Growing Up #3

What is not so commonly talked about, even in therapeutic circles, is the concept of an Adapted Child ego state.  This concept refers to the strategies we learned in our families and in our culture.  This part of us is primarily interested in survival and in “getting along.”  As children, we learned the skills and developed the internal structures that make this possible for us.

As we grow, these structures become part of our “personality”.   They may work well, or not so well, in our families, culture and society.  These adaptions or structures become “who we are”, a major part of our ego identity.  If they work well in the culture we live in, our ego identity and the culture are a “good fit.”  We will have little reason or motivation to question  this “fit”.

If our survival adaptations work poorly and we struggle to find our way in our culture, we may bump along barely making it.  Various forms of anti- or a-social behavior, addictions and other compulsive behaviors are examples of more destructive survival behaviors.

Here’s the thing – good fit, poor fit or bad fit – our survival adaptions, initially learned as small children, are usually characterologically hardened into place by the time we reach “adulthood.”  AND they are limited, constricted and distorted forms of who we would have been had we grown up in a perfect world that supported our being “all we can be” rather than required us to focus on survival.

While each of us learned different strategies to adapt and survive, the point is that this Adapted Child ego state is NOT the sum total of who we are, much less who we can be.   It is the furthest our family and our culture have been able to bring us on the journey to being fully alive.

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