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Finding Adult

This blog post was written by Lynn Esslemont.  Lynn is a trainee in the Advanced Year 1 group.

In the midst of the essay writing process it occurs to me that one of the biggest hurdles I face is in finding Adult.  As has so often been the case in my journey, the hardest thing to do is also the necessary thing to do.  Due to the training process and all it throws up, I have consciously attended to my inner chatter around the non-negotiable coursework.  I recognise the familiar dialogue between Controlling Parent and Adapted Child.  It goes along the lines of not being smart enough, having not read enough, needing to do more, be better.  It is very familiar and in hindsight very destructive to my emotional wellbeing.  My core belief that I am not enough has influenced my life in numerous ways and has turned me into a doer.  Always needing to do something or be someone else in order to be ok.

I was recently faced with that first awkward silence as I sat in the room with my new therapist.  I became acutely self-conscious and aware of the space I was taking up in the room and my Little Professor went into overdrive figuring out who or what I needed to be to meet my therapist’s expectation of me in that moment.  She recognised my discomfort and named it; the squirmy feeling, the heat rising, and she continued to sit with me through the challenge of the uncomfortable.  Powerful stuff.  On reflection, I realised this merely mirrored my experience of being in the outside world.  I am aware of having this implicit sense of needing to be or do in order to be ok.  Further reflection has me reeling at the significance of this in my ongoing journey.  If I am unable to sit with the silence and discomfort as a client, how will this translate into my practice as a therapist?  I brace myself for the willingness to work through this next piece of the puzzle.

Once again my self-awareness and willingness catapults me into another transformative period in my life.  As a result, the idea of “just being” becomes a regular visitor to my life.  I am given the opportunity to practice sitting with the discomfort of realising that I do not need to do or be or help or change or fix in order to be ok.  I begin to pause before action.  I notice my need to do what I think I should do.  I ponder the alternatives – the scariest of which is to do nothing. To just be.  And my intrapsychic process kicks in with the if’s and buts, the possible consequences, and potential backlash of doing something different, of doing nothing.

Painful and uncomfortable feelings begin to flutter in my gut.  My desire to soothe the unwanted  feelings ignites and instead I pause, I squirm, I breathe.  I notice the urge to focus on the other and take care of their needs in order to feel ok.  I become aware of the compulsion to smoke a cigarette or eat something to change the way I feel.  I acknowledge and sit with all this brings up for me.  And it passes.  It may take minutes, hours, days or weeks but the discomfort ebbs and flows and a sense of ok-ness temporarily rests in its place.  And I breathe.  And I reassure my vulnerable and scared Somatic Child that she is ok, she is enough.  Until the next time…

The idea of being enough is a real challenge for me and finding Adult is a weighty issue in my training journey too.  Essay writing, group process and issues around transference all invite me to rubberband back into scripty behaviours and my ‘default’ position of Adapted Child.  Thankfully, my desire to have authentic and connected relationships and experiences encourages me to step up to the plate.  To find enough Adult to own and share my experience in group process.  To find enough Adult to recognise and understand transference and be willing to move through it to see the real person in front of me.  To incorporate some Free Child and Nurturing Parent into my process and begin to enjoy the experience of writing my essay.   Finding Adult is a continual challenge for me requiring continued willingness, courage and effort.  The rewards, however, are bountiful.  When I find Adult I discover I am enough exactly as I am.

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