Posts Tagged ‘Outer Child’

Nevermind Your Inner Child; Tame Your Outer Child

June 9, 2011 2 comments

Getting ready for summer, I am doing daily dialogues with my outer child.  I’m wondering if using this self awareness tool (outer child) might help some of you also.

What is outer child, you ask?

Well, you’ve already met your inner child.  But whereas your inner child is all about feelings, Outer is all about behavior.  Outer is the self-sabotaging nemesis of your personality – the part that breaks your diet and gets attracted to all the wrong people.

I use outer child when I know I’m going to be tempted to do some self-defeating things.  In my case,  this means overeating (and gaining weight that is very hard to loose).

In keeping tabs on my outer child, I’ve learned how overcome many other self-defeating patterns over the years.  I’ve managed to improve my relationships and become (or act like) the self-possessed adult I’ve always wanted to become.

I’ve written extensively about outer child in Journey from Abandonment to Healing or Journey from Heartbreak to Connection.  I’ve taught people to perform their own “outer child work” during my intensive abandonment recovery workshops.

To help you get in touch with your own outer child, let me explain:  Outer is the impulsive, obstinate, self-centered nine-year old within all of us.  Outer wants what Outer wants now, and isn’t particular about how it goes about getting it – and that includes taking out bad moods on innocent bystanders in your life, drinking too much, spending too much money, or binging on fattening food when you, the adult, is steadfastly sticking to a diet (or so you thought).

Outer child wreaks havoc in our relationships, because it’s born of unresolved abandonment.  Outer acts out our inner child’s fear of abandonment.  For example, it aims its emotional suction cups at our prospective partners and scares them away.

Another thing about Outer is that it fights change – especially change initiated by you, the adult.  Outer balks at doing the right thing and only wants things that are bad for your health, figure, or bank account.

In my case, I’m hoping that by once again, dragging Outer out of the bunkers and into the daylight, I can get to subvert its mission, rather than letting it subvert mine (which is to maintain my figure, my relationships, and my self-respect).  I hope the same for you.


How Universal Fear of Abandonment Can Undermine Success in the Workplace.

May 27, 2011 5 comments

You don’t even know it’s happening – it’s that subtle.  Twelve principles for moving forward in your career and healing from the inside out at the same time.

Susan Anderson © May 2011

The raw human nerve of abandonment can tingle during the course of normal work day – even when you’re unaware of it – when you feel ignored, unrecognized, or dismissed, or sense any hint of disapproval, criticism, or rejection.  These feelings are not the problem; they are givens.  It’s how you handle them – how you let your Outer Child (your self-saboteur) act them out in self defeating patterns that can hold you back.

The underlying fear of abandonment is a major trigger for Outer Child’s self-sabotage to spring into action with its knee-jerk defenses. This subliminal fear has many facets, and your ever-active, ever-intrusive Outer Child is always at the ready to react to each of them in defense mechanisms that have become maladaptive. These default defenses interfere in reaching your adult potential:

Fear of disappointment gets you to set your sights too low.

Fear of failure gets you to become passive, unmotivated, stuck in underachievement.

Fear of success gets you to hold back from excelling in order to avoid the competitive backlash….

Fear of rejection – difficulty handling criticism – gets you to avoid standing up for yourself, making you easily passed over for promotion.

When you’re afraid to assert yourself, speak up for your rights, take a position, it’s because you’re afraid of breaking the connection – afraid to ask for “too much,” lest the powers-that-be get annoyed, judge you, or heaven forbid, want to get rid of you – and there you’d have abandonment.

Rejection sensitivity:  Fear of abandonment manifests in difficulty handling criticism and heightened sensitivity to rejection. You make an excellent suggestion at a meeting, for example, but it is passed over in favor of someone else’s suggestion – someone with less substance but better able to gain approval than you.  You feel abandoned and self condemning all at once.

Whether or not you are conscious of underlying abandonment fear, it creates a background tone which keeps you slightly on edge and hyper-vigilant, constantly warning you: “Don’t rock the boat.”  This undercurrent of abandonment fear, though subliminal, inhibits you from properly showcasing your skills, talents, and competence.

Abandonment fear can silently subvert your efforts to manifest self worth.  For instance, your self esteem can say, “I’m valuable in this job” and your self image can say, “Everybody likes me and sees I’m doing a great job.”  But your fear of abandonment, lurking beneath the surface, can trump this by saying “But I don’t want to express my needs because they may like me less.”

