Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Internal Improv - Inner Family Part 3

In the last two blog posts you learned about the Inner Family. Now what? This is where the real fun begins. These Inner Family dynamics are internal so that means we are the ones creating the story. Let’s take a look at the negative and positive side of this dynamic in daily relationship.

A very common role that is easy to identify with is the mother role. Years ago, I had a housemate who identified strongly with her mother role. We learned last blog that we are not our roles - these are only parts we play. In the same way we may be mothers, we are also daughters, sisters, employees, bosses, teachers, students.

When my housemate and I had communication problems, it was often over her unasked for motherly advice regarding my job, my outfit, or my hair. Oy!

After being told what to do, if I had a strong negative reaction, I’d go away and use the non-dominant hand journal technique. This was – for my eyes only. After the initial emotional charge I recognized four dynamics that seemed to be happening in the conflict between me and my housemate.

First, I realized that not standing up for my self after her comments meant that I was still living a past relationship dynamic.

Discovery number two was that her criticisms could be reflecting my internal expectations of being criticized.

The third discovery was the epiphany. “Well, if she is coming at me in her identified mother role, how can I stop reacting in a child role?”

The fourth dynamic is the worst-side of the above epiphany: ‘What if my identified-child role sends her into the mother role?”


Does it matter which story I choose? (Let me hear you shout No!)

What matters is that I’m examining my reactionary responses. It only takes one person to realize that they are reacting in order to change a relationship drama. Or as author Marianne Williamson often points out, it only takes one person in the relationship to pray.

Reacting is the operative word.

Reacting means the past. That is, yes her words were pushing buttons in my body’s cellular memory. That’s what pushing buttons means. The blame game tries to change the behavior of the other person. But the point of the game is to notice our reactionary buttons. Awareness is the way reaction transforms into empowerment.

Think of it like improvisational theatre. Imagine two actors on a stage. One actor silently begins acting like a bully. The opposite role of a bully is victim. All actor number one has to do is take on the body language of a bully and POW – actor number two automatically goes into the archetypical victim character. Nothing needs to be said because the first actors’ role is expressed through the body. That’s what makes improv so hilarious. That is, the audience instantly relates to the archetypical roles.

With time, attention and awareness, we can also learn to recognize the archetypal dramas that are being played out on our relationship stage.

Once we make a decision to stop habitual reactions, we can groove through the daily negotiations that can make life an emotional roller coaster. That is, once I realized I was resisting my housemate’s comments, I was able to take her instructions at face value. This enabled me to stand up for my self with clearly expressed boundaries. Negotiations in the present feel empowering and complete. Reacting from the past feels dramatic.

Now, a positive example of the internal improv game is this: I have several accomplished friends who are making a good living via their passion. Old reactionary feelings of jealousy often led to comparisons – which is Monkey Mind thinking. But empowerment means re-wording our internal story. Now I tell my self that my friend’s success is mirroring my own ability to be accomplished. These powerful friends wouldn’t be in my circle unless that aspect was in me as well.

Then I dance around the room singing “I’m a best-selling author, I’m a best-selling author.” Next, I take action by asking for advice or referrals to the information I need for my next step.

Another example of how to turn things around is when I recently played in the semi-finals for the songwriting contest. I half-joked to my friends that I was going to draw little mad faces of the judges because I didn’t win a spot in the finals. Not only did I nix the drawings, but I realized that I know Amanda West, an acquaintance who placed 2nd in last year’s finals. That means, with a little songwriting help from my new friend, I could try again in next years contest if I choose. Or not choose. Now that I’m making decisions based on the present instead of my emotional past, my dreams really are up to me.

May you and every role you play bring you joy,


PS:For specifics on the Inner Family dynamic,read Recovery of your Inner Child by Dr. Lucia Capacchione.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Meet the Parents - Inner Family Part 2

Last week I talked about the Inner Child and introduced the concept of an Inner Family. This blog – it’s time to meet the parents. If our emotions, intuition and body sensations are the Inner Child (IC), then the way to create safety with the IC is through the Inner Parents*. Inner Family work has four parents. A9ll of these parents are needed for every stage of raising an IC. These Inner Parents are the Protective Parent, Nurturing Parent, Critical Parent, and the Spiritual Parent. In addition, two crucial family members are the Observer and the Aware Ego. These two aspects set the parent roles into motion - instantly. If your life is out of balance in the areas of health, wealth, love, creativity and general happiness, then understanding how your internal Selves operate can remove the barriers to your dreams.

The Protective Parent

The Protective Parent is the part of us that sets boundaries both internally and externally. Internally, I use my Protective Parent when I drag my IC off the beach in order to get back to my desk. Externally, I am using this mode when I put my ‘boundary bag’ on my door when I don’t want to be disturbed. I also use Protective Parent mode when I am in a new social situation. When I’m with my friends, the childlike silly aspect of my Self is free to express because I know I am with trusted loved ones.

