay. That our feelings, needs, and true self is not acceptable.

Shame is the central issue.  We have compulsive behavior to cope with the shame, then some realization of our true self, then temporary relief from tension/suffering/numbness, then the self remains incomplete, then more shame, then continued chronic distress, then alienation from our true self, then more compulsive behavior.

Compulsive behavior ranges from heavy use of alcohol or drugs to sex to trying to control others, to overeating, oversexing, overworking, overspending (or “positive” behaviors taken to an extreme such as exercising, reading, watching movies, having fun, etc.)

 

Negative rules:

  • Don’t express your feelings
  • Don’t get angry
  • Don’t get upset
  • Don’t cry
  • Do as I say, not as I do
  • Be good, “nice,” perfect
  • Avoid conflict
  • Avoid dealing with conflict
  • Don’t think or talk—just follow directions
  • Do well in school, no matter what
  • Don’t ask questions
  • Don’t betray the family
  • Don’t discuss the family with outsiders (keep the family secrets)
  • Be seen and not heard
  • No back talk
  • Don’t contradict me
  • Always look good
  • I’m always right, you’re always wrong
  • Always be in control
  • Focus on the troubled person’s behavior

Negative messages:

  • Shame on you
  • You’re not good enough
  • I wish I’d never had you
  • Your needs are not all right with me
  • Hurry up and grow up
  • Be dependent
  • Be a man/Big boys don’t cry
  • Act like a nice girl
  • You don’t feel that way
  • Don’t be like that
  • You’re so stupid
  • You caused it
  • You owe it to us
  • I’m sacrificing myself for you
  • How can you do this to me?
  • We won’t love you if you ___
  • You’re driving me crazy!
  • You’ll never accomplish anything
  • It didn’t really hurt
  • You’re so selfish
  • You’ll be the death of me yet
  • Drinking (or other troubled behavior) is not the cause of our problems
  • Always maintain the status quo
  • Everyone in the family must be an enabler of dysfunction
  • We wanted a boy/girl
  • I promise ______ (then breaks it)

The shame based family. Usually have a secret that may span all kinds of “shameful” conditions from family violence to sexual abuse to alcoholism to a job loss, lost relationship, addiction, etc. Keeping such secrets disables all members of the family, whether or not they know the secret. Because being secretive prevents the expression of questions, concern, and feelings, and the child as well as other family members remain stifled and unable to grow and develop.

When we are in a shame-based relationship, we may feel like we are losing our minds or going crazy—(because we are.  We are losing our sense of self.) We lose sense of reality, and are unable to trust our senses, our feelings, and our reactions.

 

 

Our inner child is very impressionable to trauma of any degree (either real or perceived).

If there is significant interruption to healthy development due to repeated trauma, then the child develops an out of control “fight, flight, or freeze” state (aka PTSD) and that distressed and impaired development as a child can also lead to difficulty in feeling arousal or pleasure as an adult.  Neglect and emotional abuse are equally as devastating as physical or sexual abuse.

 

In troubled or dysfunctional homes, family members are not allowed or able to have a solid sense of self.

The development of the false self.

Instead of having our inner child/true self nurtured, we create a false self that is more socially acceptable or safer. When this child is not nurtured or allowed freedom of expression, a false or codependent self emerges. We begin to live our lives from a victim stance, and experience difficulties in resolving emotional traumas. The gradual accumulation of unfinished mental and emotional business can lead to chronic anxiety, fear, confusion, emptiness, and unhappiness.

The false self is a mask—a role that we play, codependent, plans and plods, contracting, fearful. Hides feelings, envious, critical, idealized, perfectionistic, withholding, aggressive or passive, rational, logical, over-developed parent/adult scripts or may be childish, avoids play and fun, distrusting, self-righteous, blocks unconscious material, avoids being nurtured, controls, forgets oneness, feels separate, acts out of unconscious, painful patterns (often repeatedly), has a public self.

The false self is often either inappropriately aggressive and/or passive. It tends to be the “critical parent” and avoids playing and having fun. It pretends to be strong or even powerful—yet it’s power is only minimal or nonexistent, and it is in reality usually fearful, distrusting, and destructive.  The false self needs to withdraw and be in control. It sacrifices being nurturing or being nurtured. It cannot surrender. It is only who we think others and eventually even we think we should be.  When we are in the role of the false self, we feel uncomfortable, numb, empty. We do not feel real, complete, whole, or sane.

Codependency. The loss of self. It is any suffering and/or dysfunction that is associated with or results from focusing on the needs and behaviors of others to the point where they neglect themselves, which leads to a process of “nonliving” which is progressive. It’s where people turn responsibility for their life and happiness over to the false self and to others.