Fear of abandonment leads to codependency.  A co-dependent employee can be easily taken for granted by employers and fail to get properly rewarded.  This employee, driven by the fear of losing ground (abandonment), manages to communicate to her employers that she’ll continue doing a great job even if they were to give the promotion to someone else, because she just LOVES doing work for the company.  So the promotion goes to someone less deserving but who, by contrast, has communicated that he is moving onward and upward – with or without the current company – and must to be given incentives to stay.

In fact, to get ahead, it’s almost more important to show self-loyalty – that your own best interests come first – than to demonstrate good skills, talent, and selfless work-ethic.  Self-loyalty is a component of confidence, and as we all know, confidence impresses others more than competence does – at least at first glance.  The ability to exude confidence promotes successful self-marketing, even in the absence of the person’s substantive effectiveness.  Many an incompetent ne’r-do-well has been promoted ahead of many an effective workhorse for this very reason.  Self promotion is able to impress people more than selfless hard work.

People with low self-confidence may feel inwardly angry and resentful when they are overlooked, but are afraid to express it directly.  Instead, in order to leave their friendly connections to their coworkers unblemished by their anger, they blame the unfairness on themselves for being such a wimp.  And so they dig themselves deeper in an ever escalating cycle of self-loathing and co-dependency.

Here are 12 principles to take primal abandonment’s many incarnations by the tail and use them as grist for moving forward in your career.  As we’ve seen, the raw human nerve of sensitivity jangles so easily in the workplace because of unresolved abandonment.  By resolving your workplace issues, you’re actually resolving your primal abandonment wounds – healing from the inside out.

As I’ve emphasized many times before, the principles of healing abandonment and overcoming Outer Child self-sabotage, involve an integrated approach, combining self-nurturance, constructive use of imagination, and action.  They work like physical therapy for the brain – incrementally, over time, with repeated effort.

1)    At the beginning of every workday, tune into yourself emotionally – center in on what’s going on within – so you can be aware of your innermost feelings, needs, and wants as you go about your day, especially the subtle twinges of abandonment fear.  These feelings are sacred, belong to you, and although uncomfortable at times, are what potentially connect you to yourself in a powerful new relationship.  You can’t neutralize abandonment fear by remaining oblivious to it – can’t squelch it, since it is indeed primal.  Only by getting in touch with your human vulnerability, can you tap into its potential healing power to act as a spur.

2)    Prepare to use your imagination, your most powerful, largely untapped human resource.  Imagine that you have a remote control in your hand and that one click changes the channel from the hypersensitivity channel to a new channel where you feel your power.  As if on a screen before your mind, imagine that from your depths, you see yourself step into your power, all of your feelings in tact.  You are still YOU.

3)    Recognize that in adulthood all abandonment is actually self-abandonment – and by ignoring your abandonment wounds, you’ve been abandoning yourself over and over.

4)    Know that the only person who can reverse self-abandonment is You.  It is not up to anyone else – is no one else’s responsibility but yours to assuage your self-doubt and delimit your self-depreciation.

5)    Recognize that if you hand this task over to others – if you continue looking to others for recognition, acceptance, or approval – you keep giving your power away and abandoning yourself in yet another way.

6)    Each time you feel a twinge of vulnerability (feel dismissed or reticent to speak up for yourself), make a commitment to accept yourself unconditionally.  Use any icky self-doubting moment as the basis for practicing radical self-acceptance.

7)    To practice radical self-acceptance, imagine that you have your arm around yourself in a display of self-affection and self-assurance.  Do not squelch your vulnerability or shame yourself for having it, but embrace yourself for it.  Reassure yourself it’s okay. You’re human.  You come first – anxiety and all.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

8)    Know that by giving yourself unconditional love – accepting yourself warts and all (anxiety, fear, reticence, and all) – you are reversing self abandonment.

9)    By looking to yourself for acceptance – by wholeheartedly accepting all of your human feelings, foibles, and talents – you are taking other people out of the loop.  YOU become the best person to give yourself esteem, to approve of you, to accept you.  YOU are responsible for making yourself feel secure and worthwhile, and no one else.

10) Each time you feel a twinge of vulnerability, use it as a spur to plan a positive action, one that is realistic, involves doing, forward working, and career enhancing.  Break the action down into at least three baby steps, the first being so small, that though seminal, will be easy to take immediately.

