I’m posting Elaine’s evaluation from our weekend retreat, “Your Authentic Life”, on April 2013 where we did two Breathwork sessions. When Elaine did her inner child healing, it yielded a surprising unexpected result. Her 20-year eating disorder was healed. Elaine gave me permission to publish her evaluation form. Read more
by Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor
“In insecure relationships, we disguise our vulnerabilities so our partner never really sees us.” ―Sue Johnson, Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships
Do you judge yourself for being needy? Well, I did for the longest time. Read more
In this brief article, you’ll learn 8 keys to transforming the limiting patterns in your life so you stop wasting precious time.
When we experience difficulties as children (or in the womb or in childbirth) and we don’t return to feeling safe and secure in our body and with our loved ones, we split off from ourselves to avoid feeling the anguish. Unconsciously, our Authentic Self flies away because it feels too scared to stay 100% present. Read more
How to Silence your Inner Critic, Access your Authentic Self and Resolve Internal Conflicts
As a young psychotherapist, my mentors told me that I was one of the most talented counselors they had seen. Even though I was successful in my career, self-doubt made me feel insecure inside. I hid it well. I looked strong and competent, and to a degree I was. But when intimate relationships teetered, I didn’t feel grounded and my faith felt shallow. My body ached from muscular tension and GI tract problems plagued me.
I began a deeper exploration of my childhood development that shaped my self-concept. I asked myself: Who am I really? Who is my Authentic Self? With whom have I identified that is not the real me?
My mentors introduced me to Internal Family Systems theory. In this model, we each have several inner family members. I began to notice internal conversations that had previously been outside my conscious awareness. These inner dialogues were causing low self-esteem and difficulties in relationships.
I was overly identified with my Critical Parent and my Adapted Child.
Who I am … my Authentic Self … is different than these inner family members, but I didn’t know it at the time. Their voices were so loud in my head.
1. My inner Critical Parent told my Adapted Child: “You’re not good enough. You’re stupid.” He cracked the whip relentlessly, telling me to do more, faster, and better. He gave me commands such as, “You should be smart. Look beautiful. Be polite and poised. Be perfect. Try harder even when you’re exhausted.”
My mentors helped me identify these messages that came from my mother and father when I was a child. The messages were still unconsciously running my mind, like a computer program operates your laptop.
2. My inner Adapted Child complied with my Critical Parent’s orders. Being a good girl and pleasing people was the best way to earn the strokes she desperately needed. But she didn’t feel loved if she didn’t perform well. My Adapted Child manipulated people’s impressions of her to gain acceptance and recognition. Hiding her insecurity, she jumped through hoops and turned herself into a pretzel to be what she thought others wanted her to be. On the inside, stress grew until she collapsed in exhaustion, and then she got depressed. Her body ached from all the stress. Then the Critical Parent harped at her to get up and stop wallowing in self-pity. She complied and the whole cycle started over again.
Childhood issues carry into adulthood.
I didn’t feel enough emotional warmth or physical affection from my mother or father, and as a result I didn’t learn how to love myself very well. For years I longed for nurturance from my father. As an adult, I was obsessed with having a romantic relationship because society told me that would make me happy and fill the void inside. That never worked for long.
When I was in my mid-forties, it became clear that I needed to generate emotional intimacy within my self instead of waiting for a man to provide it for me.
I used inner voice dialogue to help develop self-love along with praying for God’s guidance. I strengthened the dialogues between my inner Nurturing Parent, my inner wise Adult and my inner Free Child.
3. My Nurturing Parent loves unconditionally. She adores me and cherishes me when I am successful and when I fail. She affirms me and gives me compliments. She’s my biggest cheerleader.
4. My Adult non-judgmentally observes all my internal family members. She monitors their conversations with each other, or lack thereof. She notices when internal and external relationships are amiss. She’s a wise sage who pierces through illusions and delusions.
5. My Free Child is playful, creative, intuitive, imaginative, witty and full of life force energy. My Free Child comes out to play when she feels safe with people she trusts. She’s the creativity in my poetry. She’s the sparkle in my eyes. She’s the empath who cries when people ache.
My Inner Free Child hides for two reasons.
(a) When my Critical Parent insists on being productive and my Adapted Child complies, there’s no time for play. The Critical Parents says, “Work hard. That’s how we get ahead in life.” There’s no time to relax and regenerate.
(b) When my Free Child feels threatened by conflict, she disappears into her turtle shell for safe-keeping. Scared and tense inside, my whole body loses energy and vitality.
Adults who were traumatized as children often withdraw to protect themselves.
Hiding my real self when I felt vulnerable was a smart survival strategy to keep myself safe as child. But if I didn’t learn skills to stay connected with my Authentic Self and manage conflict, I would never develop healthy relationships or stand up for myself or free-up my creativity.