The Growth of Codependence:

  1. Invalidation and repression of internal cues, such as our observations, feelings, and reactions.
  2. Neglecting our needs.
  3. Beginning to stifle our Child Within.
  4. Denial of a family or other secret.
  5. Increasing tolerance of and numbness to emotional pain.
  6. Inability to grieve a loss to completion.
  7. Blocking of growth (mental, emotional, spiritual).
  8. Compulsive behaviors in order to lessen pain and to glimpse our Child Within.
  9. Progressive shame and loss of self-esteem.
  10. Feeling out of control. Need to control more.
  11. Delusion and projection of pain.
  12. Stress-related illness develops.
  13. Compulsions worsen.
  14. Progressive deterioration:
  15. Extreme mood swings
  16. Difficulty with intimate relationships
  17. Chronic unhappiness
  18. Interference with recovery from alcoholism/codependency and other conditions

 

 

 

Examining what aspects of ourselves may be false:

Recovery Potential Survey. A survey that reflects not only our woundedness, but also the potential that we have to grow and to realize an alive, adventurous, and happy life.

Circle or check the word that most applies to how you truly feel:

  1. Do you seek approval and affirmation?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you fail to recognize your accomplishments?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you fear criticism?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you overextend yourself?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Have you had problems with your own compulsive behavior?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you have a need for perfection?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Are you uneasy when your life is going smoothly?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you feel more alive in the midst of a crisis?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you care for others easily, yet find it difficult to care for yourself?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you isolate yourself from other people?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you respond with anxiety to authority figures and angry people?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you feel that individuals and society in general are taking advantage of you?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you have trouble with intimate relationships?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you attract and seek people who tend to be compulsive?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you cling to relationships because you are afraid of being alone?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you often mistrust your own feelings and the feelings expressed by others?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you find it difficult to express your emotions?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  1. Do you fear any of the following:
  • Losing control? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Your own feelings? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Conflict and Criticism? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Being rejected or abandoned? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Being a failure? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Is it difficult for you to relax and have fun? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Do you find yourself compulsively eating, working, drinking, using drugs, or seeking excitement? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Have you tried counseling or psychotherapy, yet still feel that “something” is wrong or missing? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Do you frequently feel numb, empty, or sad? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Is it hard for you to trust others? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Do you have an over-developed sense of responsibility? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Do you feel a lack of fulfillment in life, both personally and in your work?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  • Do you have feelings of guilt, inadequacy, or low self-esteem? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Do you have a tendency toward having chronic fatigue, aches, and pains?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  • Do you find that it is difficult to visit your parents for more than a few minutes or hours?

(Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

  • Are you uncertain about how to respond when people ask you about your feelings? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Have you ever wondered if you might have been mistreated, abused, or neglected as a child? (Never  /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)
  • Do you have difficulty asking for what you want from others? (Never /  Seldom  /  Occasionally  /  Often  /  Usually)

Understanding our responses to our triggers

Children from troubled or dysfunctional families survive by dodging, hiding, negotiating, taking care of others, pretending, denying, and learning and adapting to stay alive using any method that works.  They learn other ego defense mechanisms (described by Anna Freud) such as intellectualization, repression, disassociation, displacement, and reaction formation (if over-used can be considered neurotic), projection, passive-aggressive behavior, acting out, hypochondriasis, grandiosity, and denial (if over-used can be considered immature, and at times psychotic.)

Age Regression—happens sometimes when we are triggered or feel under attack. We may hang our heads, or feel like we have no voice, or that we are a kid again.  The benefit to age regression is that it is a signal that we are being mistreated.  We can set boundaries, reclaim our voice, or leave—or even grab our keys as a reminder that we are an adult, and that we can leave.

 

PTSD. Stunts and stifles the inner child, but the person may become overtly ill. Occurs across a spectrum from fear or anxiety, to depression, to easy irritability, to impulsive or explosive behavior to numbness.

 

 

How do we go about healing our inner child?

To heal the child within there are 4 actions:

 

  1. Discover and practice being our real self (aka child within)
  2. Identify our ongoing physical, mental-emotional and spiritual needs. Practice getting these needs met with safe and supportive people.
  3. Identify, re-experience and grieve the pain of our ungrieved losses or traumas in the presence of safe and supporting people.
  4. Identify and work thru our core issues.

 

  1. Realizing that there is more than “don’t drink” or “don’t try to control a drinker” going on. That if the root causes of addiction are not uncovered, the addiction will just be transferred to something else.

 

  1. Discovery and Identification. Finding who we really are and our spirituality.

 

  1. (Developing Connections.) Integrating our story.  When we begin to see the connections between what we are doing and what happened to us when we were little, we begin to break free of being a victim or a martyr, and of repeating the patterns. 

 

  1. Validation. Of our experiences and of growing up in a dysfunctional family.

 

  1. To do the healing work of recovery. Reframes our understanding of our suffering from bad, sick, crazy, or stupid to having a normal reaction to an abnormal childhood situation.