11)  Imagine yourself taking that action – i.e. a new job initiative, a positive gesture toward a colleague, a phone call to gather information about new employment.

12) At least three times a day, as if on the screen before your mind (your power channel), project an image of yourself as you would like to be – self-possessed, self-reliant, self-assured, and self-deserving.  Imagine yourself to be a person who is willing and able to feel your abandonment nerve jangle during the day without shame or self-censure– and that you no longer look to the outside world for crumbs of approval and recognition. Imagine yourself as taking self-directed actions -directed and moving forward.

Charlie Sheen’s Outer Child is Speaking Out (way OUT)

Charlie Sheen’s Outer Child seems to be in a snit. It’s a sign of at least two of the following three things:

1. His Outer Child doesn’t like having to go through withdrawal from both drugs and his show.
2. His addiction is fighting his recovery and we are witnessing a relapse with virulent denial.
3. He’s having a manic episode, even if he never has been bi-polar before. Otherwise, where did his filters go? Had he really intended to make a Semitic reference? He seems out of control, with his Outer Child thrusting forward full throttle.

Outer Child is universal to all of us – it’s the part that self-sabotages. Outer can gain the upper hand when we least expect it, such as when we’re determined to stick to a diet, and Outer smuggles cookies to our room. Or we vowed not to lose our cool, and Outer swoops into the middle of our calm “discussion,” and starts shouting and bringing up grievances from ten years ago.

What exactly is Outer Child? The framework is simple. You have an Inner Child representing your most basic feelings and needs – the urgings of your soul. You have an Adult Self looking out for your Inner Child’s best interests and following your goals. And whatever you do that defeats your goals and frustrates the needs of your Inner Child, well, that’s your Outer Child – the part that acts OUT instead of acting responsibly – the part that interferes in your best laid plans.

When your Outer Child is OUT of control, it means that your Inner Child is too neglected and needy and your Adult Self is too weak. The antidote is to strengthen the Adult Self so that it (you) can take better care of your Inner Child’s feelings and desires in appropriate ways.

But this task is especially challenging for people who have addictions and compulsions. They need an exceptionally strong Adult Self to contend with the powerful impulses and urges constantly bombarding them. Someone in Charlie Sheen’s position faces the difficult task of becoming a Super Adult Self who must guide his own person to safety through a turbulent, tormenting sea of cravings and discomforts. If he’s in the midst of a manic episode, this first has to be quelled before he can hope to find the path.

One of the problems is that whether he wants it or not, Charlie gets a great deal of positive reinforcement for the behavioral escapades and verbal excesses. To wit: we can’t help but attend to the “reality show” entertainment that his antics provide. Most of us get a vicarious kick from his out spoken (to put it mildly), wayward Outer Child. Considering Charlie’s unconditional popularity and considerable financial resources, where is he supposed to get the motivation from to white-knuckle is way through treatment and recovery? What would motivate him to leave Shangri-La on his own recognizance and enter a communal boot camp, and or get on medication? And when he gets to the right setting, what’s he supposed to do for pleasure?

So here’s hoping he can find quiet moments amidst the mania and compelling media drama to look within and find that Strong, High Functioning, Guiding, Wise Adult Self – to help pull him through. -Defeating/dp/0345514483/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Charlie Sheen as Poster Child for Outer Child

February 17, 2011 3 comments

Charlie Sheen-in-recovery seems to make him seem the ideal poster child for Outer Child. But does the public really hope rehab gets him to stop? Do we really want Charlie Sheen to Tame his Outer Child? After all, he’s one of the most highly paid TV actors, so it’s clear people adore him, as much as they enjoy going tsk tsk to his behavior. Charlie obviously has a very strong, obstreperous, pleasure-seeking Outer Child, but the bigger story is about us – the thrill our own Outer Children get vicariously when he breaches the rules of decorum.

Outer Child is the self-sabotaging part of the personality – the impulsive, pig headed, self-centered part we all share. Outer is an older sibling to our innocent Inner Child. Whereas Inner Child is all about feelings, Outer Child is about behavior – specifically acting out behavior. Outer acts out our Inner Child’s primal feelings and desires in ways that tie our lives up in knots and prevent us from reaching goals. Outer is the part that breaks our diets and gets attracted to all the wrong people (i.e. “bad boys” like Charlie). Outer says yes to a third glass of wine when our Adult Self had decided on a two-drink maximum.

