As children we have limited choices about how we think, feel, and what we do. They are circumscribed by our parents, teachers, and culture. If we grow up with abuse or are neglected, the drama of those injuries is real for us. As a consequence, we adapt to it; we get used to being in drama; we get used to being a person who gets abused or that feels neglected. It becomes a part of who we are as a function of living in those circumstances, rather like a tree that grows at an angle because of a strong, steady wind.
If the wind were to stop and stay stopped a tree will return to growing straight. Why don’t humans? It’s because we internalize the wind; the wind always blows because the feelings of neglect no longer need to come from outside; we supply them ourselves, regardless of how loving our surroundings are. The perceptions of abuse continue, regardless of how respectful our present circumstances may be.
In this interview Holly listens to, respects, and honors old feelings of neglect that have caused a chronic depression for her as an adult. By doing so she allows them to transform into her own, personal solution for how to move forward in her life, to stop creating the constant, bending “wind” of drama and to continue her emotional growth from where it got stuck. She can draw strength from the child part of herself that is able to have fun and enjoy life at a fair.
What life issue is coming up for you now in your life?
A feeling of missing out on a lot of stuff in my adolescence and having to learn it now that I am 34. Being sad and crying lets it out; it makes me feel better.
If those feelings had a color (or colors), what would it be?
Imagine that color filling the space in front of you so that it has depth, height, width, and aliveness.
Now watch that color swirl, congeal, and condense into a shape. Don’t make it take a shape, just watch it and say the first thing that you see or that comes to your mind: An animal? Object? Plant? What?
Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor? It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the shape that took form from your color and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind. If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!
Heart, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing? You are green instead instead of red. What’s that like?
It feels all right. I am squishy like a bouncy ball. If I were dropped I would bounce. I’m in front of Holly, above her, hanging there.
What do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?
I like my compassion. I feel compassion to people. I’m very tender and sweet.
What do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses? What are they?
The sadness that I feel. I don’t know if it is a weakness because some compassion comes out of that. I can relate to other people that have sadness. I’m sad from feeling neglected.
Green Heart, you are in Holly’s life experience, correct? She created you, right? What aspect of Holly do you represent or most closely personify?
(Character), if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change? If so, how?
Balloons! I’m with a group of multi-colored balloons but I’m red. I’m being carried at a fair by a kid. It feels happy and content.
(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)
Red Balloon, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing? Why?
Confidence: 9 I am carefree and happy. I’m OK with things.
Compassion: 9 The same as a green heart.
Wisdom: 8 I am happy, content, accepting. Things are simple for me. I know how to keep life simple.
Inner Peace: 8 It’s quiet,simple, fun, and easy!
Red Balloon, what do you think about that neglected green heart?
I think it’s a very old, sad part of Holly that basically needs to be heard, included, and cared about.
If you could live Holly’s life for her, how would you live it differently?
I would let her continue to express whatever she needs to and remember that things are different now for her, that she doesn’t have to feel that way now or experience those things now. She can allow herself to have fun, to be included, to be cared about It’s better for her emotionally now.
If you could live Holly’s waking life for him/her today, would you handle Holly’s three life issues differently? If so, how?
Feelings of dissatisfaction in her relationship with Roger.
I would tell her to do the same things but include her more. See if that tends to help how she feels how she feels about her dissatisfied part. My prediction is that it would take a lot of stress off of the frustration. More child-like; it’s not so serious!
What three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of Holly’s life?
How could Holly go about living her life as if she were at a fair?
She can joke around more, relax more, play more, hang out with friends more, watch fun movies, video games, make herself a nice treat every now and then. She can cry and then I would recommend that she do something nice for herself – something relaxing – a nice bubble bath, going for a walk, watching a nice TV show – something.
In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Holly to imagine that she is you and act as you would?
Especially in times of stress and drama.
Character, do you do drama? If not, why not?
No! It isn’t any fun!
What is your secret for staying out of drama?
Having fun and trying to be adventurous in small, fun ways. Keeping myself busy and not worrying about all that. Staying detached from things that involve drama.
Why do you think that you are in Holly’s life?
The green heart was feeling safe enough to open up and express feelings of neglect, that it would be heard and honored. It’s healthy to get them out and be heard.
Green Heart, do you feel like you’ve been heard by the Red Balloon, Holly, and me?
Yes. I feel happy to be able to feel safe, let this out and feel cared about. It’s very comforting to be able to do that.
Red Balloon, do you feel like you’ve been heard by the Red Balloon, Holly, and me?
I’m ready to help. The safer she feels the more fun she will be able to have. I can help her to feel safe by being a friend, listening, and showing her how to have good fun that won’t be harmful or scary.
How is Holly most likely to ignore what you are saying to her?
Not taking the time to talk to me or Green Heart. Not taking the time to listen to our advice or our feelings.
What would you recommend that she do about that?
She needs to read over this interview before she goes to bed at night. She can talk to me about other things that are coming up in her daily life. And following my recommendations and having fun – playing games, telling jokes.
Holly, what have you heard yourself say?
It’s actually pretty cute! One little scared, sad heart is expressing its feelings because it feels safe. The red balloon wants to have some fun and wants her to come along. I need to focus on having more fun and not stressing the drama of the past and today so much.
If this experience were a wake-up call from your inner compass, what do you think it would be saying to you?
It’s time to honor, feel it, and let go of the sadness. Move on. To become the healthy little girl that I had the right to be but unfortunately didn’t. Just because people neglected you for years doesn’t mean that you have to neglect yourself now. To feel safe to laugh and have fun!
Notice that Holly is now able to reframe her childhood neglect as allowing her to develop a sense of compassion for others. It is no longer simply an overwhelming pit of depression, but can be seen as the fertilizer of life that she can use to grow into an increasingly compassionate person.
Drama makes life complicated, painful, and difficult. When Holly gets in touch with her happy, playful child self she can live a simple, relaxed, easy life. The key is for Holly to listen to, respect, and care about her feelings of neglect, but not to stop there, as we often do in therapy. She needs to remember that she has the option of transforming those feelings into an authentic, honest alternative that is not stuck and works for her. Such solutions are best supplied by our inner compass as emerging potentials. That way we empower ourselves and are not dependent on others to rescue us from our unhappiness, which only serves to keep us stuck in drama.
Holly gives herself concrete, practical suggestions about how to become more like her red balloon. Her job now is to put those recommendations to the test in her daily life and to see what happens. Does she experience less drama and more happiness? Is she able to be more child-like? Is she able to turn feelings of neglect more easily into compassion? Does she have more fun? Does life become simpler? Do relationships become sources of enjoyment and growth rather than fear and drama? Is Holly able to open up and be herself and still feel safe? With Integral Deep Listening we don’t have to stay stuck, nor do we have to stay dependent on the recommendations of others. We can access our own inner compass and grow into our emerging potentials so that we can sing our own, unique song, dance our own individual dance, and give our unique gifts to the world.