The Meadows Blog

Monday, 11 July 2016 00:00

How’s Your Inner Child Today?

By Nancy Minister, Therapist, Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows

If you have ever done any work at The Meadows—either in an inpatient program or in our Survivors I workshop — you likely have had some experience getting in touch with your inner child.

So, how is that young part of yourself right now?

Go ahead: close your eyes and take a deep breath.

Feel that child’s energy.

Are they content? Restless? Sad? Scared?

Experience the warmth and love that you have for him or her in your body. Take a moment to provide for their needs, which could include anything from reassurance to a promise to go for a walk later.

Your child may need for you to go ahead and feel any feelings of fear, pain, or shame so that you can get in touch of where those feelings are coming from and address them.

Reconnecting In the Survivors II Workshop

One of my favorite things about facilitating the Survivors II Workshop at the Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows is helping folks to revisit their relationships with their inner children. The child part of themselves that they rescued in Survivors I probably feels happy, safe, and loved; but, it may be helpful for that person to also connect with an inner child from a different time. Having gained a greater sense of themselves, they are often ready for more trauma work.

Sometimes people return to The Meadows for Survivors II to address adult issues such as ongoing or past relationship problems, traumatic experiences, or addictions. Often, they need another layer of healing from childhood abuse or relational trauma.

Because of my passion for inner child work, any way you slice it, the Survivors II workshop is going to include some connection with that inner child. Yours could be a fearful, sad, and wounded child or an adapted child that is rebellious, angry, or shut down.

By checking in with your inner child in a deeper way, you can learn more about the wounding—the feeling energy and the messages that you still hold inside. Often, the connection people make with their inner children is very sweet.

We use various modalities to get in touch with the underlying source of the issues that people come to address. For example, your homework at the end of the day might be an inventory, a letter, a collage or other art project. The aim of the homework is usually to get in touch with your underlying feelings and the age at which your trauma issue underneath those feelings was set up. Rescuing the child and releasing the feeling energy tends to bring much-welcomed relief. It’s fun for me to be creative and match the homework with the person’s goal for the week.

I have had this blog post in my mind for a few months now, but my own inner girl has not been happy with the idea of me writing a blog. She is scared, having had some social trauma as a teen. Even as those fears come up, I breathe and allow my functional adult to affirm that I have boundaries and I can protect myself (and her). What do I need protection from? It turns out it is my own thoughts that “make-up” all kinds of crazy things about betrayal, judgment, and shame.

Change Your Reality, Change Your Brain

What is truly exciting about this work is that it is validated by neuroscience. We hold relational and survival experiences in our limbic brain in the form of implicit, procedural memories. When we go back in time and access the feelings and experiences of hurting, neediness, abandonment, rejection, fear, or worthlessness, we are retrieving them from that part of our brain.

As we heal by letting go of the feeling energy and then re-parenting that child part, we literally change the neuropathways in our brain. Focused attention on loving that child part of yourself creates new neuropathways. This means creating a felt experience of warmth, love, protection, even physical nurturing by—yes—hugging a pillow.

So, check in again… How is your inner kiddo right now? If you’re finding that he or she could use a little extra nurturing, it might be time to join me for the Survivors II workshop. For more details, call 800-244-4949 or contact us through the Rio Retreat Center website.

Published in Workshops

By Tracy Harder, MSC, LAC, Survivors Workshop Facilitator

Do you remember the one question you missed on that fourth-grade science test that kept you from scoring 100 percent? Or the word you missed in every spelling bee you were in? I do.

In fact, I am very clear about the fact that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius and I am not a big fan of the words centennial, hippopotamus, or receipt. I have suffered from most of my life from perfectionism, which to me is no joke. Feeling shame about making a mistake and having the initial reaction of wanting to hide it is not fun. In fact, just the thought of writing this blog gave me anxiety. How can I possibly measure up to the people who have written blogs and have Ph.D.’s and more experience than me?

Perfectionist Tendencies Can Start in Early Childhood

My perfectionism developed and honed from a very early age. I remember when I turned four or five my parents took me to a fancy restaurant for crab legs. (What the hell?) I remember sitting there, prim and proper, with my hands folded in my lap. I remember people telling my mother what a wonderful, well-behaved child she had.

