harlow monkey

So I’ve spent the past few weeks working with a 3-seat method introduced to me by a Pathworks Helper over year ago. Intellectually it’s a rather simple technique seemingly based upon mainstream psychology.  In reality it takes a lot of practice and self work before you can do it on your own successfully.  In this method you role play your child consciousness, healthy adult ego, and then higher self.  However, for the most part you generally work with only the child and adult.  It’s also a technique you generally employ only if you find yourself stuck, feeling bad or overwhelmed.

You might first start off as an adult asking yourself how you are feeling and then at least for me the thing that bothers me or frightens me is definitely the child.  What’s difficult at first with this technique is being familiar with how to separate the adult and child.  The healthy adult is more factual, practical, yet compassionate.  The healthy adult asks questions, thinks rationally, is open to many options, holds healthy boundaries, is honest and keeps commitments.  The child consciousness is demanding, fearful, often irrational and reactive.  The challenging part of this technique for me was learning how to model and separate the two consciousness as my adult started to get afraid and make-up rational sounding babble to sufficiently fake or bribe the child. For example the child might say:  “I don’t wont to go to work today and I want to take the day off and relax and have fun”  The adult might say: “Sorry but we have to work to earn money”  The child might say: “Why?”  The insecure adult might make up something like  “because if we don’t earn money than we won’t be able to eat.” And that statement is sort of a half truth with a lie mixed in, because the truth is that missing one day of work for me doesn’t mean I don’t eat today.  But my adult gets a bit scared with the demanding child and throws out a “bone” hoping to satisfy, distract or even frighten the “child” so we can “continue on as normal”.  And the truth is in this exercise when my adult is feeling compelled to tell half truths and throw distractions its because I’m really more just in my child trying to pretend to be an adult.

There is a concept in psychology called Transactional Analysis or TA that uses a kind of child – adult model to explain human behaviors.  In TA they would call this state where you kind of have a child play acting as the adult to another child as a state where the “child has contaminated the adult”  or we have the critical parent.  In real life we are surrounded in instances of so many of us having wounded, angry, scared, lacking inner children trying our best to fake being the “grown up” we believe our parents wanted us to be.  And it’s so much the norm that it makes it very normal and often praised human behavior to intimidate, humiliate, sabotage, hurt other humans. But let me get back to me.

I’ve been practicing with this 3 chair technique very sporadically and infrequently, but over the duration of about I year.  I think I’m now just starting to clear up and sufficiently separate my adult as a healthy adult from my inner child.  When I recently did this I found myself feeling the terror of my inner child.

I started to sense the fact that he was a child that grew up in a somewhat sterile existence without any affection.  It probably wasn’t until I was maybe 40 years old that it was revealed to me that with holding affection from a child is considered child abuse and is “traumatic”.  It’s a quiet and insidious trauma that makes everything about one seem like they should be OK much like a robot should be OK as long as you give it proper fuel and maintenance, but leaves one constantly feeling socially awkward or unadjusted.  I was taught by my parents to say “I feel fine, how are you?” and expect the answer of “I feel fine”.  For many years I never quite believed that lack of affection when I grew up was a big deal, I mean it wasn’t physical or sexual abuse.  But I’m starting to understand that in a silent insidious way it was sort of a prolonged “gentle” neglect of me protracted for entirety of my childhood life dripped on me one drop at a time, until after one million drops later I’m unknowingly immersed in a massive sea of insecurity that I’m good at covering up with a mask.

So this past week in this 3 chair technique I was able to feel the entirety of what it means to not have been hugged as a child.  As a child I felt naked, ashamed, fully exposed and unclothed with the warmth of mother’s arms around me.  I could understand how I might today feel anxieties in the dark or in the midst of a room of a large crowd or under the scrutiny of managers as I defend the work I’ve done.  I recall times in my past, like when I was so sure I was going to get layed off after 20 years of employment and feeling a “higher being” or “higher self” coming over me and hugging me while I collapsed in defeat and cried my eyes out.  And so now I was the adult just hugging this child of mine that was just so scared he had no words to say.  So I was able to dialogue with my child that I promised to be with him and hold him and that maybe in the middle of day we can take off from work during lunch and have some time together at the local mall.  And my child warmed up to that and I literally felt him hugging harder around my torso, still trembling very hard.

As I drove I actually started to feel overwhelmed by the intensity of the grip of this terrified child. Wow.  This little “Wilson” is REALLY REALLY TERRIFIED.  OH MY GOD! He’s going to squeeze the breath out of me! And then I started to understand a bit about maybe what my Mom might have experienced with me as a child.  My adult started to feel a bit overwhelmed and have thoughts of “maybe we better take this child to a psychiatrist because I don’t know if I can handle how scared he is!!”  The best image I can think of that characterizes all of this and the importance of affection is this picture of a baby monkey in a laboratory hugging a pole crudely fashioned with cloth to resemble a Mom.  That baby monkey was me.



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