A Protective Parent that is out of balance results in sentences like these: “Those people are taking advantage of me!” “I dread going into work – my boss is going to throw a fit when he sees my sales numbers are down!” A balanced Protective Parent keeps our IC safe. These safety measures can take the form of making agreements with others, but we need to understand where the internal agreements break down first.

The Nurturing Parent

The Nurturing Parent is the part of us that cares for our health. When its time to eat, we stop and eat. We don’t try to finish just “one more thing” to the detriment of our body. We stop writing our blog in order to watch the final episode of Brothers and Sisters. If we need to relax after work – we take a bath or have tea and read. If we have an emotionally charged day, we give our selves quiet time rather than burying our feelings with too much alcohol, television, Internet or other repetitive patterns.

After auditioning for a musical in San Luis Obispo a few years back, I allowed myself cry and be sad when I didn’t make the cut. This is allowing was my nurturing aspect let the IC express. The feeling lasted just a few minutes. Years later, for my graduation Capstone class at Antioch, I performed an original musical medley as my final exam. (The DVD footage will not be uploaded.) If I had stuffed down the audition experience with phrases such as “Oh, it was meant to be” before feeling the disappointment – I wouldn’t have performed my ‘shuffle off to Buffalo’ routine. The reason? My unprocessed disappointment would have been stored in my body. Feeling disappointed at the time yielded the joy of being onstage in an original musical later.

The Spiritual Parent

The Spiritual Parent is the aspect of us that is our all knowing, grounded Self. It is connected to the Spiritual plane and knows that we are loved. The qualities are acceptance, patience, compassion and loving kindness. In the New Age movement, many people identify with this aspect. Or they judge this aspect as the better than the other parental modes. This is dangerous because hanging out in the ethereal realm creates an imbalance. That is, when its time to come to earth and do the work – there is a tendency to maintain the spiritual high through drugs or drama. The limitless quality of this parent does not allow for the reality of limits that the material world imposes.

The Spiritual Parent forgives a betrayal, while the IC feels the hurt, the nurturing aspect heals, and the protective aspect leaves these relationships behind - or insists on couples counseling! Rushing to forgiveness before processing the pain only buries the hurt in our cellular memory.

Journaling with the Spiritual Parent using the non-dominant hand technique (see January Blog) dispels the societal beliefs of “Daddy God coming in for the rescue.” Journaling with this parent gave me the clarity to take the action in plenty of situations. For instance, in a car accident I had in May of 2007, I called on the Spiritual Parent. After I realized I was not hurt, I closed my eyes and gave thanks. I remembered blessing the journey of insurance paperwork that greeted me. But when it came time to meet the other driver – my Protective Parent took care of business.

The Critical Parent

The Critical Parent is the one I have discussed the most in my blog postings because I have spent a lot of time either listening to its voice or resisting its voice - which energetically, is the same thing. Dr. Capacchione teaches that this parent is necessary in the same way that Inspector Clouseau wrestled with Kato in the Pink Panther movies. That is, he needed the surprise attack to keep his sleuthing skills sharp! If only my Critical Parent’s grousing were as hilarious as Peter Sellars movies. Actually, they can be – once you recognize the disguises this crafty parent uses.

In her book, The Energy of Money, Maria Nemeth calls the Critical Parent, Monkey Mind. Warning signals that we are making decisions from Monkey Mind are being vague, being defensive, taking things personally, making excuses, using either/or thinking – you get the point.

Two aspects of the Critical Parent are The Pusher and The Perfectionist. Both of these aspects are rampant in the Western work world.

You know me - I created a Visioning® collage of my Inner Family. In the Critical Parent section a woman is cringing under the photo of a skinny, persnickety cartoon man. This cartoon man represents the Critical Parent. Beneath the cartoon man is a little Buddha face laughing. Phew! Critical Parent techniques are in my April Blog.

The Observer and The Aware Ego

The Observer: Also on my collage is an image of Buddhist Monk sweeping. This is my Observer representative. But the Observer only observes and needs the directorial skills of the Aware Ego. My Aware Ego is represented by Cesar Milan and Chris Rock. These images remind me to ‘be aware of the energy I am emitting” and “the laughter behind my human drama.”

The Observer is the witness to the events in our life. It simply sees what is happening and reports on the facts. There is no emotional attachment. These reports are used by the Aware Ego, who is the internal director. The Aware Ego gets information from the Observer. Here is an example. The Observer tells the Aware Ego “Dorothy’s boss Susie is yelling again.” Nowhere in the Observers reporting does it mention any personalization. It’s just the facts, ma’m. The Aware Ego can now make a decision.

