Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Within all of us is the child, the teenager and the adult.
I know children who can act more like adults. And there are adults who behave more like children. In this blog we're going to look at when you are dealing with a situation and find yourself behaving in a certain way - ask yourself 'how old am I?'
Child : In child mode you can be playful, curious, learning, amazed, loving.
Teenage: adventurous, independent, fun, free spirited, communicative, open to new ways, liberal, sexual.
Adult: conscientious, driven, pragmatic, practical, caring and compassionate. Less black and white and more layers of grey. Understanding.
Not so positive aspects
Child : Demanding, needy, petulant, foot stamping, screaming, unable to vocalise your needs. Expecting to be looked after and relinquishing your independence and expecting other people to do things for us.
Teenage: Arrogant, entitled, belittling, selfish, narcissistic, self-centred. Own needs met regardless of consequences.
Adult: Pompous, rigid, controlling. 'My way is the right way' with no insight in to alternatives. Not understanding of another person's point of view.
Ideally we will always find a way of blending ourselves to have a childish delight in the world, a teenagers' adventurous spirit whilst navigating the world with the capacity of an adult. Or we find that in times of stress and anxiety we find ourselves oscillating between the three trying to find a level of control. Or we can find that when it comes to certain things we behave in a certain way which may not be helpful to us.
I had a disagreement with my friend. I was upset when I retold the incident to another friend, when she interrupted me and asked how old I was when I was talking.
'12!' I retorted 'and its not fair!!'
She told me to go and talk to my 12 year old self and work out what was going on and why I/she thought it wasn't fair. What is it about the situation that is bringing up a response that relates to your 12 year old self.
Well I did. I went back to being 12, what was going on in my life then and a memory came up that did relate to the way I was feeling now. A misunderstanding. I had been accused of something that I hadn't done. I was being seen in a bad light when I hadn't done anything wrong. Other people thought badly of me. As a 12 year old it had been awful, the sense of injustice, the inability to put my side across, to be understood.
But I'm no longer 12 years old anymore. I am an adult.
Once I stepped into my adult mode and pulled out of the 12 year old's black and white way of thinking, I could see how my actions may have been misconstrued. But did that make me right or wrong? Was there anything that I could do to make it right? Was the relationship more important to me than the sense of injustice?
Taking a step back as an adult gives you time to decide on the response rather than reacting to a situation/argument - it gives you time to breathe.
Staying predominantly in adult mode allows you to be calm and productive. It allows you to detach from drama and be rational.
It isn't boring, sedentary and quiet, (well unless you want it to be), it is liberating, powerful and who you truly are, it's authentic!.
I can already imagine the clients of mine who are reading this and rolling their eyes at the idea of staying predominantly in adult mode... So I shall tweak it slightly for you.
When you have a situation which you are not dealing with in a way that you want to, for example:
An argument with a friend
An issue with a partner
and you feel your temper flare, you want to slam a door, scream it's not fair, get someone else to deal with it, dissolve into tears, run for the door, kick someone...
'How old am I?'
Don't think about it too much, make it simple, under 10? 10-20? Are you a child? A teenager? Pinpoint an age.
Then take yourself off somewhere safe and calm. You may be able to do this whilst you are in the throes of it all or you may need to give it a bit of time.
What is it about that age that is triggering this reaction to this situation.
Can you soothe the child inside you and /or the teenager, let them know they have been heard, but in this situation, you, as an adult, have a better way of dealing with it. That you've got this. That you have got them. You're not going to not be heard. You won't be ignored. You're not going to feel rubbish about this, but you are going to deal with this in an adult way... and it may take you a little while to work out what is the appropriate way to behave as an adult.
This may be also a good time to add that you need to make sure you also have some adult friends to talk to.
Child friends are fabulous and will pat and stroke you and tell you how wonderful you are and everyone else is a big horrid meanie and you don't need them anyway so let go play with the worms.
Teenage friends are cool, of course everyone else is wrong and you are right, lets stoke the fire, add to the drama, text, phone, revolt, sleep with his best mate, disown them,
Adult friends will listen, calm you down, advise (if asked for) find solutions, reconciliations, negotiations are all their buzz words. They still love you, they just also know that sometimes you can also be a bit of a prat and are not always right but then who needs to be right all the time, its better to be happy.
Often you will want your child friends/teenage friends first because you may not be ready for your adult friends. Or you may not have any. In which case that's ok but find a therapist/counsellor as you will need adult advice through your life to help navigate. We all do.
Sometimes, looking at the age you were can also heal some of the trauma or difficulties you were holding onto. Try and find a way to make peace with your past. Honour your achievements and how far you've come but also honour the child and the teenager inside you. Let them out every now and again. Put some music on and dance, run with the wind in your hair, eat an ice-cream by the sea, smile at a stranger,
Just one more note to end with, you're not going to always get it right whether you are in adult mode or not. Pat yourself on the back that you tried.
A couple of good exercises to try are the crystal point and the exhale fear, inhale joy mantra you can find more details on the blog, Release Fear.