You have your life ahead of you; and I, mine. So many choices face us. We can go back to the familiar and let our energy dissipate into old patterns, or we can choose to do things differently and move our lives in the direction of our goals.
Transforming your life is not a matter of simply waiting for newly gained insight to create spontaneous change, or holding out for a final breakthrough that will free you from the tethers of the past. No, you must take the necessary behavioral steps to change your life.
An enlightened adult remains fully conscious and goal-directed, always striving to be more than he or she is now, reaching to a higher self to expand the mind, fulfill dreams, achieve goals, and nurture love. As a stronger Adult Self, you seek a balance that reconciles forward-looking vision with a sublime acceptance of the now. You accept reality on its own terms and invest your energy in what you can do in the present.
Preparing Yourself for Ongoing Commitment
Embarking on this new path means preparing yourself for ongoing commitment. A single effort will not suffice. As you continue to expand your life, it’s important to remain acutely aware of what your Outer Child is up to. Keep daily tabs on that part of your psyche. Outer is waiting for you to let down your guard so that it can revert to its old habit of seeking immediate gratification.
Outer belongs to the realm of quick fixes and substitute fulfillments and will use almost any ploy — denial, avoidance, self-indulgence — to satisfy its need for instant relief. But these Outer Child defenses need no longer derail your Adult mission. You have the tools to live your life with conscious intention to reach your potential, one action at a time.
Getting In Touch with the Real Inner You
At its core, Outer doesn’t want you to stay conscious because it doesn’t want to feel. But feeling is how you know you’re alive. Feeling is how you know when there’s need for change. Outer is always working to form a layer of encrustation around Little’s uncomfortable feelings. Outer’s crust prevents you from feeling, from being fully conscious.
In fact, Outer’s arsenal is aimed at deadening consciousness to fend off uncomfortable feelings. This is how most people remain stuck in their patterns; they are out of touch with their core needs and instead focus on the Outer crust — the superficial layer of Outer Child’s incessant desire for substitute fulfillments.
To break free, you must get underneath Outer’s crust to connect with your real Inner Child. Little You beholds your pure emotional essence, your basic human, mammalian need for security, closeness, bonding, and love. Outer is accustomed to pursuing illusions of connection, quick fixes, and counterfeit achievement. The Adult gains strength as it takes hold of Outer Child’s energy to guide your life toward greater meaning, purpose, and connection.
A New Role For Your Outer Child
After several repetitions of new behaviors, you’ll see your patterns changing. Yes, even your most deeply entrenched patterns! With enough repetition, these healthy new behaviors become habits (new learned behaviors!) and doing the right thing isn’t the struggle it was at the beginning.
The process is akin to the way you learned to drive. It required intense focus at first, but eventually you made a habit of obeying traffic laws and keeping your eyes on the road without giving it much thought. In a nutshell, it gets easier.
Research shows that when an animal or human is rewarded for learning new behavior, changes occur in the neurons of the basal ganglia. Patterns of neural activity change permanently after learning takes place. In teaching your Outer Child new tricks, your stronger Adult Self can now welcome your habit-prone, knee-jerk Outer Child as your new best friend and ally.
Loving Every Part of Ourselves
Yes, this moment comes — when Outer Child becomes your friend! Over the years I have brought the Outer Child framework to groups and individuals and gotten a wealth of feedback in return. From time to time, workshop members have expressed key concerns that sent me back to the drawing board.
One such concern has been that in blaming Outer Child for bad behavior, we’ve left it out in the cold. “Shouldn’t we love every part of ourselves?” people ask. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” and I am grateful to my workshop members for helping me appreciate the ultimate role of the Outer Child — that of friend. Since then, I have been sure to emphasize the need to extend our capacity for unconditional love to Outer Child.
Taking Consciously-Intended Action Steps
As your Adult Self transforms Outer’s energy into constructive new habits, Adult and Outer stand side by side, allies acting together on behalf of your Inner Child’s needs and your Adult goals. This concerted effort reintegrates the three parts of your personality.
The reintegration process is facilitated first through your imagination and then through taking consciously intended action steps. Your Adult mind does the work here and, whether you realize it or not, has been helping your Outer Child mature.
Outer will always be Outer and embody the impulsive, automatic, defensive, behavioral part of yourself. But as your Adult Self grows stronger, Outer no longer has to react in its old, patterned ways to every subliminal signal sent from the amygdala. Outer learns to carry out new “learned behaviors” initiated by the Adult, behaviors that move you toward your goals.
©2011, 2015 by Susan Anderson. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library, Novato, CA 94949. newworldlibrary.com.
About the Author
Susan Anderson has devoted more than 30 years of clinical experience and research to helping people overcome abandonment trauma and its aftermath of self sabotaging patterns. She is the author of four trailblazing books including Journey from Abandonment to Healing and Taming Your Outer Child which guide people through a protocol specific to healing abandonment, heartbreak, and loss. People can contribute to Susan's ongoing research project by submitting (confidentially) your personal stories to her website http://www.abandonment.net/submit-your-personal-abandonment-story. The websites www.abandonment.net and www.outerchild.net reach out with help and information. You are welcome to contact the author directly.
Watch a video: Taming Your Outer Child (with Susan Anderson)