 

  1. Naming, re-framing, and meditation. can help to relax the brain in situations that used to trigger anger and rage, and can help us to become whole. (Also giving our story an empowered meaning takes us out of victim mode.)

 

 

  1. For the specifics of what to do to accomplish the healing process.

 

  1. From our confusion, suffering, and lack of purpose, meaning and fulfillment in life.

Recovery from the effects of trauma and growing up in a dysfunctional family and world takes patience and persistence.

Recovery often occurs in 6 stages:

  1. Survival
  2. Emergent Awareness
  3. Core Issues
  4. Transformations
  5. Integration
  6. Genesis (or spirituality)

Recovery can also be seen as: awakening, exploration, integration, being—or thru the lens of the journey of the hero: separation, initiation, return.

Awakening is the first glimpse that “things” or “reality” is not what we thought. Awakening is an ongoing process throughout recovery. To begin, we generally require a trigger (pain) that shakes up our old understanding of the way we thoughts things were. Awakening may happen in a support group as others describe their aha moments, reading a book, or working on another life problem in therapy.  We begin to experience confusion, fear, enthusiasm, excitement, sadness, numbness and anger. This means we are beginning to feel again. We begin to get in touch with who we really are—our real self.

Wondering, considering, exploring, questioning, are all ways to do recovery work outside of therapy. Keep a diary or journal, listening to the stories of others.

An important part of successful recovery is learning to accurately name what happened to us and the components of our inner life as they come up for us, including our various feelings, and learning to tolerate emotional pain without trying to medicate it away.

 

*Research has shown that it is not so much what really happened to us during childhood that matters the most, but how we do or don’t make sense of it. In other words, a coherent personal story suggests emotional and intellectual integration.  Telling our story is a powerful act in discovering and healing our “child within.”

At least 14 core issues are in the recovery of our true self:

  1. Control
  2. Trust
  3. Feelings
  4. Being over responsible
  5. Neglecting our own needs. Part of being overly-responsible—and both are part of our false self’s actions.
  6. All or none thinking and behaving
  7. High tolerance for inappropriate behavior. Children coming from troubled or dysfunctional families grow up not knowing what is “normal,” healthy, or appropriate. (They are their own baseline for normal.)
  8. Low self esteem
  9. Being real
  10. Grieving our ungrieved losses
  11. Fear of abandonment. Not getting attached to others, (getting into relationships that have a “fatal flaw” like the person is married, or otherwise not emotionally available) or breaking up with them before they can break up with you.
  12. Difficulty resolving conflict. Either passive (avoidant) or aggressive. Or tell ourselves that we can do it on our own.
  13. Difficulty giving and receiving love

Core issues do not present themselves to us as an “issue.” Rather they present at first as problems (and eventually reoccurring problems) in our everyday life. However, with persistent considering and telling our story it will generally become clear which issue or issues are involved. This knowledge will be helpful in gradually getting free of our confusion, discontent, and unconscious negative life patterns (repetition compulsions or re-enactments).

Understanding our basic human needs:

Human needs according to the author:

  1. Survival
  2. Safety
  3. Touching, skin contact
  4. Attention
  5. Mirroring and echoing
  6. Guidance
  7. Listening
  8. Being real
  9. Participating
  10. Acceptance
  11. Others are aware of, take seriously and admire the Real You
  12. Freedom to be the Real You
  13. Tolerance of your feelings
  14. Validation
  15. Respect
  16. Belonging and Love
  17. Opportunity to grieve losses and to grow
  18. Support
  19. Loyalty and Trust
  20. Accomplishment
  21. Mastery, Power, Control
  22. Creativity
  23. Having a sense of completion
  24. Making a contribution
  25. Altering one’s state of consciousness, transcending the ordinary
  26. Sexuality
  27. Enjoyment or fun
  28. Freedom
  29. Nurturing
  30. Unconditional Love (including connection with a Higher Power)

 

Mirroring. A non-verbal (and verbal) reaction of facial expressions, postures, sounds and other movements so that the child/person realizes they are being understood.  If we are not effectively mirrored, we do not feel validated, and in time our feelings are denied, stifled, and stunted—especially as a child, because the child will begin to mirror the mother and her needs (in an attempt to get their own met).

Guidance. Includes advice, assistance, and any other form of help, verbal or non-verbal. It also includes modeling and teaching appropriate and healthy social skills.

Listening, Participating, and Accepting. The mother and other parent figure is concerned over, aware of, and takes seriously and admires the other person’s Real Self. They demonstrate their acceptance by respecting, validating, and being tolerant of the feelings of the other’s Real Self. This allows the Real Self the freedom to be it’s authentic self and to grow.

Opportunity to Grieve Losses and to Grow. With each loss that we experience, whether it be a real or a threatened loss, we have a need to grieve it—to work through the associated pain and suffering. To do so takes time. And when we grieve our losses to completion, we grow.

