Friday, July 30, 2010

Returning to our own Vibrancy: Part of a Series on Authentic Relating

When a child comes into the world it’s an experience of absolute discovery, both within and without. They discover all the pleasures of their own existence… their bodies, their capabilities, their developing sense of power, and the natural aliveness of incarnate being. As they grow, their curiosity takes them on many adventures as they learn to navigate the world. With good parenting this journey is encouraged and shepherded with allowance, enthusiasm, and support so that the child learns to command his/her own ship while experiencing the richness of being human. What this means of course is that the parents allow the child to get messy, make mistakes, take chances or risk being good all the time, so that this primal energy of life is not diminished or suppressed and is instead allowed to fully expand. However, many of us were not allowed such freedom and our childhoods have ended up truncated and limited by at the minimum dysfunction and at the worst by every kind of trauma imaginable. So unfortunately the splendor of childhood, the wild delight of opening to all that life has to offer instead becomes something to endure and that unbridled desire for life gets diluted or contaminated by growing up in a psychologically toxic environment. The once fluid mind so full of potential and creativity becomes regulated into fixed rigidities in the psyche and the rules and regulations of conventional society become the expressed means of existence.

So what do we do to raise vibrant children? Paradoxically the answer is “nothing”. It’s not what we need to do, it’s what we need to not do. It’s all the overdriven, controlled doingness of our modern parenting that ends up squelching this natural vibrancy thus preventing the inherent curiosity of discovering life and simply allowing a child to be a child.

Pause for a moment to try to remember some of the days of your own childhood, where a day seemed to stretch on forever, where honeysuckle was the most delicious fragrance imaginable, and every jumble of bushes was a fort in which to play or have a tea party. If you were lucky enough, you were able to play all day and when you got home were welcomed with love and excitement for all you discovered that day. If that is something that happened rarely, I believe (along with many current psychologists) there is a child inside yearning to have those adventures still. And this child, this inner child of ours needs to be attended to so that we can become whole and live full and fulfilling lives.

So how do we find this place inside where this young version of ourselves lives? We still ourselves, go out for walk in a park, by a meadow or a stream, and simply listen. We quiet our minds and listen inside to our hearts. It’s there that this child lives… and by now, usually has plenty to say. Often in the beginning he/she speaks of the pain, the misunderstanding, and the needs that were never adequately addressed growing up. But over time if we’re able to compassionately comfort and care for our little one, something begins to shift and change. Our own adult needs and the way we express them seem to take on less charge and become less crucial, over-reactive or out-of-control. We become more integrated within ourselves, more at ease, less defensive and softer, and our own natural aliveness returns. We find ourselves wanting to be more playful, delight in simple things, and are more readily available for new experiences and to others in our lives. Indeed, what we came into this world with, our natural vibrancy, returns as we start to experience the pleasure of our humanness, our own unique being, and the joy of living life again…in a fresh new way…as a child would.

Michael Mongno MFT, Ph.D, LP is a licensed psychoanalyst, relationship counselor and holistic practitioner in Manhattan. He is the founder of Present Centered Therapies which synthesizes Gestalt and Cognitive Behavioral therapies, Eastern spirituality, as well as Imago and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. He brings a wealth of successful experience with a wide range of couples issues as well as down-to-earth wisdom and modern sensibility to what it takes to create healthy, loving, and empowered relationships.

Please visit or call (212) 799-0001 for more information.

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