As I am writing this blog, at my home six blocks from the White House in D.C., I am interrupted by a text from my son in Denver inquiring if we were safe. We had not been watching the events unfolding from the Capital. Thanking him for his concern and somewhat puzzled we switched on the TV only to be shocked and horrified by the events taking place at the Capital.
To those whose lives inside the Capital that were in danger we pray for your safety and recovery from the scars of this day that will be haunting for time to come. Interestingly the topic of this blog is quite appropo to the events that have actually been playing out over the last four years in our country.
Over the past months I have been sharing perspectives and skills from my clinical practice. Continuing, I would like to address the issue of what are the characteristic of being an adult. For the most part adulthood is bestowed upon a person when they usually reach the age of 18 and with some concerns, such as purchasing alcohol, age 21. Reaching this boundary allows an individual to make life decisions regardless of their parents as well as being accountable to laws. With the exception of some concerns for severe intellectual and mental status limitations, the most prominent criteria is simply age.
Now I am not disagreeing with age criteria, the point I will focus on is to understand the importance of emotional/personality aspects that should also be considered when judging someone an adult. In my upcoming book “The Two Roads of Life” I point out that in my treatment protocols I address this issue with the concept of the Child Parent Adult as put forth by John Bradshaw in his work on the “Inner Child”.
In my teaching model of therapy I took effort to help people understand how to face issues from an adult experience road point of view. Each of us has three levels of influence that contribute to our personality. We all have a CPA. This is not an accountant but rather Child, Parent and Adult.
Our inner child is the repository of our childhood fears, anxieties and traumas. They are triggered by what I call “exposed nerves.” Events take place around us on a daily basis that we sense both consciously and unconsciously. Our brain will interpret the input and signal to us a level of security. These exposed nerves are sensitivity reactions that come from perceiving a danger signal, usually not based in fact but manifested from our deepest fears. These reactions are felt through anxiety, phobias, avoidance, aggression and superstitious behavior.
When ones personality is controlled by the “child” they interact with the world from this perspective. They often are demanding, highly emotional, difficult to accept disappointment and unable to make themselves feel safe and secure. They can not see facts as valuable information to learn from. Their views are driven by raw childish emotions such as immediate gratification. They are seen as narcissistic personalities. Their lives are a continuous battle of child-parent conflicts which are played out in most relationships both personal and with society. There is a high need for approval and a heightened reaction to rejection.
Someone whose personality is dominated by “Parent” is one that is driven for control by any means. They have maintained biases and opinions unrelated to fact. They feel safest when everything goes their way. Flexibility and acceptance of compromise is not their style. They lack empathy and compassion for others. These individuals are very manipulative and capable of taking advantage of child minded individuals.
An adult led personality is one who lives a life based on accepting facts and growing from the “experience road” of life. They are open minded and face uncertainties with courage and a willingness to adapt to the new knowledge they acquire. Their lives are not a continuous path of conflict with the world. Rather they have viewpoints that are not biased or prejudice. They have come to understand their exposed nerves and take responsibility to deal with them when they are activated. When events are difficult they seek out advice and even therapy.
Working with parents, couples and individual adults, the issues of the CPA were very important to address. A healthy family, like a country, runs best when its leaders are adult focused personalities. Too often those in conflict with each other were locked into a long history of playing out child-parent conflicts. This can be very destructive when that non-adult minded person is placed in the role of responsibility. The outcome will always become a self fulfilling prophecy of conflict.
Claiming adulthood status solely based on age unfortunately may empower the possibility of having leaders whose personality development has not reached emotional adulthood. Although I do not advocate for eliminating age qualifications for adulthood, it is strange that over the many years of my practice I have met many children with advanced adult thinking minds.
To those whose parents reflected adult experience road thinking, you were fortunate to have had good role models. Thankfully there are many people who are adult minded. In my work I taught people to face their exposed nerves and how to use that nerve as a signal to switch over to adult experience road thinking and problem solving. Those who choose to deny their inner conflicts will be doomed to repeatedly play out their child-parent destructive conflict. Where there are conflicts, therapy can be helpful.
When considering who we choose to elect to govern us, we must consider that adult is also a state of mind not solely age. We must take a deeper look at those who seek a governance role. A psychological evaluation is commonly used to select police recruits and for sensitive government safety and security departments. In the commercial industry psychological assessments are also used to select candidates to fill important decision making jobs. When someone chooses to run for office perhaps their qualifications should also include a psychological profile. We need more adults in charge not just children/parents in big peoples bodies.
Stay safe and hopeful this new year,
PS. Coming this January “The Two Roads of Life. Navigating yourself and family to health and contentment.” PathBinder Publishing