Accomplishment. Achieving or accomplishing something implies “empowerment” or power and control. And it’s not just completing the task, but also being aware that the task is complete.  Some people who grow up in dysfunctional families find it difficult to complete a task or project or make decisions. This is because they did not practice doing so with the guidance and support of an important other. By contrast, some may also be overachievers in some areas, but are repeatedly unable to achieve in other areas, such as intimate relationships.

Altered Consciousness, Enjoyment, and Fun. We all seem to have an innate—even biological need—to periodically alter our conscious state, whether through daydreaming, laughing, playing sports, concentrating on a project or sleeping—as well as through enjoyment or having fun. Many children from troubled families have difficulty relaxing and having fun.

Sexuality. From feeling good about being a man or woman, to enjoying various aspects of being sexual, to forming a healthy sexual identity, functioning, or enjoyment. Some of us may have been sexually abused, whether overtly or covertly. (What is covert sexual abuse?)

Freedom. The ability to risk, explore, and do what is spontaneous and necessary for our growth. Spontaneity is healthy, impulsivity is generally not.

Nurturing. To provide any or all of the above needs to someone is appropriate in each situation. The person who is in the role of nurturer must be able to nurture and the person being nurtured must be able to “let go” and be nurtured.  It is not the child’s job to nurture their parent—and when this happens repeatedly, it is a subtle form of child abuse or neglect.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries: (2 circle) separate, close (friendships) overlap by about 25%

 

 

 

 

how we are with strangers

being an individual around people we know:

 

 

casual acquaintance:

 

friendship: (overlap by about 25%)

 

intimate relationship: (overlap by about 50%)

 

Healthy boundaries go between the ones in bold.

 

An emeshed family looks like this: (circles overlap by about 80%)

 

Dysfunctional family looks like this:     (one big circle with a medium sized circle inside of it to about 90%, and a child 100% in the big circle and 90% inside the codependent circle)

 

 

Grieving our losses. The Unfulfilled Parent. In our recovery, we grieve over not having had all of our needs met as infants, children, or even as adults.  We may also need to grieve over the things that did happen such as child mistreatment or abuse is also helpful.

We have two basic kinds of feelings: joyful or painful. Joyful feelings make us feel a sense of strength, well-being and completion. Painful feelings interfere with our sense of well-being, use up our energy and can leave us feeling drained, empty, and alone. Yet even though they may be painful, they are often telling us something, a message to ourselves that something important may be happening, something needs our attention. Our feelings can both warn and reassure us.  They act as indicators.

Scale of emotions:

Unconditional Love

Bliss

Joy

Compassion and Empathy

Enthusiasm

Contentment

Fear

Hurt

Sadness

Shame and Guilt

Anger

Confusion

Emptiness

Numbness

Our real self feels all of these feelings and expresses them in a healthy way. Our false self feels the feelings in bold and either represses them or expresses them in unhealthy ways.

Levels of awareness about feelings.  If a person grows up in a troubled environment they tend to express their feelings in ways that aren’t healthy.

  1. Closed about our feelings. Superficial conversation, reporting of facts. Self disclosure is none or obvious facts. There is no ability to grow if we stay at this level. We are unable to accurately name and use the feeling, and our interpersonal interaction and our ability to experience life and to grow is very low.
  2. Beginning to Explore. We may be guarded about sharing our newly found feelings, and they may come out in conversation disguised as ideas and opinions rather than actual feelings.
  3. Exploring and Experiencing. Ideas and opinions to please others. Self disclosure is guarded or accidental. Here we begin to know our true self, and we begin to explore and experience our feelings at a deeper gut level. We are able to tell others as feelings come up for us how we really feel. (Developing boundaries as well.) Our interpersonal interaction is deeper and we are growing mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
  4. Sharing our feelings. Open, expressing, observing. Can be a double edged sword if the person/people we are sharing with are not at a level 4, but instead at a level 1 or 2.

 

How to tell if a person is safe to share information with?  Share, check, share. We can share a bit of our feelings, check their response, (adjust accordingly).  If they don’t seem to listen, judge us, offer unwanted advice, try to invalidate our feelings, reject us, or betray confidences then they are not safe to continue sharing with. (Also, paying attention to how you feel when you are around them.)

 

Blocked feelings can cause distress and illness. By contrast, when we are aware of our experience, and share, accept, and then let go of our feelings, we tend to be healthier, and better able to experience the serenity or inner peace that is our natural condition.

As always, I’ll be curious as to what you think about the book and any takeaways that you have.  Here’s the link to the book club if you’d like to join in the discussion!  😀

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Dana

I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse.

My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.

Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.

It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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About Dana 324 Articles

I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse.

My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.

Even though I have had a lot of “in the trenches” experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.

It’s for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.

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