Taming Your Outer Child: A Revolutionary Program to Overcome Self-Defeating Patterns

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FINALLY, THE BREAKTHROUGH BOOK THAT PUTS YOU BACK IN CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE
 
Most of us have met our Outer Child once too often. The self-sabotaging, bungling, and impulsive part of the personality. This misguided, hidden nemesis—the devil on your shoulder—blows your diet, overspends, and ruins your love life. A menacing older sibling to your emotionally needy Inner Child, your Outer Child acts out and fulfills your legitimate childlike ...

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Overview

FINALLY, THE BREAKTHROUGH BOOK THAT PUTS YOU BACK IN CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE
 
Most of us have met our Outer Child once too often. The self-sabotaging, bungling, and impulsive part of the personality. This misguided, hidden nemesis—the devil on your shoulder—blows your diet, overspends, and ruins your love life. A menacing older sibling to your emotionally needy Inner Child, your Outer Child acts out and fulfills your legitimate childlike needs and wants in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and in counterproductive ways: It goes for immediate gratification and the quick fix in spite of your best-laid plans. Food, attention, emotional release—your Outer Child usually gets what it wants, and your Adult self can feel powerless to stop it.

Now, in a revolutionary rethinking of the link between emotion and behavior, veteran psychotherapist and theoretician Susan Anderson offers a three-step, paradigm-shifting program to tame your Outer Child’s destructive behavior. This dynamic, transformational set of strategies—action steps that act like physical therapy for the brain—calms your Inner Child, strengthens your Adult Self and releases you from the self-blame and shame that are the root of Outer Child issues, and paves new neural pathways that can lead to more productive behavior. Discover

• the common Outer Child personality types, including the Drama Queen; the Master of Disguise; My Way or No Way; and Love the Getting, not the Having
• proven techniques to resolve underlying sources of self-sabotage
• insights that will allow you to stop blaming your supposed “lack of willpower” for your problems
• key strategies for healing the painful issues of your past
• mental exercises that effectively deal with Outer Child challenges around food, procrastination, love, debt, depression, and more
 
As your head, heart, and behavior come together and learn to help, not hurt, one another, your strong Adult Self, contented Inner child, and tamed Outer child will become a reality. The result is happiness and fulfillment, self-mastery, and self-love.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With more than 30 years experience working with victims of trauma, abandonment, grief, and loss, psychotherapist Anderson (Black Swan: The Twelve Lessons of Abandonment Recovery) continues her private practice in Manhattan and on Long Island. A decade ago, she introduced her Outer Child concept, which, as she defines it, is an outward manifestation of your emotional self. Since fear of abandonment is "the crux of the human condition," she explains how to redirect "fear and insecurity seeping out of your oldest wounds." "Abandoholism," she notes, "wins the hit parade on my website." With a program designed to undo primal fears, she tackles such topics as lowered self-esteem, lovesick feelings, food urges, diet, chronic depression, procrastination, heartache, and a primary source of conflict with relationships, "enormous emotional suction cups." She also examines brain activity and factors preventing the body's production of such "yummy neurochemicals" as oxytocin and vasopressin. While readers under stress who are desperate for help will view this book as a valuable tool for healing, others may be put off by some of the jargon-filled passages. (Jan. 25)
From the Publisher
"This book will be an enormous help to anyone looking to let go of past disappointments and self-recrimination and get on with the essential work of healing, building boundaries, and acquiring the skills to reach your goals. I hope you will read it and do the exercises it provides." –John Bradshaw, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Homecoming