In this real life circumstance, I was aware of the Observer voice and realized that Susie was like a child throwing a tantrum. I simply let the tantrum happen, and then repeated back what I heard Susie wanted. Because I didn’t jump on the “Susie is yelling there must be something wrong with Susie, with me, with ____,” bandwagon, the situation diffused quickly. If I had tried to fix the situation instead, well, I’d still be standing there with a red faced Susie boss.

We know that the Aware Ego is asleep at the wheel when we go on vacations with our files from work or go to meet prospective clients wearing our swim trunks. The Aware Ego is the decider. It chooses which role is appropriate for which setting. Going to negotiate a contract? Better take the Protective Parent. Stymied by a major decision? Then spend some time journaling with your Spiritual Parent.

The important thing to realize is that we are not any of these roles. We are not our Inner Child. We are not the Aware Ego and we are not the Protective Parent. We are human beings, set on this planet to enjoy our incredible lives. Get to know your Inner Family and the roles they play. They are here to help you move through life’s situations with grace.

May you and your Inner Family celebrate your life!


Dot in Pacific Grove

PS:For specifics on the Inner Family dynamic,
read Recovery of your Inner Child by Dr. Lucia Capacchione.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Intro to Your Inner Family

I was raised in Disneyland, California. That means that I recognized fireflies in Maryland because of Pirates of the Caribbean and when I hear the phrase “Here we go!” I brace myself for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Each summer, the Arizona relatives would arrive and clutching our leftover ride coupons, we’d head back to Disneyland.

Although Disneyland meant the daytime rides and the evening fireworks – our mothers acted like, well mothers. They brought us kids home during the day for food and a break before heading back to the park. As I grew older, it was easy to tell which families had taken a break with the kids and which families had parents that were run by the kids.

Inner families are like that too. Everyone has heard of an Inner Child. Listening to our Inner Child simply means that we are in touch with and honor our emotions and body sensations. What a lot of people don’t know is that if we have an Inner Child, then we also have Inner Parents. These are called the Protective, Nurturing, Spiritual and Critical Parent*. All of these parents are here to take care of us. Not understanding this dynamic can lead to emotions run amok. Think about it – when is the last time you saw an adult throw a tantrum or have an emotional melt down?

When we are growing up, we learned to hide certain feelings that were taboo in our families. Any feeling can be taboo. Most common ones are boys don’t cry and girls can’t be mad. As children, when one of these taboo feelings becomes present, we develop coping strategies to stuff down the feeling. When we go to school, develop friendships, attend church, etc, we learn about more taboo feelings and thus, create new and creative coping strategies.

As children, these coping mechanisms kept us safe – that is, if we paid attention and stuffed down the feeling, we didn’t get in trouble. But a feeling is a unit of energy and unless it is seen, felt, accepted and released – the energy gets stored in our body. This energetic memory reactivates as we move in and out of situations that activate the taboo feeling. This is good news because the feeling is simply trying to be seen, felt, accepted and released. But because we have learned to JUDGE the feeling, instead of stopping to feel the pain – we numb the pain and the cycle begins again. This is why we find ourselves in the “same feeling place, different face” situations repeatedly.

The way out of emotional pain is through. It’s a process that I call Name- that is, Name your feelings, Accept your feelings, Move your feelings (through journaling or exercise) for Empowered choices.

We know where our inner child is running the show by looking at our life situations that are out of balance. For example, I’ve discovered that sometimes my inner kid has stolen the checkbook. So, when I took the morning to go shopping in downtown Santa Cruz, I set my limits by carrying the cash I wanted to spend and had fruit, water and tea in the car – thereby saving more mula for fun stuff. As I was shopping, I noticed that I wanted to buy gifts for others and that I had a big ‘SHOULD’ voice following me around telling me what I should buy and what I really needed.

“Uh, huh, thanks for sharing!”

The amount of money I spent was not as important as simply spending time enjoying kicking around downtown. Now I’m writing this blog wearing my new turquoise shell dangle earrings and am relishing reading my book of essays by Richard Rodriquez that I gleaned from Bookshop Santa Cruz’s sale bin. When I don’t take energy (in time or money) to spend time playing daily and going out for fun weekly – then I chance rebellious, unconscious spending later.

Listening to your feelings, body messages and intuition are paramount to our happiness. But all good parents need to use discretion. Boundaries mean that you are honoring your whole self. Boundaries keep you safe so you can enjoy life’s lovely ride.

May you skip safely and happily through this delicious day,


Read my December blog and for the process of using Visioning® to ground stuck feelings and my January blog to help identify feelings using collage.

*The Inner Family theory is based on Recovery of Your Inner Child by Dr. Lucia Capacchione, who founded of the Creative Journal Expressive Arts training with Dr. Marsha Nelson of Mission, Texas. Buy a copy of the book here too.

Read my article about El Rocio Retreat – the center where Lucia’s new students are trained. For more photos and events listing visit: http://www.elrocioretreat.com/.