Inner Bonding by psychologist Margaret Paul is not a new book but I find her therapeutic approach so profoundly beneficial that I would like to share a few thoughts about it.
I first discovered Inner Bonding about a year and a half ago when I was going through a break-up of a relationship, which at some point I used to consider my future.
The break-up revealed that what I used to consider the perfect relationship was actually a complicated entanglement and that I was deep down even more messed up than I used to think.
The curse of your childhood
Everyone who’s ever dabbed into psychology knows that we are all carrying patterns, emotional injuries and behaviours we absorbed in our childhood. These wounds and patterns are unconscious and are essentially running our life. In my case, the driving force used to be a massive deep overwhelming abandonment fear. The fear was so strong I used to feel it could kill me and would do everything to avoid having to face it.
No surprise I had this fear. Both of my parents are absolutely emotionally unavailable and have been so for the absolute majority of my life.
Anyway. As Margaret Paul explains, the way our parents and other figures of authority of our childhood treated us is how we learn to treat ourselves as we grow up. Were they criticizing you? Blaming you for the misery of the family? Did you feel you were never good enough? Did you feel unloved? Hated? The bad child? Replaced by your sibling? Discouraged? Put down? Incapable? Stupid? Left alone? Obliged to take care of your parents? Obliged to please them? Overpowered by them? Chances are that if you listen very carefully to your self-talk, you will hear the voices and words of your parents, still going on, internalised in your head.
But who are these voices talking to?
Re-parent your Inner Child
These voices, that’s what Margaret Paul calls your Inner Adult, which mostly takes the form of your parents. It’s the acquired part of you developed throughout your life. The adult talks to your Inner Child, your essence, the real you, which contains everything that’s unique and amazing about you.
If your parents and other significant adults were insensitive, dismissive, closed, angry, withdrawing, manipulative or anyhow not really emotionally healthy, complete and enlightened (and honestly, there are very few parents who really are like this), then chances are that your Inner Child is damaged and hurting in one way or the other. To make things worse your Inner Adult is continuing with the harmful behaviours he or she learned from your parents, further damaging the Inner Child.
The pain is unbearable for the Inner Child, so it creates defences – anger hatred, blame, resistance or various addictions (to food, alcohol, Facebook, TV, relationships). The list is endless and contains everything that is not in your highest good.
Your Inner Adult is also likely malfunctioning if your parents were nice to you but where not really taking good care of themselves, emotionally or physically.
The number one problem of the miserable Inner Child who doesn’t have its loving Inner Adult is the belief that it can’t handle its own pain and make itself happy. It wants someone else to sooth its anxiety, insecurity, provide approval and sense of worth. But in never really works.
The good news is that being a fucked-up child is not a life sentence – as long as you are willing to accept the responsibility to give yourself everything you expected from your parents and are still unconsciously expecting from people around you today – your partners, children, friends. No matter how much you feel that it’s them who are making you angry and hurting you, you need to realise that it’s your own thinking and behaviour that makes you feel this way and that whilst you have no control over them, you have quite a lot of control over yourself and how you choose to see and perceive things and whether you choose to be in certain situations.
Split personality talks (listening to your feelings)
But how exactly do you re-parent your Inner Child? It may feel odd at first. The basic premise is that you are supposed to lead this dialogue between your Inner Child and your Inner Adult that helps you identify the harmful thinking patterns and beliefs that cause you pain and unhappiness. The Inner Child also knows what are your true needs and desires and has access to past traumatic memories.
The child communicates with you through feelings. Are you feeling sad? Desperate? Lonely? Angry? That’s your Inner Child telling you something.
Chances are that your parents used to play down your feelings when you were little. You were not supposed to cry, be sad, angry. Your Inner Adult learned all that and is similarly dismissing your feelings today. The more you dismiss your feelings, the more you are hurting your Inner Child and the worse you are going to feel in the long term.
Current unpleasant feelings can either be caused by what happened in the past or by the negative self-talk and false beliefs of your present Inner Adult.
You have to create the safe space for your Inner Child to release its old pain but you also need to identify the current harmful self-talk and replace it with the truth. Accessing the truth, that’s where Inner Bonding gets a bit airy.
Essentially, your Inner Adult, the thinking rational part of you doesn’t really know the truth and doesn’t really know what’s right for you. He or she can learn it from the Inner Child, the feeling and deep part of you. But it’s the adult’s responsibility to take action to manifest the desires and needs of the Inner Child in order to bring true happiness and joy into your life.
The adult may be lost, confused or stuck, not knowing what to do, which is when he or she can ask for guidance. This guidance can come in many forms, from the outside or inside. As long as the individual is open to it, he or she will understand that this is the information he or she needs to take the correct loving action in behalf of the Inner Child. It’s sort of a divine intuition or the voice of your higher more evolved self.
The advantages of Inner Bonding
I have previously written about my journey with Transcendental Meditation. Transcendental Meditation is extremely efficient in accessing deep emotional stuff, essentially the Inner Child. However, it does provide little in terms of how to deal with this deep emotional stuff.
Inner Bonding provides the tool how to efficiently deal with these released feelings, which can be really overwhelming.
I have recently started noticing that many people who do meditation for ages don’t really make the fast progress that I would like to make in my life. They are happier than people who don’t meditate but largely still stuck in their patterns. According to Margaret Paul, many people use meditation only to achieve a temporary state of bliss but don’t really want to learn about themselves. She even says that addiction to meditation could be one of those harmful protective behaviours the disconnected Inner Child uses to survive.
I am not quitting on Transcendental Meditation but I am certainly planning to incorporate more Inner Bonding into my daily mental health practice as I feel it is getting me where I want to get faster.
However, the truth is, that if your Inner Child is very damaged and distrustful (as mine certainly was), it may take a while for its voice to become clear, in which case, you may rather use Transcendental Meditation to get things going.
Margaret Paul has a brilliant website with lots of free resources and a free introductory course. Her weekly newsletter has definitely been a source of Guidance for me and helped me decode many things I felt stuck on.
I personally recommend reading her book Inner Bonding. It’s comprehensive and contains tonnes of real life examples of how to handle situations with various significant people of your life from the position of taking responsibility for yourself and your feelings and being connected to your Inner Child. It’s not only about boyfriends and husbands. You can have unhealthy relationships with your children, parents, friends and colleagues, in which you are acting from those unconscious fears and beliefs of your damaged adult and not in the highest good of your Inner Child. And until you allow your Inner Child to reveal what he or she really wants and what he or she is afraid of, you are bound to stay stuck in all sorts of various vicious cycles. I don’t know how about you but I am for sure tired of vicious cycles.