"Groundbreaking…" –PsychologyToday.com
Library Journal
Are you repeating unhelpful, destructive patterns of behavior? Anderson (The Journey from Abandonment to Healing), a social worker in private practice, attributes this sabotaging behavior to your "Outer Child," a part of personality that takes over when your "Adult" function is weak. This Outer Child is likened to an early teenager who is not mature enough to handle the needs and emotions of the "Inner Child" and lacks the Adult's support and wisdom. In the first step toward integration, the Adult takes charge and communicates with the Inner/Outer Child through journal writing, correspondence, or role play. As caretaker, the Adult identifies and visualizes future goals and then enlists help from both Inner and Outer Child in taking small steps to change behavior. As this process is repeated, new routines are established, and the brain's ability to coordinate among regions that control emotion and cognition is strengthened. Anderson does not discount the role of past trauma but shows that self-defeating behavior can be changed without in-depth examination and resolution. VERDICT A helpful scenario, requiring determination and commitment, for dealing with difficult issues. This will appeal to readers seeking change.—Lucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345514486
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/25/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Anderson, LCSW, has devoted more than thirty years of clinical experience and research to working with the victims of trauma, abandonment, grief, and loss. The creator of the Outer Child concept and the founder of the abandonment recovery movement, she is the author of The Journey from Abandonment to Healing, Black Swan: The Twelve Lessons of Abandonment Recovery, and The Journey from Heartbreak to Connection. In addition to her lectures and workshops, she continues private practice in Manhattan and on Long Island.

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Read an Excerpt

Taming Your Outer Child

A Revolutionary Program to Overcome Self-Defeating Patterns
By Susan Anderson

Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2011 Susan Anderson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780345514486

ONE

Welcome to Your Outer Child

What makes you break your diet, or run up your credit card, or be attracted to all the wrong people? You know these aren’t healthy things to do, you know you’re sabotaging your own best interest, but sometimes you just can’t help it. Sometimes you want what you want and there’s no reasoning with the devil on your shoulder!

Each of us has self-sabotaging tendencies, the origins of which elude us. Be confused no longer! I’m here to tell you that these behaviors are attributable to a part of your personality that perhaps you didn’t even know you had: your Outer Child.

You may already be familiar with the concept of an Inner Child, a psychological construct developed by John Bradshaw, Charles Whitfield, and others. Your Inner Child is your emotional core, the innocent, vulnerable, often needy part of your personality. Many of its feelings emerged at a tender young age and still reside in your psyche; others arise anew from fresh experience. Whatever the origins of its feelings, your Inner Child needs tending to, it needs to be heard, it should be honored.

No less important, your Outer Child is a psychological concept that I have identified to describe the part of your personality that acts out your Inner Child’s feelings in self-defeating ways, without giving you, the Adult in charge, a chance to intervene. Simply put, your Outer Child is responsible for your misbehavior. Think of your Outer Child as the impulsive and willful adolescent in you: the person who has trouble regulating behavior and resisting primal urges. Your Outer Child says yes to a third glass of wine when you, the Adult, had already decided on a two-drink limit. Your Outer Child decides to watch the game when you’d resolved to clean out the garage. Your Outer Child wants what it wants and pulls out all the stops to get its own way.

As with an Inner Child, we all have an Outer Child; it is not a flaw. It is, however, the obstinate, selfish, self-centered part of us we all share—a part that until now we have failed to recognize as universal. Outer Child is universal because we all have primal feelings we are barely aware of but that drive our most deeply entrenched defense mechanisms and knee-jerk reactions—if we let them.

Your Outer Child manifests outwardly what your Inner Child feels inside. For instance, if your Inner Child’s core fear is abandonment, it is your Outer Child that manifests this fear with all sorts of inappropriate behaviors. When you feel insecure in a romantic relationship, Outer acts out your vulnerable feelings in ways that can only be interpreted as desperate. You might freak out, freeze up, or blow up when your date keeps you waiting more than a few minutes for a call back. In fact, Outer Child usually has a hair trigger when it comes to abandonment fear—the nerve that jangles so easily when any of us feel slighted, dismissed, or rejected. Hence waiting those few minutes for the phone to ring triggers an overriding fear that you will wind up all alone, bereft of love forever.