I needed to learn how to self-soothe, assert myself wisely, set boundaries, and return myself to a zone of resilience where I felt centered and whole.
My Nurturing Parent and my Adult became the Guardian for my Inner Children and stood up to my Critical Parent and said:
You’ve been running the show all our life. You think work and discipline are king. Well, I have some information for you. Rest and relaxation are also important. Eight hours of quality sleep are vital. So is play and recreation and exercise. Afternoon meditations help my body feel much better.
If we don’t feel rested, it’s hard to experience high quality of life.
Your driven work ethic has caused physical pain, injuries and chronic muscle pain. You don’t think we have time to stretch and exercise and that creates more distress in our body. That’s not OK any more. Health and vitality are essential. You don’t get to rule our inner family any more. We insist that you listen to the rest of us. Stop being a bully. You’re hurting us.
Critical Parent: Wow, I’ve never heard you speak so strongly. I’m shocked. You’ve got my attention. I’m willing to listen.
Nurturing Parent and Adult: Good! Thank you for listening. First of all, we need to create balance in our life. Do you agree to make health a top priority instead of work, work, work. Go, go, go. Busy, busy, busy? Are you willing to listen to all our needs and make wiser decisions?
Critical Parent: Yes, I’m willing to listen and make health a top priority. But it will be hard for me because I am very attached to working. I agree to listen to you and take you seriously instead of dismissing you. Will you help me by reminding me that other things are important, too?
Nurturing Parent and Adult: Yes. Thank you for being willing to work as a team. That’s a good start. We will remind you in the future to back off when you get obsessive about work. Promise to listen to us?
Critical Parent: OK, OK. I’m crying “uncle.”
Nurturing Parent and Adult: Good. Taking a deep breath … For starters, we are going to meditate ½ hour every afternoon or take a nap whenever we feel tense and tight and need to regain energy. No more pressing through the pain because work is more important. We will get the work done and feel good in the process, OK? You might not be happy because the work won’t get done as fast as you think it should. You’re going to have to be more accepting of things getting done a little slower. A half hour or an hour slower. We promise you that we’ll be even more creative and smart. And we’ll be much healthier so as we age. We’ll have more joy and vitality. We’re not just looking at the present, but our future. Can you get on board with us here?
Critical Parent: Makes good sense to me. I’ll support you in this.
Nurturing Parent and Adult: OK, good. Don’t give us a hard time when we tell you it’s time to meditate or take a nap or exercise. We’re writing meditation and exercise into our daily schedule.
Critical Parent: OK, I can use my task-master propensity in a positive way … to make sure we take time to rest and create health and a sense of well-being.
This is my example. Your Critical Parent might not cry uncle so quickly. You may need to dialogue longer. We often need to ask the Critical Parent to step back so the other voices can be heard.
We all have our challenges. None of us is perfect. When we engage in inner voice dialogues with all of our internal family members, we can examine the coping strategies we have used since childhood that may not serve us well as adults. We can uncover who we really are … our Authentic Self. We can calm our bodies and manage our emotions better. We can make wiser choices. A rich internal relationship develops when all of our inner family members are willing to listen to each other and make compromises that benefit the whole system.
If you’re wondering how this fits into your spiritual life: In my opinion, the combination of the evolved wise Adult, the Nurturing Parent and the inner Child comprise our Authentic Self, our spirit. It reflects the spirit of God that lives inside of us.
Now It’s Your Turn
I’m hoping you’re inspired by my example. But my story won’t have a lasting impact unless you take the next step. Write your own inner voice dialogue to sort out conflicts and access wisdom from your Authentic Self.
1. Schedule time for your Inner Voice Dialogue every morning or night. Keep the date with yourself. You deserve this time. Get quiet. Breathe. Play relaxing music.
2. Notice your thoughts and feelings. Are there any conflicts?
What’s upsetting you? If nothing, that’s ok.
Focus on what you appreciate. Write about that. See where it goes.
3. Ask yourself, “What does each family member want to say and to whom? Check in with your …
You might also have a Rebellious Child or Adolescent.
Or maybe you want to dialogue with God or your Spirit. Ask:
“What do you want to tell me regarding this situation?”
“How would you have me respond to a certain situation or person?”
4. Write the dialogue, word for word as it occurs to you. Don’t censor it. Don’t be concerned if you are doing it right. Just write from stream of consciousness.
5. After you’re finished writing, review the dialogue. Does it sound wise and loving? If not, edit it. Ask a trusted friend if it sounds wise and loving.
5. Choose at least one specific action step. Write it on your schedule. Keep the promise to yourself.
Inner Voice Dialogue is one way you can create core shifts in your life pattern and get to know your Authentic Self. One step at a time. Day after day. I recommend you journal for 60 days to learn this method. You will enjoy richer emotional and spiritual intimacy within yourself, with others and with God.