My mother beamed, and basked in the compliments. I figured out quickly, “Aha! This is how I earn my mother’s love and approval!”

From then on, I strived to make perfect grades and to always toe the line, always trying to be “good enough.” For you see, my beloved mother is a perfectionist herself and her perfect little girl reinforced her need to be good enough too.

Pia Mellody, in her book Facing Codependence, says, “Everybody’s poop smells. To be human is to be imperfect.”

She goes on to say that functional parents do not hold themselves up as the higher power in the family—the god and goddess if you will—and that when they make a parenting mistake that affects their children, they own it and make amends. But, what about those of us raised in a home where our parents were the god and goddess reigning supreme? A home in which mistakes were not okay?

I love my parents and through my own work, which has included going through The Meadows’ Survivors I childhood trauma workshop myself, I realize now that they were parenting out of their own trauma brought on by dysfunctional messages they got from their parents.

Perfectionism Hinders You More Than It Helps

Perfectionism has been a friend and a foe in my life. As a friend, it helped me a few years ago to organize and plan from the ground up what I must say was a pretty amazing wedding –although I was a complete and nervous wreck the day of. It also enabled me in some ways to complete a difficult counseling program and earn a Master’s Degree, but it took repeated attempts.

As a foe, it literally drove me to drink. And then, even after getting sober through a 12- step program, I continued to attempt perfection in my step work, which resulted in a relapse. Trying to be “perfect” can also alienate me from people, because my attitude becomes, “ I want to be perfect and am sure you must want to be as well, so let me show you how!” In respect to the core issues of The Meadows Model of Development Immaturity, this attitude is indicative of “better than” self-esteem, invulnerable boundaries, good and perfect reality issues, and containment issues of being out of control with controlling others.

Or, as Pia would say, I turn into “a tight ass.” This is not good for my relationships, to say the least.

Tips for Overcoming Perfectionist Thinking

For those of you reading this and relating, here are a few helpful techniques I use to alleviate the stress of perfectionist thinking:

  1. I give myself permission to be imperfect.

  2. I admit my mistakes to affirm that it’s okay to make mistakes.

  3. I make amends for my mistakes

  4. I remind myself that only my higher power is perfect and that I’m not my higher power.

  5. I do daily affirmations to a photo of my inner child, telling her she is perfectly imperfect just the way she is, and I treat her as such throughout the day.

The pain of the five core development immaturity issues mentioned earlier, and relationship issues drove me into therapy and 12-step programs. Both made it possible for me to practice these techniques.

As a result, there has been a considerable improvement in my relationship with myself and in my relationships with others. After all, who am I to think I could ever be perfect? Through the practice of admitting my mistakes to others I have realized that, for the most part,I am the only person who is not okay with my mistakes.

This corrective experience illuminates the fact that the people in my life now are understanding and forgiving. More often than not, they share their experiences with similar situations, thereby increasing intimacy and strengthening these relationships.

Perfectionism will always be a part of my personality, but the good news is that through insight and action it can definitely be managed.

The Meadows’ Survivors Workshop

The concepts and therapeutic exercises that comprise the Survivors I workshop, are the same ones that drive the overall treatment philosophy for all of The Meadows programs. Participants explore the childhood trauma that fuels self-defeating behaviors such as addiction, mood disorders, and troubling relationships. They also work on processing and releasing negative messages and emotions rooted in their pasts, and find the freedom to fully embody their authentic selves.

Those who register for Survivors I—or any of the Rio Retreat Center’s other 16 workshop offerings— on or before June 30 will receive a 25 percent discount. Call today at 800-244-4949.

Published in Workshops

An expanded interview with Michael Phelps recently aired on NBC’s Dateline: on Assignment.

In the interview, Phelps talks about his struggles with self-loathing, binge-drinking, and apathy before his time at The Meadows. He also talks about how resolving some painful issues with his father during Family Week was a huge step in his recovery. His coach says he’s in the best shape mentally, physically, and emotionally that he’s ever been.

Watch the full interview at the 29-minute mark here.

Published in Treatment & Recovery
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