When we communicate with people we are doing it from one of three “states”;
- Parent can be Critical Parent or Nurturing Parent.
- Child can be Rebellious Child, Adapted Child and Free Child.
When you read the example, these will all make more sense to you.
Obviously, when we were a child, we “heard” most of what we learnt from significant grown ups in our lives; our parents, our grandparents, our extended family, teachers, possibly priests, etc etc etc. What we “Heard”, whether true or not can be stored in our brains and become a template for how we feel about ourselves for the rest of our lives! They become an ingrained default. They are out of our awareness so we don’t register them and are often they are the route cause for severe unhappiness.
Let me give you a real example that relates specifically to weight:
I once had a client who weighed about 24 stone (152kgs). Every Sunday, it was expected of her that she would go to her parents for Sunday roast. She would share constantly with her parents that she was trying to lose weight and that it was really important to her.
A huge plateful of food would be put in front of her with loads of potatoes and gravy. She would start ploughing her way through it knowing exactly what was to come. Her father would make comments like “so how is your weight doing?” and proceed to give her loads of advice on what she should or shouldn’t be doing to get rid of it. (Critical Parent) She would tolerate all the comments whilst thinking “I wish they would trust me to be the intelligent Adult they taught me to be and allow me to make my own decisions”. She would try and finish her meal whilst leaving a few potatoes behind and be told “potatoes are good for you” by her mother. She would stuff all the food down, resentment growing and becoming pretty upset. Her mother would then bring pudding to the table and say to the husband “look, you’ve upset her!” and say to the daughter “Don’t you worry! I love you no matter what size you are”, whilst putting a huge bowl of pudding in front of her. (Nurturing Parent).
There is SO much going on here and SO much we could learn from the example but for today, I want to highlight just a couple of things. Although this woman was 35, she assumed a Child role simply by accepting the invitation which she knew was not going to help her. Her father assumed a Critical Parent role and the mother a Nurturing Parent role, both of which in this case equally as destructive. The client could have assumed a Rebellious child role and stood up to them both but she slipped into Adapted Child, which is the child that does what it is told to avoid conflict.
The key is to be in the Adult state. That is you, here and now, a grown up, with all your intelligence and resources to decide and do what is right for you. And it’s about having the confidence to break out of old patterns, be brave, say what is important to you and stick to it!
What childhood messages are you still hearing about your weight?