Looking for a Mentor?
This short article can’t cover all that I’d like to say about this method. So if you are interested, please ask for coaching or counseling, or attend one of my intensive retreats.
Your Authentic Life Retreat: One day, Saturday, September 16, 2017. Young Harris, Georgia
Deep Emotional Healing Retreat Two days, October 28-29, 2017. Young Harris, Georgia. Note prerequisites: 3 private sessions.
Note: Inner family members are not the same as multiple personalities that are experienced in dissociative identity disorder (DID, formerly known as multiple personality disorder).
Author: Benita A. Esposito, MA, LPC
If you want help to learn Inner Voice Dialogue, contact me. I’m happy to help with my Life Coaching, Spiritual Counseling and Psychotherapy services. Choose from in-person office visits, phone or video-conference sessions from the comfort of your home.
Complete the Contact Form to send me an email.
Offices in Sandy Springs (Atlanta) and Blairsville, Georgia.
It’s winter. I am feeling drawn to go deep inside, like a caterpillar feels drawn to spin a cocoon and close out the rest of the world. There seems to be a metamorphosis occurring that I do not quite understand. I need more peace and quiet. It is not acceptable to be so busy anymore. I have been having dreams indicating core transformation. Read more
“Give thanks in all things,” the Bible tells us. Well, I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty hard to do in the midst of pain, either physical or emotional pain. In my case, when I’m in emotional pain, I’m often in physical pain, too. And visa versa. That’s hard! Read more
“Erica’s Personal Journey”
There are times in each of our lives when the entire course of our life seems to change. Sometimes, the change is so dramatic it feels like it must have been preordained. I have had several of those turning points in my life, but none more dramatic than the day in 1990 that I met Benita Esposito. My life has not been the same since then, and I am eternally grateful for that. Read more
What do you want to create? What has God planted in your heart? A job that feeds your spirit and calms your body? Time to relax and heal? Relationships in which you feel cherished? Health? Life-work balance? A home that you call your sanctuary?
If you want your external reality to change, you have to change your internal reality. Read more
Three men and ten women gathered for one of my spiritual retreats: “Awakening the Authentic Self.”
I had been helping Laura for two years, and we had built quite a bit of trust between us which is necessary to do deep level work. As a child, Laura witnessed and experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse. She had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and clinical depression. Anti-depressants and hospitalizations helped protect her from suicide attempts when she was in her early 20’s. While in the hospital, she was sometimes in a semi-catatonic state. Professionals wouldn’t let her die. They used injections, medications, and leather restraints. She hated all of it, so she was trying to die the only way she knew: by disassociating. That’s how great the pain was.
Laura was 37 years old. During the last two years, Laura had projected onto me and learned to take responsibility for her own thoughts and feelings. She had gone away from me, argued with me, and tested me enough times that she knew that she could trust me. She trusted my wisdom, my tenacity, my strength and my ability to connect deeply with her. I stayed with her in the middle of her pain. I was not going away and I was not going to tell her or her pain to go away. She knew it.
She was feeling safe enough to feel deeper levels of the pain now. She had good self-awareness and was pretty stable. A year and a half earlier, I was so concerned that she was becoming suicidal again that I refused to continue to work with her unless she enlisted the services of a psychiatrist. Although she intensely resisted my request, she complied because she wanted continue to work with me.
In the last few months, Laura had gained enough strength and skill that she was able to wean off the anti-depressants. Now, she thought she was prepared to cope with the whole range of her emotions.
Laura asked me to facilitate a piece of work to help her heal trauma. As we prepared, all these memories flashed through our minds. We were ready for the next step. I asked her if she wanted to work through it in the quickest time possible and she said, “Yes, as long as it is done in a loving way.”
I instructed: “OK, choose two people with whom you feel safest and ask them to sit on either side of you on the couch.”
Laura chose Tara and myself. We sat close to her, touching her body to help her feel safe. Laura’s body immediately started tensing up and her breathing grew very shallow. She’d been peeling away layers for the last two years, and she didn’t have much armoring to prevent her from feeling her emotions and sensations. She had already come a long way.
I put my hands on her arm and shoulder and instructed Tara to copy me on the other side. Her body needed to be braced so that she could feel like she was being held together because she was about to feel like she would fly apart with intense emotion. I received this information intuitively, from my prior experience of working with her, and from watching her body.
Laura began to shudder and twitch in her shoulders, neck and head. I encouraged her to let it happen, and to unwind the tension. The twitching started slowly and then increased with intensity. I knew that her body had been coping by freezing up with the stored trauma.
We are biological creatures and we have four choices when we are traumatized: freeze, fight, flee or faint. Laura’s body was frozen in fear. Although Laura has taught herself good communication skills over the years, when she felt threatened, her affect was either frozen or angry.