Lest you think that I’m giving a name to this part of your personality in order to let us all off the hook for bad behavior, think again! Being able to identify and recognize your Outer Child is an important step toward taming it. I have found with my work in private practice with clients and with countless workshop attendees that being able to separate the personality in this way is the first important step toward controlling your actions and your own emotional destiny.

I initially coined the term Outer Child for my book Journey from Abandonment to Healing (2000). I didn’t introduce the concept and a list of Outer Child traits until nearly the end of the book, but Outer Child somehow managed to take center stage. Almost immediately after publication I began hearing from readers wanting more information about how to tame their wayward Outer Children. I have spent the past decade applying this tool to a broader range of issues and clinically testing exercises I’ve adapted to overcome Outer Child’s most entrenched behaviors, a program you’ll read about in the following pages and chapters.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE THAT PERSON

Think of the things you yearn for—to have a happier love life, to break free of debt, to achieve greater recognition in your field—and consider all the impulsive little things you do that actually hinder your progress toward those goals. Your Outer Child represents that hindrance; it’s all the counterproductive habits and tendencies that keep you forever wanting to achieve, but always falling short.

Let’s say your Inner Child feels a little anxious in a social situation and urgently wants you to make a good impression. Your Outer Child acts out your nervousness, insisting on making its own impression. It might share information that’s way too personal for cocktail party banter, or express an opinion with the kind of vehemence best reserved for competitive debate. So much for that good impression.

One of Outer’s favorite ploys is procrastination. It creates as much sabotage by what it doesn’t do as by what it does, gumming up the works with indecision and passivity. For instance, it ignores you when you tell it what to do, like “Go to the gym.” Instead Outer just goes right on eating potato chips and lounging in front of the TV. Outer Child is the guy who talks constantly about how he’s going move to a cattle ranch out west, but never gets around to it. You don’t have to be that person. You can do something to tip the balance in favor of your Adult Self when those internal power struggles arise.

The concept of the Outer Child is a revolutionary self-awareness tool that lets you look at your own behavior from a powerful new perspective. It reveals the third dimension of your personality: the self-rebellious dimension. In exploring this new dimension, you gain access to a part of yourself that was operating undercover, until now.

Those of you familiar with the terms Id, Ego, and Superego may wonder how the concept of an Outer Child fits in. They’re closely related, though Outer Child is a newly identified component of the psyche, one that expands Freud’s theory of the Id by taking it into the behavioral realm. We’ll explore this relationship in more detail in the next chapter.

For now, I want to reassure you that you can redress and redirect your Outer Child’s subterfuge; it doesn’t have to hold you back any longer. Whether Outer Child has been preventing you from sticking to a diet, curbing your spending, overcoming performance anxiety, ending procrastination, improving a relationship, becoming a better parent, or reaching your potential, you can finally create the change you’ve always dreamed of.

In the interest of full disclosure, it’s important to know that your Outer Child isn’t going to give up its power over you without a fight. Which is why the program I created offers powerful tools for overcoming its resistance. Outer Child doggedly fights change—especially change directed at its favorite bad habits. It balks at doing the right thing and hankers after precisely those things that are bad for your health, reputation, marriage, career, figure, or bank account.

That’s because Outer is a glutton for immediate gratification and adept at foiling your best laid self-improvement plans by cleverly substituting self-indulgence for self-nurturance. The difference between the two is vast, but Outer, a master of rationalization, does its best to confuse them. Self-nurturing is taking action to truly benefit your life. Outer prefers self-indulging, in other words, momentary feel-good things like buying an extravagance on credit, or taking another nap—things that are easy to rationalize in the short run, but sabotage your goals and dreams in the long run. You will learn exercises throughout this book to help you delay gratification, remain goal-directed, and guide your behavior in the direction of your highest potential.

