Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Protecting The Kid Within

Protecting The Kid Within
Amy Grabowski, MA, LCPC

….’Rebeccah’ was a professional woman in her late 20’s who overate when she was depressed.  As I usually do in my initial intake interview, I asked Rebeccah what she preferred to be called.  She said, “Rebeccah is fine.  My friends call me Roxy; but don’t ever call me Becky.  I hate to be called Becky.”  

A few sessions later, we were exploring the meaning of her depression.  When I asked Rebeccah to visualize the Part of her who felt depressed, she saw a young girl.  Rebeccah immediately felt disgusted by the child.  In a sharp and critical voice with a scowl on her face, she said, “That’s Becky.  I hate her.  She’s repulsive.”  A critical Bully had taken over.  I needed to protect the Kid/Outcast before the Bully did more harm than good.  In order for the Kid/Outcast to let go of her burdens, she has to feel safe.  Because we had not already worked with the Bully to calm her down, I did not expect the Bully to step aside.  Instead I decided to move the Kid/Outcast to a safe spot. 

First I needed to help Rebeccah see the child objectively (a quality of the Self).  I asked her to imagine Becky as just any child, not herself as a child.  Her face and voice softened quite a lot.  I asked her to close her eyes and visualize her apartment,  “Imagine a door in your apartment that was never there before.  When you open the door there’s a small, cozy child’s bedroom.  Everything the child needs is in the room, a bed with soft blankets and pillows, teddy bears and stuffed animals to hug, fuzzy slippers and comfortable pajamas to wear.  On a nightstand there is a telephone.”  I asked Rebeccah if child would be protected in this room until we were able to get back to her.  Rebeccah smiled, “Yes, she’ll be safe in here.”

To engage the Wisdom of her Self and the healing power of compassion, Rebeccah needed to step back from the reaction of the Bully.  When she saw the Kid/Outcast objectively, as just any child, she could compassionately comfort and protect the Kid. 

When the Kid/Outcast feels safe and protected, a relationship of trust gradually builds between her and you, your Self.  It doesn’t happen the first time you say to her, “I’m here for you, trust me.”  No, it’s not that easy.  Trust develops over time; the Kid/Outcast learns that you are not going to hurt her, you are on her side, and she can trust what you say to her.  So if you say, “I’ll be back tomorrow…” you better be back tomorrow.  Or else she’ll remember it and think, “You’re just another person who’s let me down, who doesn’t mean what she says.”

Eventually you will develop awareness of your Parts and know when a critical, judgmental Bully has taken over.  It’s very important to protect the Kid/Outcast from the Bully if she flares up again.  Over the years I know from body cues and tone of voice when a client’s Part has taken over and she is no longer in Self-energy.  If her voice gets a little sharper or her face gets a little sneer, I’ll say, “Whoa!  We’re not alone here are we?  You’re feeling angry, aren’t you?  We need to talk to that Part.  Let’s put the Kid in her safe spot and we’ll take care of this Part first.”

Even if you cannot work directly with your Kid/Outcast, if you need to keep her in a safe spot for a while, it’s important that the Kid/Outcast knows that you know she’s there.  For the longest time, the Kid/Outcast felt totally alone and desperate for help and protection.  These feelings may have initially been started in your childhood by a passive parent who did not protect you, but allowed the abusive parent to hurt you.  The first step in healing the Kid/Outcast is to tell her that you know she is there and you want to protect her. 

Here’s another analogy to illustrate the importance of this.  Imagine you are alone in an elevator that gets stuck between floors.  You can have the choice of a buzzer or a telephone.  Which would you choose?  Most people choose the telephone.  When I ask why they didn’t want the buzzer, they answer, “If I pushed the buzzer, I would be wondering if anyone heard it, if anyone knows I’m in here.  If I have the telephone, then I know someone knows I am stuck.  Someone is going to come to help me.  Even just hearing a voice would be more reassuring to me than a buzzer.”  The human contact feels reassuring to the Kid/Outcast that she is not alone. 

Until we can heal the Kid/Outcast, we need to be that voice on the telephone.  We can let her know that we are aware that she is there.  If you feel compassion for the Kid/Outcast you can imagine calling her from time to time to check in.  You may just start by saying, “Hi, it’s me.  I know you’re there.”  When she is assured of our presence, she wants what all Parts want from us – to be heard, appreciated and taken care of…. 

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