The rest of the group gathered around us to support us. I told them, “Pay attention. You are going to learn how to heal trauma.”
I played a CD which began in a low male resounding voice, “Commencement! Take One!” Then beautiful piano music followed. It was a song written for a graduation ceremony: “Take My Hand” on Gerald Stacy’s “In Remembrance of Love” CD. It is very moving music and I knew it would help Laura connect with her emotional, spiritual and physical heart.
Laura’s body started twisting into different positions, breaking out of the container that Tara and I were providing. She made loud deep raw guttural sounds of the pain and anguish. She ended up lying on her side, facing the back of the couch, her head tucked into the corner of the couch. It looked like she was hiding, with her arm draped over her head. Tara and I re-positioned our bodies so that I was at her head with one hand on her head and one hand on her side supporting her body. I wanted Laura’s body to feel that I was there for her. Tara was at her feet, touching her legs, again being fully present with her. Our intention was not to get the pain to go away. I invited Laura to be in absolute connection with herself even in the midst of the pain.
The sounds of anguish continued while Laura’s breathing became shorter. She started to gag because she felt like she couldn’t breathe. I kept my hands on her back, feeding energy into her lungs, connecting with the trauma in her body, and helping her stay present all the way through the fear. I intuitively tracked her body, supporting Laura to stay 100% present with whatever fear arose each moment.
About 45 minutes, the contracting, squeezing, and twitching stopped. Laura’s body opened a little and closed down again and then opened a little again. Finally, her breathing opened up, and her body began to relax. The sounds naturally subsided as her catharsis came to a close.
I sat on the couch and pulled Laura onto my lap, holding her like a mother would hold a small child. Non-verbally I reassured her of my love and my connection with her. I fed her healing energy, and reassured her that she was OK.
The CD was finishing as we sat quietly on the sofa. It was indeed a “commencement, a graduation.” Laura felt like she had gone through the eye of the needle and now felt at peace.
As Laura sat up to make connection with the group again, we saw a slight smile beginning to radiate across her face. The muscles in her face were soft and her skin was glowing. The smile grew as she sat there and radiated. She felt a deeper connection with her Self than ever before. She was amazed and proud of herself. So was the group, and so was I. It felt like diving into a black hole and coming out of a white hole. Transformation! A true celebration!
The group had paid close attention for the whole hour. Laura was their teacher, although she did not know it at the time. They each shared what they had learned from watching Laura and experiencing their own feelings. Every one of them, without exception, had a powerful moving experience. They were in touch with their own emotions in a much deeper way. They began to trust that they, too, could move into such deep levels of pain and come out the other side into peace and freedom
I told them, “You have witnessed a miracle. The courage to stay so profoundly present in the midst of anguish is a very uncommon phenomenon on the planet.
As I looked around the room, I saw faces of peace. People were solid and grounded and connected within themselves. The whole group had transformed while Laura was transforming.
I said, “The reason why you all feel so secure right now is that you felt the power of my presence and the presence of the Holy Spirit while I assisted Laura through her intense feelings. I was not scared to feel the feelings. I was confident. You felt that Laura was safe even though you were witnessing violent movements and volatile emotions.
“If Laura had been in a traditional setting with psychotherapists and psychiatrists, when they began to see her twitching, screaming and writhing with such dramatic intense emotions they would have given her an injection, or pills and put her away in a room.”
Laura started crying as she remembered the times that had happened to her. Professionals had put her in locked units in the hospital where she disassociated. But now, she was still connected to her core self and to me, and she was emotionally stable. The support of the group was immensely healing for her.
I continued: “I first learned how to do this deep healing work under the guidance of my teachers. I have done years of my own deep healing work. That’s why I am not afraid of it. The Holy Spirit directs my words and my hands. It is the Holy Spirit who is the healer, and teacher, and the Holy Spirit lives in each one of us.”
The wind blows away the clouds to uncover the sun. The sun has been there all along, shining brightly.
Dateline: October 2001, North Georgia Mountains
Copyright 2012, The Esposito Institute, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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Retreat facilitator: Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor.
Bestselling book: The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert
The Esposito Institute, Inc. Counseling, Spiritual Therapy and Life Coaching
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Psychotherapy Website: www.Flourishing-Lives.com
Life Coaching and Spiritual Counseling for Highly Sensitive Introverts: https://sensitiveintrovert.com/
Specialties: Marriage counseling, divorce, emotional roots of disease, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, grief, and success skills. Combining intuition and evidence-based practices, Benita gets to the bottom line to help clients create flourishing personal and professional lives. Psychotherapy is available in Blairsville and Atlanta. Life coaching for high achievers is available worldwide via telephone and video-conference. Spiritual counseling and hands-on-healing is conducted at retreats. Benita A. Esposito, MA is an ordained minister with AIWP.