OUTER CHILD AS LOVE ADDICT

So who, exactly, can benefit from this program? For starters, many of the people who read my first book on abandonment. I mentioned above that a lot of your self-sabotaging behaviors hearken back to unresolved abandonment issues. Depending on your earlier losses, heartbreaks, and disappointments, Outer Child can wreak havoc in romantic situations by acting too needy. When you become unsure of your partner’s love, you grow these enormous emotional suction cups that are irresistibly drawn to your lover. You frantically try to hide them lest they scare her away, but to no avail; new emotional suction cups keep surfacing, making it increasingly difficult to appear self-contained. The Outer Child program shows you how to redirect that neediness at yourself—so that you, and not an unwitting partner, become ultimately responsible for fulfilling your deepest emotional needs.

Outer Child has lots of other relationship issues. One of its patterns is so prevalent that in one of my books I coined a special term for it: abandoholism—addiction to the emotional drama and love chemicals of abandonment. Abandoholics are exclusively attracted to people who are unavailable. Their Outer Children only feel passion when in “pursuit mode”—when they are trying to win over someone’s love. This puts many an otherwise secure marriage (in which partners sometimes take each other for granted) in the doldrums and has many a single person chasing after hard-if-not-impossible-to-get lovers. There are those who are well aware of the fact that they’re love addicts and would readily admit they “get a high on abandohol” and complain that “otherwise life feels too humdrum.”

Abandoholic Outer Children are addicted to the biochemistry of abandonment, which is why they suddenly feel no chemistry when a previously unavailable romantic interest actually does become available. Learning to tame your Outer Child helps you uncross your brain wires so that you can feel love and passion without having to chase an emotional challenge.

WHEN OUTER CHILD TAKES CONTROL

Outer Child specializes in power and control. Its primary adversary is your Adult Self. When you try to achieve a goal, Outer Child can act like an oppositionally defiant 10-year-old. Outer is bent on wearing you down, on getting you to fall back into one of your old habits, addictions, or compulsions. That’s why awareness alone isn’t enough to stop it. You’ll need my program’s specialized tools to learn how to take the reins securely into your own hands.

Outer Child has been known to grab control of the celebrity spotlight. We’ve all witnessed some of our most honored officials, athletes, and movie stars whose Outer Children got caught in the act of philandering, using steroids or other drugs, perpetrating financial scandals, or shouting “politically incorrect” epithets in public—all examples of their Outer Children breaking through their public personas and gaining control.

Speaking of control . . .

Beware: Outer can catch you off guard and take control when you least expect it, especially when you are angry. Outer overreacts to anger. Sometimes it overreacts by underreacting. This is because many people are too insecure to risk expressing direct anger toward someone (like their boss or lover); they fear losing that person’s acceptance. Outer can act out your fear and lack of assertiveness by getting you to take your anger out on yourself. One of my workshop attendees described just such an episode:

The other day when I failed to speak up for myself for the millionth time, I started slamming things around the kitchen. I accidentally broke a dish I really liked. That was my good old Outer Child acting-out in its usual self-destructive way.

In other cases, Outer takes your anger out on innocent bystanders and makes you look like a monster. As one workshop attendee put it, “When my Outer Child is cranky, it tries to bite someone’s head off.”

Outer’s control issues really kick up in relationships: When Outer Child gets into power struggles with other people’s Outer Children, watch out. Outer Children tend to battle one another for control and wrangle over “who’s right.” They also take one another as emotional hostages, demanding reparations for hurts and betrayals inflicted by old relationships, dating all the way back to childhood. (If only you could send your respective Outer Children out to play—or to Outer Childcare!—so that the Adults could work things out rationally and fairly.) The Outer Child program I will offer in this book shows you how to nip these Outer Child shenanigans in the bud and untangle the interference. My program provides a powerful new model for couples counseling as well.

Your Outer Child doesn’t just try to bully your partner or other people; it bullies you: When your Adult Self is too weak and your Outer Child is too strong (as it is for many of us), Outer can become so powerful that it completely controls the person.

Some people, like this former client, are almost all Outer Child:

I ate what I wanted, even though I got fat and lost my looks. I drank want I wanted, even after I got arrested a few times for drunk driving. I spent what I wanted, even though I eventually foreclosed on my mortgage.

