It’s been WAY too long since I’ve updated the blog. And it’s been a crazy few months for me, with a lot of outward and inward growth, which makes me want to write a blog with EVERYTHING that’s happened, but, let’s start small and work our way up.
This fall I read two books that are changing my life:
Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes your Biology, By Donna Jackson Nakazawa
This book is NUTS. Read it! From Amazon:
“A groundbreaking book showing the link between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and adult illnesses such as heart disease, autoimmune disease, and cancer—Childhood Disrupted also explains how to cope with these emotional traumas and even heal from them.”
The author is a science journalist and she outlines the problem, and possible solutions, with grace and skill, and it’s terrifying. Basically, if you had a major childhood trauma happen to you it increases your likelihood of developing a bunch of different emotional and physical health issues by margins similar to those seen in the link between cigarettes and lung cancer and obesity and diabetes. She thinks that within 10 years your doctor will give you the ACE test as a part of your standard physical (NPR has a great article with the test you can take yourself here, it’s just 10 questions). Based on those results your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes to exercise and diet, and/or therapy to get your stress under control and hopefully reverse the damage done.
If you never dealt with your trauma there’s a good chance your brain is still functioning from a “fight or flight” response, releasing WAY too many stress chemicals into your brain and body at the slightest hint of stress, even though the original trauma may be decades behind you. Even if you didn’t experience any major childhood trauma (although an astonishing 60% of middle class Americans reported they scored at least 1 on the ACE test, and of those about half reported 4 or more.) it’s still a fascinating read and can help you have a greater understanding and empathy for those around us that did go through something awful as a child.
SO, I read Childhood Disrupted, and was blown away.
Although I actually didn’t have anything super traumatic happen to me when I was kid, I did go through a cancer diagnosis and a few years of chemotherapy when I was 21-25 which I’ve talked about here on the blog before. I started looking at different therapists that practiced the therapy techniques she endorses in Childhood Disrupted to help heal the damage and came across a therapist that was “Inner Bonding Licensed,” and it sounded like bullshit. But I love bullshit! So I looked it up! The next book I read was:
2. Inner Bonding: Becoming a Loving Adult to Your Inner Child, by Margaret Paul, Ph.D. From Amazon:
THIS BOOK IS CHANGING MY LIFE. I cannot give it enough praise. From Amazon:
“Inner bonding is the process of connecting our adult thoughts with our instinctual, gut feelings—the feelings of the ‘inner child’—so that we can minimize painful conflict within ourselves. Free of inner conflict, we feel peaceful, open to joy, and open to giving and receiving love. ‘Inner Bonding’ explores how abandonment of the inner child leads to increasingly negative and destructive feelings of low self-worth, codependence, addiction, shame, powerlessness, and withdrawal from relationships. Margaret Paul’s breakthrough inner bonding process teaches us to heal past wounds through reparenting and clearly demonstrates how we can learn to parent in the present.”
Maybe it’s just that I grew up in the Mormon culture, and maybe it won’t be as helpful to everyone who reads it, but this book finally explained to me why I feel like shit a lot of the time! It’s because I’ve been a HUGE DICK to myself! Seriously! Let me explain Inner Bonding in my own words:
So, we all spend a lot of our time talking to ourselves: most of the time in our heads and not out loud, but, either way, we do it a lot. If we are unconscious, and let that inner monologue say whatever it wants to say, then we generally end up being really nasty and negative to ourselves and others. This is what Dr. Paul and most Buddhist philosophies call the ego. According to Dr. Paul the ego IS our disconnection from ourselves and others.
“Ok,” I think to myself, “that sounds bad, I don’t want to be fueled by my ego, how do I fix that?”
What Margaret Paul figured out is that, when you’re talking to yourself, if you just be nice about it (be a good parent to yourself) then you can actually start to feel a whole lot better about everything all the time. If you are constantly negative with yourself when you look in a mirror, or sit down to create some art, or when you cook a meal, or eat dessert, or whatever, then what you’re teaching yourself is that you are your own greatest enemy. It’s like carrying around an abusive parent, or a wild animal, inside your own head! I don’t know about you guys, but some of the shit I say to myself is so rude and judgmental, I wouldn’t let ANY of my friends or family treat me that way, and yet somehow I think that because I’m saying it to myself it must true and I deserve it.
Not anymore! I am done being a dick to myself.
Inner Bonding is the process of reconnecting your “inner child” (which is your intuitive self, your emotions, right brain, amygdala, etc.) with your “inner adult” (your left brain, logical and planning side, the side that takes action on your emotions and thoughts in the real world). As long as you are either unaware and/or unwilling to connect the two halves of your mind then you will continue to experience life and relationships as a victim. You’ll blame others, or yourself, for things that you can actually just fix on your own.
And the science in “Childhood Disrupted” actually backs this up as a viable healing method. In “Childhood Disrupted” the author tells us that the most important process needed to heal the pain and stress from our childhood is to get the brain to start communicating with itself again. Because the brain was so inundated in stress hormones while it was developing, the brain doesn’t develop strong enough connections between the big sectors of the brain. The emotional part is fully functioning, and the logical part too, but they’re not speaking with each other, so you end up going nuts. Depression, bipolar, anxiety, schizophrenia: although there is a genetic component to these diseases, they can also be linked to not only how your parents treated you growing up, but also how they treated themselves. So, if we can figure out how to connect the emotional part (the amygdala, right brain, or inner child) and the logical part (the prefrontal cortex, left brain, inner adult) then we can make ourselves whole again.
In “Inner Bonding” Dr. Paul describes the three main ways that we abandon our inner child. The first two are through codependent relationships:
- We try and find someone else to take care of our inner child for us. (Tell me I’m pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough. Validate me! Give me good grades on my assignments, please!)
- We try and find someone who will let us take care of them. (You need to lose weight, you need to do it this way, you need to get smart about this, you need to drive this way.)
- We substitute addictions to distract us from the pain of hating ourselves. (Either to substances like drugs and food, or to processes, like obsessively checking our phones, exercising, gambling, shopping, etc.)
Most of us exhibit all three of these strategies, not generally at the same time, but in different parts of our lives and our relationships.
I could go on and on about Inner Bonding. This is just the tip of the iceberg. If these concepts interest you at all I HIGHLY recommend picking up this book and reading it. I’ve probably read 100 self help books in my life on just about every subject, from the ultra scientific to the ultra spiritual, and no book I’ve ever read before has had such a profound and immediate effect on how I feel, and think, as a human being day to day, and on my hopes for myself and the future. Get it today!
Oh before I forget! The reason the song I wrote is titled “There you are Peter”:
In the movie “Hook,” Peter Pan (played by Robin Williams) returns to Neverland as an adult and all the kids think he’s a fraud. But then this little cutie has Peter kneel down and he starts squishing around the his face until he get’s Peter to smile. He let’s out this perfect line:
Something about it always called to me. In this moment, an actual child is recognizing the inner child still inside the adult Peter. And soon after, Peter himself discovers his inner child, and learns to fly again. What a great metaphor for Inner Bonding!!!
Alright, this manic series of words ends….now. Thanks for sticking with me, and hopefully I’ll be back soon!