What is going on in your child’s head?
Many of us have seen the cartoon”puzzle”. It shows the control room of the child’s brain. The child’s subpersonalities work to make him feel safe and happy. The plot of the cartoon becomes interesting when Fear, Anger, Joy, Disgust and Sadness begin to struggle for control.
For example, when Fear takes over, the child cringes. When the main thing is Anger, the child begins to swear. So we understand that all these characters represent the emotional experience of the child.
But this model actually works. The cartoon shows quite accurately how our emotions work. There are also whole areas of psychotherapy that use such models. For example, one of the ideas of systemic family psychotherapy is that within each of us there are several parts, or subpersonalities, that interact with each other and determine our behavior.
Let’s return to the cartoon “puzzle”. It explains a lot of children’s behavior. Imagine a typical situation: a three-year-old child asks you for a blue Cup that he likes. When you give him a Cup, he gets hysterical. If you ask him, ” Why?”he’ll say,’ Because you gave me the blue Cup.’
Many of us have similar stories. Someone will remember their sweet and polite son, who turns into a real monster when you tell him to turn off the computer. Someone will remember about the daughter-the high school student who studies on “perfectly”, but every day late walks with friends. It wouldn’t be typical of her at all…if her psyche consisted of just one part.
Understanding our inner subpersonalities helps us in raising children.
It’s not just our children who can behave uncharacteristically to themselves. Parents know what it’s like to lose your temper and then regret it. Apologizing for such situations, we say, “I was not myself” and try to better control ourselves in the future, so that such situations do not happen again. The idea that there are different parts of us that are fighting each other helps to understand our behavior in many ways.
The famous American psychologist Richard Schwartz, who worked in the mainstream of systemic family psychotherapy, says: trying to control ourselves in difficult situations, we only feed our subpersonalities.
Here is how Richard Schwartz explains the theory of subpersonalities on the example of the parent-child relationship:
“Remember the case when you lost your temper, communicating with a child. Perhaps you ignored the child in an uncharacteristic manner, perhaps you got angry and shamed him. Looking back on this incident, you regret that you did so. Pay attention first to what the child has done, and then to what reaction it has caused in your body. Finally, pay attention to what part of your psyche is activated in this case. Now you can understand the parts of your psyche.”
What subpersonalities does the psyche consist of
According to the theory of systemic family psychotherapy, there are 3 types of subpersonalities:
1. Managers-make sure that we act in such a way as to experience as little as possible painful feelings.
2. Exiles-keep our shame, pain and trauma that we experienced in childhood. The exiles want to be heard and healed, so they use painful emotions to come to the fore. As a consequence, managers make efforts to silence them. If managers fail, the third type of subpersonality-firemen – comes to the rescue.
3. Firefighters-use more extreme methods to avoid painful emotions. For example, you can yell at a loved one or “jam” their emotions.
You may think that this model does not apply to you. But let’s go back to the example where you lose your temper when dealing with a child.
Richard Schwartz explains: “When you are angry with a child, one sub-personality can make you yell at him, and another can silence and ignore him to avoid negative consequences. There can be many options. We all have three subpersonalities, and a child’s behavior can actualize each of them. We can work with them to avoid inappropriate reactions in different situations.”
Schwartz argues that if we don’t work with our subpersonalities, we will project our emotional traumas onto our children. However, all parents by all means want to avoid this. The only way out of this pattern is to access the Central part of your personality, which Schwartz calls the self.
Each of us has a self
Schwartz argues that the self is in each of us from birth. This is the core of our personality, and this part has everything we need to become good parents. When a person interacts with the outside world from his self, his natural qualities are manifested. Schwartz gives this list of these qualities: calmness, clarity, compassion, curiosity, confidence, courage, creativity, emotional connection, patience, vision, perseverance and playfulness.
Thus, all three subpersonalities work in concert, and this helps you to interact well with the child. Schwartz States: “the Education of a child is not to teach a child what he does not know. You need to work with what prevents the child from behaving correctly. If you think that the child offends you, you can overreact to such situations. If a child’s behavior actualizes your subpersonality, which you fear or hate, you too will overreact. And such situations will be repeated many times while the child is growing up.
By challenging your subpersonalities in this way, the child shows you that you need to heal yourself, not be ashamed or repressed.”