Think of your Outer Child as a horse—an untamed horse—and your Adult Self as a trainer trying to mount it. Sometimes the horse is more determined, more powerful than the trainer and you’re thrown from the horse. Then Outer Child goes galloping off in his own direction. The Outer Child program in this book educates you about the creature you’re trying to control, offers tools for the job and lots and lots of opportunities to practice using these tools so that eventually you’ll be the one in control.

OUTER CHILD UNDERCOVER

Outer’s maneuvers can be subtle. It wears many disguises. It slyly masquerades as free will, while leaving you, the Adult, in shackles. It poses as your ally, but is really distracting you from attending to your true needs.

Since Outer Child is an outward manifestation of your emotional self, some of its characteristics are on prominent public display, out in the open for others to see. We don’t mind owning up to some of these behaviors, but there are others we don’t like to acknowledge. It’s far easier to identify those in other people. Take self-centeredness for example: Outer loves to project this less-than-stellar trait onto others, usually behind their backs. (“I can’t stand the way she grabs center stage; it’s always all about her. I never get a chance to say anything.”) Gaining Outer Child awareness allows us to own up to our own self-centeredness and transform it into a positive force.

Think of it this way: Outer is you on autopilot. Its mission—to hijack your Adult Self’s best interests—keeps you forever stuck in old patterns. Outer is always waiting in the wings to spring one of its knee-jerk, defensive strategies, especially when you’re trying to change.

Continues...

Excerpted from Taming Your Outer Child by Susan Anderson Copyright © 2011 by Susan Anderson. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Interviews & Essays

Taming Your Outer Child Essay by Susan Anderson

“San Quentin Prison – An Outer Child Repository”

I travelled to California to meet with the prisoners at San Quentin – all “lifers” experiencing the ultimate consequence of Outer Child behavior. My purpose was to add Outer Child / Abandonment components to programs that help them transition their lives – even if those lives are lived behind bars. I was apprehensive about what impact the environment would have on me. San Quentin has the country’s largest death row (150 years of executions by hanging, gassing, and recently lethal injection). It turned out to be mind-bending, but not in the way I expected.

The men I met with were those involved in the prison’s ongoing personal growth programs. What struck me immediately was that they were already in advanced stages “Outer Child awareness” and “Abandonment Recovery.” The men told me about the serious crimes they’d committed, where they were coming from emotionally, and what character defects and misguided “male role beliefs” had led them to act out so destructively. They’d committed these crimes during teenage years, hopped up on drugs and alcohol. This is when Outer Child grabs control, follows through on impulses of the pack, anesthetizes pain by excessive bingeing, and can act out with depraved indifference to consequences.

In discussing their lives with me, these men displayed a level of transformation beyond anything I’ve encountered on the outside. It’s possible that a few of them were Outer Children disguising themselves as self-reckoning Adults. Outer Child, after all, is adept at “talking the talk” to avoid having to “walk the walk.” But there was genuine sentiment here – soul touching – transcendence.

The special conditions of prison life, coupled with the quality programs unique to San Quentin, must no doubt account for the men’s transformation. Prison is a contained environment – a laboratory where humans are routinely punished, rewarded, reinforced, conditioned, modified – a place where men are kept “off the street” away from the distractions of the outside world, where they become subject to controlled variables, i.e. “time” heavily laden with consequence, structure, accountability, and community (most prisoners are never alone or on their own). What better environment for trying out new technologies of personal growth and rehabilitation?

Only a small percentage of men participate in San Quentin’s exemplary programs, yet this sparse community of support and outreach is enough to slowly change the culture of the prison, creating momentum that inspires more and more men to move forward toward productive lives.

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  • Anonymous

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    AMAZINGLY HELPFUL

    I was amazed how well this book puts the reader right in the middle of actual help. The self visualizations were so helpful to me. I found the exercises easy to understand and follow. I have never felt better !! Thank you Susan Anderson for such a great read !!

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