Charlie Sheen’s Outer Child brings out the Outer Child in each of us: Outer as voyeur; Outer as finger pointer; Outer as holier than thou; Outer as secret envier (“How come he can get away with this and I can’t?”); Outer as sheep following the herd (“Hanging out with porn stars under the influence must be fun, where can I get some?”); Outer as executioner (“I hope he goes to jail”); Outer as wannabe (“Charlie Sheen is my teacher – I’ve learned that all I have to do is act un-phased about my deeds – appear to enjoy the notoriety – and people will love me for it)”

We can only wonder what’s going on inside Charlie’s Inner Child. What demons might lurk within his psyche that make him need to party so outrageously and at such risk? We tend to brush these considerations aside though, because Charlie Sheen is Outer Child’s champion. Our own Outer Children want us to believe that we too can binge on our favorite guilty pleasures (food, booze, sex, TV, shopping, procrastinating, cluttering, napping, gambling, you name it) and not suffer consequences. This is the impression Charlie’s antics create, to wit: No matter how much he reportedly partied the night before, he was always on time for work, fully composed and professional in his conduct toward his job, as well as responsible and open hearted toward his colleagues and friends. His take on it: “I’m having fun… I’m making two million per week… I show up for work. What’s the problem?”

The public has always been fascinated with celebrity misbehavior. Lindsay Lohan’s behavior grabs our attention in a rubber necking, car-wreck kind of way, whereas Charlie’s style of acting out turns us into front row ticket holders. What might he be up to next? It’s hoped that he’ll top the last incident and live to laugh about it. Many would be crushed if Charlie were sent to prison or worse – not for unselfish motives, but because it might cause doubt that we too can throw caution to the wind someday and act out our own forbidden Outer Child desires.

If given half a chance, our Outer Children might try to sabotage Charlie’s recovery. We enjoy being spectators of his outlandish, wild abandon too much to care about what’s in his best interests. Of course, we, as Adults, would never want to interfere in his rehab. Our higher selves want what’s best for our champion, right? Here’s hoping his closest friends, colleagues, and supporters have strong Adult Selves and don’t enjoy Charlie’s devil-may care Outer Child too much to truly help him gain control of his life, rather than feed him subliminal messages that undermine his efforts.

Susan Anderson, author of Taming Your Outer Child: A Revolutionary Program To Overcome Self-Defeating Patterns And Reach Your Goals and

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Abandonment and Outer Child

January 19, 2011 1 comment

Abandonment has everything to do with Outer Child patterns – how they developed and how to overcome them.

If you want to overcome your most deeply entrenched self-defeating patterns, you must heal your abandonment wounds.

No, you don’t need 500 hours of psychoanalysis. You just need to learn how to use the program’s power tools – easy-to-perform exercises that you incorporate into your daily life. They are like physical therapy for the brain. As you practice them, you see change – and heal from the inside out.

I developed Outer Child (along with fellow psychotherapist Peter Yelton ACSW) when I was writing my first book on abandonment, looking for ways to help people overcome the aftermath of heartbreak and loss – those pesky patterns of behavior that interfere in our relationships.

Outer Child’s strong connection to abandonment is because most of Outer’s patterns were born during earlier times of loss, rejection, hurt, disappointment, self-doubt, disconnection – in short – abandonment. Outer’s primary role is defending (over-defensively) against the insecurity and fear seeping out of your old wounds. In fact, our most automatic, knee-jerk defense mechanisms, especially the maladaptive ones, are driven by abandonment fear.

This subliminal but ever-present fear not only triggers Outer to act out in our love relationships, but the residual insecurity causes Outer to take everything to the extreme – sleeping, watching TV, drinking, spending money, cluttering, procrastinating. For example, hoarders report that what motivates them to surround themselves with so much stuff is the subliminal fear that they’ll be left all alone with nothing and no one to care about them.

Learn more about abandoholism – the infamous Outer Child pattern of being attracted only to the available. Pre-order TAMING YOUR OUTER CHILD: A Revolutionary Program to Overcome Self-Defeating Patterns

San Quentin Prison: An Outer-Child Repository

January 11, 2011 1 comment

I traveled to California to meet with the prisoners at San Quentin—all “lifers” experiencing the ultimate consequence of Outer-Child behavior. My purpose was to add Outer Child / Abandonment components to programs that help them transition their lives—even if those lives are lived behind bars. I was apprehensive about what impact the environment would have on me. San Quentin has the country’s largest death row (150 years of executions by hanging, gassing, and recently lethal injection). It turned out to be mind-bending, but not in the way I expected.

