I remember learning about Eric Berne's Transactional Analysis in my Psychoanalytical Method and Theories course in grad school. It provided a way of evaluating human interactions. The Parent-Adult-Child Model was one of those paradigms that floated to the top for me and I have found it relevant in working with couples over the years.
Berne proposes we have 3 states (Parent, Child and Adult) that we exist in which can vary by situation, stage of our life or particular person we are around.
The Parent is the voice of our actual parents and authority figures in our life. It is the voice of right and wrong and the proper way to do things. It is intentional and mindful.
The Child state is more spontaneous, pleasure oriented, impulsive and unintentional.
The state of the Adult mediates between the Parent and the Child. It is not correcting nor controlling, nor is it indulging or reactive.
We relate to our self from these states, but we also relate to others from one of these states. In watching couples it is interesting to see the dynamics that marriages take on.
The husband who comes home from work, parks himself by the television for hours with a six pack while his wife cooks the dinner and wrangles her small children in between loads of laundry and cleaning, is operating from the state of his child. He is taking no real responsibility for what is going on his home or the lives of his kids at that moment in time. He is not stepping up and being a partner to his wife.
A wife will respond to her husband from her child, parent or adult state. The child in her would throw a tantrum or slam things and huff and puff. Or she could become a nagging parent to her husband, correcting and criticizing him.
Ideally, she would go into an adult state which would not throw a fit nor nag nor correct. An adult would share honestly and make a request without demanding. An adult would continue to take mindful responsibility but not in a way that was judgmental or superior. An adult would set boundaries where appropriate without trying to control.
Interactions may also start with parenting behaviors on one partner's behalf. Sometimes wives act childish and sometimes wives are parenting. We talked about a childish husband in this scenerio, but in other couples its the husband barking orders and correcting his wife, who then might respond as a rebellious teenager, resisting, overspending, overeating, indulging in social media or complaining.
Although we want to blame our response on our partner, all of our feelings and behaviors start with what we are thinking.
We like to justify our actions by how our partner is behaving when really it is our thoughts about our partner's behavior that determine how we feel. We cannot change our partner, but we can change our thoughts, thus our feelings and actions in our relationship.
The next time you think your husband is acting childish, consider what you are telling yourself about his behavior. Does that thought come from the voice of your inner parent, child or adult? Consider how you might respond to a co-worker or another adult acting the same way. Would it be more clear what an adult response is in the situation? How do you want to think about your husband in a given situation? Is your current thought serving you?
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'Emotional Childhood is a when we stay stuck in a place of wanting to blame other people for problems. If you are stuck in this state, you might find yourself complaining frequently about circumstances and people. You feel helpless in regard to the results you are getting into your life.
You can recall all the ways you were wronged, the weather that ruined your plans, the friend who hurt your feelings, the toxic people who absorbed your energy, and the husband who did not live up to your expectations.
Don't feel bad. This is a normal and natural part of our human condition. It's part of the sinful nature and results from the fall. Shifting blame started early on with our sister Eve and Adam followed suit.
Most of us are stuck in this childish state. It is a rare person who actually moves into a state of full emotional adulting.
Unfortunately, as emotional children, we feel very powerless. The center of control for our life is always outside of us. It is as though we have given the proverbial car keys of our life to other people and circumstance.
And yet the car is ours.
The great thing about emotional childhood is we are always a victim. The not so great things is, well, we are always a victim. And yet, the reality is, other people are responsible for the choices they make AND we are responsible for the choices we make.
On the other hand, those who do emotional adulting take full responsibility for their feelings, actions and the results of their life. They don't feel powerless and at the mercy of circumstances.
Emotional adult's drive their cars and stay in their lanes. They don't spend their energy complaining about other bad drivers and they don't give the bird to someone who swerves in front of them.
Yes, someone else might cross over the line or make a decision that impacts your life, but emotional adults don't use this as a reason to quit taking responsibility and ownership of their inner and outer world. They don't give away all their power just because someone threatened them. They know they still own their own life.
It is totally fun to be an emotional adult.
Yes, I won't lie, it is work. It is showing up and being responsible which isn't always a cake walk, but the good news is, it isn't always a cake walk! Who likes to walk in a boring circle and hope you win a cake?
Emotional adults get to feel all sorts of feelings. They get to dream. They get to fail (and fail a lot). And they get to keep driving. They get to get their own food and not wait for someone to put a bib on them and feed them. They get to go to bed when they want to go to bed. They get to go to work if they want to go to work.
AND they get to live with all the consequences of their choice with no one to blame. It is so amazing.
However, there is an awesome SECRET to emotional adulting. (It almost feels like a cheat!) You are going to LOVE it.
YES, you need to grow up. YES, you need to quit blaming other people. YES you need to quit indulging in overwhelm, blame, confusion and despair.
But you are never alone. YOU HAVE A SECRET POWER PARTNER.
Jesus is your Father; you are His Daughter.
He is your King; you are his Beneficiary.
He is your Authority, you are his Follower.
He is your Savior; you are His Redeemed.
God gives us freedom. We are free to choose or reject him. That is our adult and human privilege. In this sense he does not control, nag or parent us.
He is also the Lord of all circumstances and all people. He is Lord of the storm and Creator of the seas.
He made you. He knows you. He loves you.
He has made you in His image. Like him, you get to create and rule over parts of creation.
AND, He wants us to engage with Him as we engage in life.
He calls us to action and decision and freedom and choice, AND He wants to live inside us and be our power partner.
In this sense when you make an adult decision (from a place of choice and freedom) you get continue being a child! But in the best way possible.
You get to depend on Him. You are never really alone. The burden is never fully yours. Isn't that awesome? You still get to adult, but you have the one who is sovereign over all creation living IN you.
Engage with him. Its fantastic.
He is redeeming a fallen and painful world. In your pain, he provides a bridge. He want's to redeem all that is broken and hurting.
You are never a powerless child lost in the world. You have an anchor. You have a friend. You have a GOOD Father.
This is the secret to emotional adulting. There is a place you can throw your hissy fit, have a good cry, ask your questions, and seek wisdom and direction.
If you have invited him (your free choice) he lives inside of you. His Holy Spirit is your partner as you navigate your marriage and all aspect of your life. You get to consult him, ask him for help and wisdom. It is great.
You have the world's smartest brain and counselor living inside of you, available whenever you need a consult.
You can be like Eve, blame the snake and hide, or you own your stuff and bring your life into the light and depend on him.
You are never alone in adulting my friend. Its a hard job but it can be totally fun and you can experience a power-filled life. With a power-partner living inside you, adulting has never been easier.
Where we are in life proves what we are thinking. When we change our perspective, we can change our lives and our relationships.