In our couples therapy work one aspect which comes up is what we call an "Inner brat." This is an aspect or part of a person which is having a effect on the relationship. I'd first like to identify the kind of behaviours associated with what one author calls an inner brat, with the help of Pauline Wallin, Phd, who has written the book, "Taming your Inner Brat, A Guide for Transforming Self-defeating behavior."
She writes, "Most inner brat thoughts are accompanied by unpleasant feelings. Usually these are experienced as irritability or a sense of urgency." Which comes may come across as impatience, wanting to be in control, or bossy, with a great sense of immediacy - things have to happen now!"
She goes on later to say, "Your inner brat...is a very powerful force inside you. It is a primitive part of your personality that seeks immediate gratification, no matter what the consequences. You may sometimes become so consumed by your inner brat that you get caught up in the impulse of the moment...People who are ruled by their inner brats act only to what they want right now, or to what is irritating them right now.
"Many of them feel irritated and victimized much of the time. Who wouldn't when they believe that none of their problems, losses or pain is ever their fault?
"It's time to stop blaming others for your irritability and demands. You are responsible and accountable for every word that leaves your mouth. While you aren't guaranteed a comfortable life, you do have a certain degree of control how you experience it. Your self-esteem and relationships with other people can be vastly improved when you take charge of your inner brat."
Awareness in relationships
I prize self-awareness in a relationship as one of the highest values - ever.
If someone is fully associated into a problem state like their inner brat - the likelihood is they are not going to have any self-awareness whatsoever. They are likely to put their projections onto the other person, and take no responsibility for how impatient, unreasonable, and how rude they are being - and what the effect their behavior has on the other person. This is because they are working inside of the problem.
However, if they - or any person, can come outside of a state and be objective, then that's self-awareness - and then they can begin to work on that. But until they have that awareness for themselves, then they are effectively working form inside the problem. And that is not a good place to be.
"They only are like this 'with me'!" If someone’s inner brat only emerges in their most intimate relationships, then this is part of their “deep relationship pattern.”
This is going to relate to how their mother and father brought them up.
If their mother and father were physically or emotionally abusive to them as a child, its very likely that the child part of them is still caught up in that early relationship dialogue. It is like an ongoing continual conversation – of abuse and being abused – and their own unpleasant hatefulness back to their parents, at that age.
Later knowledge and changing relationships with their parents still will not influence the hurt, wounded – and also hateful and rebellious and out of control inner child – which now runs this relationship pattern, as a walled of, encapsulated part of the person’s personality.
That whole experience of childhood may be transferred, onto you and your relationship with the person who has suffered thus as a child.
Many many times then they may treat you, as if you are abusing them. They may take innocent comments, innocent looks, tiredness, and simply human negativity – as if you are attacking them now.
It is as if the constant criticism and abuse they received as a child is what they are hearing from you now in the relationship – even though reality is totally different. They will be prone to misreading your thoughts, feelings, mood, and also missing much of the actual goodness in you – for their own transferred and projected experiences onto you.
This does not mean that the relationship you have with them is not real. It does mean that an awful lot of affection, love, goodness, is going to be lost – and an awful lot of arguments, negativity, vilification of you is going to take place – until they may come to sort themselves out, if they ever do.
How they responded to their parents when they were children is also very important. If they rebelled, if they were outlandish, if they fought back, then they may also enter into that hateful state with you in this present relationship also.
I have heard one gentleman say about his relationship with his wife, who was abused as a child, and was to have a much better relationship with her mother when she was older, “It is like being with someone who makes your life absolute hell for no good reason.”
And that is what it can be like.
That the person may have little or no self-awareness is a bigger problem in my opinion than the actual problem itself.
Any thing which is remotely negative like an attack. In fact, even if nothing is happening, from their childhood, they have this siege mentality as part of their deep relationship pattern, and effectively are at war within themselves – based on and reliving and re-creating this early relationship pattern.
They may also transcend the behaviors of their parents, and in other ways be much more aware.
But until they really deal with the little child within them who is locked away, the pattern will continue. No matter how much adult knowledge and wisdom is needed, and added to the adult part of the personality.
The brat, or damaged inner child will still be in much of the control of their life – and the adult may not be aware, enlightened, or even willing enough, to rescue themselves, and move on with their self-development in a profound integrative way.
If this is the case, then your partner – or you – may justify their bad, impatient, immediate demanding behaviour however outlandish, rude, critical, hateful they are being towards you – and far from being aware they are very likely to claim that you are at fault – thus distorting the reality of the situation – again because of never having to deal with it.
A self-aware man or woman has an amazing chance to heal themselves from such self and relationship sabotaging behaviour – and once they heal themselves – then they are in a position to create a more amazing relationship.
The elephant in the relationship
Imagine having this behaviour, and saying you want to heal the relationship? It is like healing on a very superficial level – as there is no ownership of one’s own hurts, Paradoxically, because the need of people who have suffered abusive childhoods is greater – not less than others, they are more prone to “defend” their parents to the death now, seeing any encroachment upon awareness of what actually happened to them when they were a child and how their parents actually were to them – as the ultimate threat. They usually focus on how “good” their relationship is now, and how much things have changed, and how much is “water under the bridge.”
This is resistance, plain and simple. It is self-neglect, and the idealization of their parents, which makes real forgiveness, in the sense of becoming a person, impossible.
At war with themselves, their past, their own hurt child – who may also be a rebellious hateful brat who is willing to attack anyone who comes into close relationship – as close relationship brings up this pattern – the huge developmental task and the huge kindness of becoming a person in the deeper sense is lost to them – not because of their childhood, but because of how they are choosing to relate to their childhood and their inner child – now.
That is not kind. That is not self-love.
Working with us at couple counselling success
In therapy at The Heart of Relationships, we give a space for real kindness, real kindness to ourselves, in the deepest sense, and anyone who needs and really want this kind of healing, can access it in a process of re-integration, which makes possible a truly loving relationship, in one person becoming whole, in having a truly loving relationship with themselves first of all – in truth, admitting everything as it was and is in truth – as it was in childhood, and as it is now – giving the person the opportunity to work on healing their inner child and making their adult more responsible, stronger, more empowered, aware, complete and whole…
This is an amazing kindness, and sometimes one person will need to go through this process on their own, before coming into relationship counselling. Or they may go through this process with their partner alongside them in relationship counselling if this feels right for everyone concerned.
The changes people make is so profound, the understanding of themselves becomes so much greater, and the acceptance and love for themselves becomes so great – and their partner’s love for them becomes so great – that this is profoundly healing and also lays an amazing foundation of trust and understanding – with new skills and insights, compassion, kindness, creativity and love – to open up a boundless ocean of love and possibilities – which can be passed on to a couple’s children too, if they have children.
Having done their work, parents who do this work, kind of clear their garden and make it more beautiful, so that their children inherit a beautiful relationship from their parents, and don’t have to cope with a garden full of weeds which has not been properly worked with – with someone’s painful and paining inner brat operating bit time in the relationship.
If you would like to call John to arrange an appointment to create a relationship with an amazing foundation of love, call 0800 024 8647.
THE RELATIONSHIP EXPERTS International Relationship Experts John Donlon and Linda Connors have over 30 experience between them. They offer powerful and life changing relationship couple counselling and personal development programmes. They work with individuals and couples in the UK, America, Europe and Australia. If you are in relationship crisis are ready to take the first step into saving your relationship you can contact us on 0800 024 86 47.
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