Inner Bonding: Becoming a Loving Adult to Your Inner Child

Inner Bonding: Becoming a Loving Adult to Your Inner Child

by Margaret Paul


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062507105
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/05/1992
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 143,689
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist and the coauthor of Free to Love, Do l Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved By You?, From Conflict to Caring, and If You Really Loved Me.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Finding the Life We Lostin Living: UnderstandingInner Bonding

It is difficult indeed to struggle against what one has been taught. The child's mind is a helpless one, pliable, absorbing. It makes what it learns a part of its very nature.... Yet ... you must change your minds, you must renew your hearts, and you must do it alone. There are no teachers for you.

To My Daughters with Love
— Pearl S. Buck

You've achieved everything you've ever thought would make you happy, but the gnawing, empty feeling that something is missing is still there. To paraphrase Rabbi Harold Kushner, you've discovered that "all you've ever wanted isn't enough."

You may feel lost, out of touch with yourself and others, in an emotional fog much of the time. You often feel as if you're doing nothing more than going through the motions. You may agonize over feeling insecure, inadequate, unlovable, and alone.

These are deeply painful feelings, pervasive and persistent — so painful, in fact, you may have discovered any number of dysfunctional ways to ignore, deny, cover up, or numb the ache of your emptiness: alcohol, food, work, TV, sex, drugs, all of the above. Then one day something happens, a traumatic experience or an internal shift. You reach a turning point and ask yourself, as Jeremiah Abrams states in Reclaiming the Inner Child, "Where is the life we lost in living?"

Certainly you're not alone with these kinds of feelings. Most of us struggle with continuous or periodically recurring emotional painfor significant portions of our lives. This happens either because we don't know another, better way, or because we're unwilling to try, afraid we'll only make matters worse. Unfortunately the pain often has to become intolerable, or a crisis must force the issue, before we take action on our own behalf. Take the case of Tom, for example.

Tom had never been in a therapist's office and he wasn't happy about being there now. He sat stiffly in his dark blue suit, unaware that his fist was clenched and his expression stern. He would never have come at all, but the CEO of his company took him aside last week and told him that his outbursts of temper were undermining employee morale and driving potential customers away. "Get some help," the CEO told him. Frustrated and angry, but seeing no other choice, Tom made an appointment.

After we talked for a while about Tom's stress level and work load, I said, "It sounds like you're not taking very good care of yourself."

Take care of myself? That's not realistic. I have too much to do!"

But you fly into unpredictable rages, and you could lose your job because of that. And being so stressed out, you're likely to lose your health as well. Can you really afford not to take care of yourself?"

"I don't think I can," he said softly. "I don't know how."

Tom was telling the truth. He didn't know how; he'd never learned. He had been "at work" since early childhood. His father was an abusive alcoholic, so Tom's earliest memories were of trying to protect his mother and sister from harm. When he realized his father treated them better when he wasn't around, Tom left home and lived on his own. He was fifteen.

Most of us don't grow up in these extreme circumstances; but even in the best possible beginnings, very few of us know what it looks like to take care of ourselves. We haven't seen that kind of behavior anywhere — not in our families, not even on TV. So we follow the patterns we've learned, and we let ourselves down because we don't know what it looks like to be loving to ourselves as well as to those around us. We abuse ourselves, ignore or deny our pain-all because we don't know what else to do. We desperately need to begin to think about these questions: "How do we take care of ourselves? How do we make ourselves happy? How do we bring joy into our lives?"

Take Sandy, for example. Sandy is a divorced mother of two young daughters, a third-grade teacher. Long hours of preparation have paid off — her students love her, their parents praise her, and the principal has commended her in glowing written evaluations. Practically the only one who isn't convinced that she is a competent, worthy, lovable person is Sandy herself. Constantly exhausted, nagged by indecisiveness and depression, she's discounted everything she's accomplished, including others' affirmations. The only reason Sandy entered therapy was for her daughters. She was determined that they wouldn't suffer the way she had.

In therapy sessions Sandy said bluntly that she rejected others' loving support "because I don't deserve it." When asked, "Why do you drive yourself so hard? Why don't you take better care of yourself?" she answered, "Because selves aren't for taking care of."

Where do beliefs like this come from? Why does Sandy believe that she doesn't deserve love? After all, if she did, she'd take care of herself. She loves her daughters and takes great care of them, making sure they eat right, rest enough, and so on. Sandy values her car. If it's not running well, she gets it fixed. Sandy is no different than any of us: We all take care of whatever we value.

How, then, can we learn to value ourselves so that we can become loving to ourselves, as well as to others? That's what this book is about. It's about Tom and Sandy and the multitudes of others who have absorbed or assumed the false beliefs and self-defeating attitudes and behaviors they saw in their childhood years...

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