Protective Behavior Patterns: Breaking free of barriers to healthy living
All of us have protective behavior patterns. Some are more costly to our well-being than others. All drain us of our valuable resources needed to achieve a happy and satisfying life. Protective behavior patterns are developed in the first ten years of life in response to adverse conditions in our families, schools and neighborhoods. In the months ahead, I will be writing about the many differences between natural healthy living and life based on protective behaviors. Today let’s explore and define the differences between the natural healthy YOU and the adapted, adjusted you.
Years ago in my former career as a psychotherapist, I studied the work of Eric Berne, most popularly known for his book Games People Play. Berne’s ideas were extraordinary in the field of mental health at the time. Although his system was primarily diagnostic in nature meaning descriptive of human behavior, it gave each client and therapist the power to better understand behavior. Eric Berne spoke in terms of ego states or, in simple terms, pathways of human expression. He began with the “Parent” aspect, the part of us that absorbs the words, feelings, thoughts, mannerisms etc of our parents. As children, we are like little sponges taking in the world around us. And, we literally absorb our parents including whatever state of mental health they might be in.
According to Berne, the Parent aspect of us has two parts: the Nurturing Parent and the Critical Parent. The Nurturing Parent is the aspect of us that absorbed the kind, loving words and deeds that our parents expressed. The Critical Parent is the aspect that contains the more negative, critical and often irrational put-downs expressed or implied by our parents in reference to us as children. Both of these aspects can run like tape recordings in our heads. These recordings often run in us even as adults and long after we have moved away from our parents. Sometimes these messages run like elevator music in the background of our lives telling us we are okay, or telling us we are not okay and maybe even worthless. Critical Parent messages can tell us that we are not worth succeeding in life. These messages can contain a litany of all the things that are supposedly wrong with us. Yet in reality, the Critical Parent messages have much more to do with the emotional problems of our parents than with us.
The problem with Critical Parent messages is that we absorb them when we are too young to evaluate them. So, we accept them as truth and reality when most often they have nothing to do with who we are. Critical Parent messages are often part of a family legacy of emotional imbalances passed down in an automated process from one generation to the next.
The next pathway is called the Child Ego State. The Child has within in two important aspects. The first is called the Natural Child. This is the aspect in each of us that contains and expresses our natural healthy emotions. This aspect is the source of all real joy, sadness, genuine anger, natural fears (such as the fear of death), sexual feelings, creativity, intuition and basic instincts. This is the You that knows what You know. This You knows when you are with someone who is healthy and supportive of your life and when you are with someone who is not healthy and does not support your life. If your life feels joyless to you, it is a sign that your Natural Child received very little support.
The second aspect is a called the Adapted Child. This aspect is the YOU that acts out of basic survival fears. This is the aspect in each of us that learns as children to behave in ways that will please the adults in our environment so they will want to keep us around. The Adapted Child has two aspects within it: the “good and sweet child” and the “rebellious child.” The good and sweet child is that one who is chronically trying to please someone else often at his or her own expense. The rebellious child does just the opposite. If you apply this idea to school behaviors, the good and sweet child tries desperately to please the teacher. The rebellious child tries desperately to create trouble as a way of defending himself or herself against classroom conditions that are not natural or healthy. More about the influences of educational practices on mental health in the next article.
All too often the Adapted Child in each of us is stronger and more powerful than the Natural Child. If you grew up in a family where parents were unable to provide support for their children for whatever reasons, you have a strong Adapted Child aspect. Your parents may have had more children than they were capable of caring for or suffered themselves from alcoholism or other illnesses. Maybe economic worries dominated your parents’ lives. Perhaps coping with the mismatches in their marriage consumed the resources needed to raise children. Maybe they had their own legacies of poor childcare and just had very little resources for caring for their own children. Whatever reasons, children figure out well under the age of five what they are going to have to do to survive in their families. The survival behaviors that we develop form an array of protective circuitry that keeps us from feeling the abject fear associated with missing parental care. These circuits become dominant in the consciousness because they are connected to survival.
The last aspect is called the Adult Ego State. This is the neutral Observer. This is the one who can sit in the audience of life and observe us on the stage of life acting out our dramas and patterns. In eastern medicine, the Adult might be called the Witness or Presence in You. The eastern approaches might say this is the You who was never born and the You who will never die. In any case, this is the only aspect of You that has the power to transform your life. All too often western psychotherapy becomes a process of people trying to change their lives through their adapted child mechanism when all the Adapted Child can do is invent new adaptations for coping. Furthermore, talking about yourself as a victim every week will only make you a bigger victim. These are the broken parts of us and broken parts cannot fix themselves. The Witness or Adult aspect of us, the Observer is the aspect that can change our lives because the this aspect has the capacity to evaluate in a neutral manner those pathways that bring us health, wealth, success, joy and well-being as opposed to those pathways that take us right back into our old familiar victim places. In those wounded places, we are governed by Critical Parent voices that tell us we are not good enough and do not deserve to have healthy rich full satisfying lives. These are the voices of discouragement that activate the Adapted Child aspects throwing us into survival mode rather than healthy, present-day natural living.
Healthy natural living is all about living in there here and now. It is about living in the present without the burdens of the past. It is about feeling sad or happy or angry or scared or upset for something that has happened right now rather than re-living distressing feelings that can go back 20, 30, 40 or more years ago. Good mental health requires that we leave the adapted, protective mechanisms in the past and that we find our Natural Child and Adult Observer. Challenging these Adapted Child and Critical Parent circuits often requires more than talking in the form of counseling. In the world of particle physics, these survival patterns collect and form attraction points in the human consciousness. In other words, the hurt and the harm that we collect if untreated, in my opinion, causes us to attract more of the same. You may have noticed that you find yourself saying and doing things with your children, for example, that you promised yourself you would never do. You may have noticed the tendency to repeat relationship patterns that do not support your well-being or to attract working conditions that drain you of your resources.
Transformation requires a transforming ourselves at a structural or energetic level. It means converting the energy that forms into Adapted Child and Critical Parent circuits into healthy, natural energy. If you are on a pathway of personal transformation, ask yourself if the system or systems you are using meet these criteria. If so, carry on with transforming your life! If not make a change. Find pathways that free you of protective behaviors, support your Natural Child and Adult Observer. Your mental health is your most valuable asset!!! Make it your priority today!
To learn more about Mary Miller’s alternative health products and services, go towww.ichingsystems.net or email Mary Miller directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will personally answer your email. Here’s to a happy, satisfying life!
Copyrights: Mary Miller MSW, Health Freedom Advocate and naturalcures.com