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.


Anne R. Allen said...

Great post, Dot. Good reminder for me, since I'm about to deal with my REAL mom, who always treats me as if I'm four. I don't have to ACT as if I'm four or perform the improv. at all.

Lisha perini said...

I am really enjoying your Inner Family installments. There's a lot to be mined in this arena. Do you know of any books that specifically address this issue of how our internal story is being influenced by past emotions? -- Lisha P.

Dorothy Ann Segovia said...

Thanks Anne!

Yes, it's an interesting trick to just observe behavior when changing a dynamic. It gets easier with practice!


Dorothy Ann Segovia said...


A great Inner Family book is Recovery of Your Inner Child by Lucia Capachhione. You can order it through her website:

The takes you through a deep, yet fun process. You'll have plenty of AHA moments when you invest the time.

Thank you for your comment!


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