The men I met with were those involved in the prison’s ongoing personal growth programs. What struck me immediately was that they were already in advanced stages of “Outer-Child awareness” and “Abandonment Recovery.” The men told me about the serious crimes they’d committed, where they were coming from emotionally, and what character defects and misguided “male role beliefs” had led them to act out so destructively. They’d committed these crimes during teenage years, hopped-up on drugs and alcohol. This is when Outer Child grabs control, follows through on impulses of the pack, anesthetizes pain by excessive bingeing, and can act out with depraved indifference to consequences.

In discussing their lives with me, these men displayed a level of transformation beyond anything I’ve encountered on the outside. It’s possible that a few of them were Outer Children disguising themselves as self-reckoning Adults. Outer Child, after all, is adept at “talking the talk” to avoid having to “walk the walk.” But there was genuine sentiment here: soul-touching transcendence.

The special conditions of prison life, coupled with the quality programs unique to San Quentin, must no doubt account for the men’s transformation. Prison is a contained environment—a laboratory where humans are routinely punished, rewarded, reinforced, conditioned, modified—a place where men are kept “off the street,” away from the distractions of the outside world, where they become subject to controlled variables, i.e. “time” heavily laden with consequence, structure, accountability, and community (most prisoners are never alone or on their own). What better environment for trying out new technologies of personal growth and rehabilitation?

Only a small percentage of men participate in San Quentin’s exemplary programs, yet this sparse community of support and outreach is enough to slowly change the culture of the prison, creating momentum that inspires more and more men to move forward toward productive lives.

Trouble Letting Go of Your Ex?

September 17, 2010 3 comments

Several people wrote in about the painful dilemma of trying and failing to emotionally let go of their exes. They feel extremely intolerant toward themselves for being so stuck.
This continued torment and clinging to their exes is completely involuntary, not subject to conscious control of their cognitive minds: “I try to stop thinking about her, but I can’t seem to stop the feelings.”

This represents the mind/heart disconnect we all struggle with in so many areas of our lives: “I know I shouldn’t eat this cake, but I can’t resist it.” I like to call this impulse-ridden part of the personality Outer child.

Outer child has a will of its own and acts against an adult self’s best intentions. Outer child is different from Inner child in that whereas Inner is all about feelings, Outer is all about behavior – ACTING OUT behavior. You can think of Outer as your inner child’s annoying older brother.

The reason I introduce Outer child is to explain some of the unconscious motivation of “difficulty letting go” Outer is born of unconscious motivation). Underneath all of this pining way is Outer’s self-spite. There is a lot of self-spite in hanging on to someone who no longer wants you. Unconsciously, Outer is saying, “If I can’t have my way (can’t have her back), I’m going to cry, pout, and be miserable all day. So there!”

Outer can make you miserable and depressed and wish you were dead because it is acting out its anger at the only person it has at hand – namely YOU. It is angry at your ex for ending the relationship, but it’s taking it out on YOU. In fact, Outer is so mad, it refuses to let you be happy or let go.

Outer’s anger can seethe for a long time and send your life into a tailspin – all in a primitive, convoluted attempt to get even with your ex. In other words, Outer can behave like a spoiled, self-spiteful brat toward yourself to “punish” the other person (even though it winds up punishing YOU).

As children we “punished” our parents this way: We went up to our rooms and kicked and wailed and pouted to make them suffer, even when they weren’t listening. In fact that made us bang our heads against the wall all the harder and to hurt ourselves all the more to try to make them suffer. We also wanted to get them to pay attention.

I know it might seem preposterous that adults could be as illogical and primitive as a child. But consider the fact that children behave this way when they feel powerless to do anything else. Outer developed within the personality in the quest for power – yes, primitive power. Outer wanted power and self-spite is an emerging Outer child power ploy.

If the hell you are going through has anything to do with pining for someone who has rejected you , I hope you consider self-spite as a possible source. It will help you locate the fulcrum and adjust it.

Examine your emotional history for early incidents of self-spite toward your parents. If you can find this childish mechanism and recognize it, you can now, as an adult, take yourself in hand, and remind yourself that you don’t always get you what – that sometimes you really ARE powerless – and that punishing yourself will not bring her back. Letting go will come easier.