The parent, child or adult? Where are you coming from?
In the iconic film ‘Arthur’ starring Dudley Moore, there was a fantastic line where the butler played by the inimitable Sir John Gielgud says to his charge “Oh for heavens sake Arthur, grow up.” Dudley Moore who was around 5ft 2in (1.9m) and plays a spoilt, reckless, playboy drunkenly replies, “that’s alright for you to say, you haven’t got 10 pairs of short trousers hanging in your wardrobe!”
Arthur is a man who has never grown up. His childlike lack of responsibility, whilst endearing, doesn’t bode well for his taking over the family business and its fortunes.
Have you ever had a situation where you think you’re having an honest adult conversation with someone – your spouse, partner, friend or colleague – to have them suddenly turn it around on you and play the victim, the martyr or the child?
Or perhaps they become critical and judgemental, playing the dictator, the bully or the disapproving parent? Do you stay grounded and grown up in the face of this or do you get confused and shrink inwardly into child or morph into some critical, judgemental imitation of a grumpy parent?
We can probably all recall situations where we have reacted unreasonably or in a way that we don’t quite understand and can’t shake ourselves out of. Why is that?
In the therapeutic approach of Transactional Analysis, we are encouraged to view the psyche as having 3 main programs, a child part, a parent part and an adult part.
As a guideline, the child part may be identified more easily by ‘feelings’. As an example, strong feelings of being picked on or bullied, feeling little and unable to speak out or stand up for yourself may manifest as fear in the body maybe making it difficult to breathe. The feelings can be paralysing to the extent that we are unable to respond in a confident adult manner.
Again only as a guideline the parent part could be identified by the word ‘should’ you should do this or that. Parents and teachers spend a lifetime telling children how to behave, so the inner parent part can sometimes translate internally as quite stern, critical or judgemental.
The parent part maybe a very demanding part constantly wanting more or better from us. So as a marker when you identify the word ‘should’ in your inner chatter, you may have slipped out of an ‘adult’ who actually has a choice.
In exploring this model you be forgiven for thinking ‘I don’t know if I know who my adult part is!’ The adult part is who you really want to be and who you are when you feel more comfortable with yourself and a little more self-accepting. It’s the you who is comfortable with your truth even if that truth differs from other people’s versions!
So how can we grow up? One way is to learn some assertive skills, read a book, take a course, google it and practise the techniques.
A short cut to assertiveness is to communicate honestly within ourselves first, in order to discover our truth.
Find a quiet moment and ask yourself ‘what do I really want, need or believe in order to totally honour and respect myself first in this situation?” Listen carefully for your answer then when you’ve worked out what you need to do, pick a time to communicate that as openly and honestly to the other people involved. Preface it with the opening lines… “can I be honest with you?” Let’s face it, it’s unlikely anyone will say, Oh no would you lie please!
Other people are not responsible for how you feel and you are not responsible for other people’s feelings – although naturally it is kind to employ tact, diplomacy and consideration for others.
One of my mentors Liz, always says ‘when we do what is right for ourselves, it is usually what is right for the other person in the situation’. Remembering this tip may help us to remain adult when others around us are behaving irrationally.
Anyhow one things for sure, as you get to know your assertive adult self there sure will be plenty of opportunities for you to practise staying in that state.
Enjoy and remember we love to hear your feedback.
PS. If you enjoyed that, you might like this: Why do I revert to child-like behaviour?