I had two school age parts (actually probably many more than two but two that I clearly was aware of at the time). One was a serious “do the work part” and the other was “a clown get attention make people laugh part”. I did both pretty well. The entertainer part got a lot of positive feedback and became central in lots of ways that had other parts feel lost or unattended to. “The entertainer part” got attention as did the “hard worker part”. As a child I never saw them as really two very similar parts striving for acknowledgement of and attendance to me as a person. They were my persona and they did get good attention. My person, who I was as a person, was lost in the attempt to be noticed, acknowledged and attended to as a person. Even as I write that it sounds strange. Yet it seems strangely correct.
The other day I was watching my grandson at age 19 months crying uncontrollably in his travel crib. My son and his wife needed a break so my wife and i had come over for a time of grandson sitting. I volunteered to go into his room that was dark. My grandson’s crying was drowning out the sounds of the ocean that were playing on an i pod to help him relax and sleep. The problem was that his “fear of being alone” was causing his crying which was drowning out the very thing that might give him a sense of serenity and peace For that to happen he would need to come his fearful part so he could hear it. That he could not do. So the question became: “what would allow him to be content, to know that the content of his parents love and care for him was present.” Blocking out his “fear of being alone”. I asked my son if he would let me try to help his son to settle down and sleep. At first hesitant confident that nothing could be done, he was encouraged by his wife to let his dad have “a go of it”. I went into the darkened room, noticed him standing holding on to the top rung of the “sleeping travel bed”, sorta like a mini playpen! He was holding on for dear life! There was no way he was letting go, stopping, and forget about me trying to pry his hands off that rung of safety. I closed the door behind me and laid on the floor next to him as his eyes focused on my presence. At first he screamed all the more. In a short period of time as he saw I was unaffected by his crying and he heard my rhythmic chanting of “I am so tired, I really have to go to sleep”. I was speaking for one of his parts, ignoring the fearful one. Actually addressing the fearful one, indirectly. I watched him notice me turn away and then turn back. I had his attention. Without picking him up are trying to assure him of my care I was sending him a clear message of my presence, my not being rattled by fear, and settled by the persistent practicing of my presence in his presence. Without letting his fearful parts hook my fearful parts that would pick him up to assure him of my care I was sure my presence was all he needed. If i were to let him control me, and have me pick him up that would make him feel less safe. Put in words from his internal world, “If I can get this person to do whatever I want him to do then I will know that I have the power and he does not which will make me feel unattended to, in control, and therefore more fearful of being alone. The little boy thought, “If he could be content and sure, stable and secure, unaffected by my fears or controlled by my tears then I can count on his presence, quiet my fears, and feel comforted. Unnerved by my tears I can feel my fears subside and rest gradually come into my focus.” As I was clearly unaffected by his crying but stable and secure in my presence, he gradually let go and sat down. He looked at me as if to say, “what is wrong with you” but inside he was feeling “there is something right and comforting about this”. The inner confusion of “am I cared for” was infusion by a quiet and assuring way. My perfect contentment posture and my resistance of his controlling me, invited him notice my presence and feel comforted. Gradually he sunk into the comfort of his bed checking to be sure that nothing was changing in my voice, presence, or cadence of care. Within a very short time he was soundly and serenely asleep. I thought of a tweet I had tweeted the day before: “Shit happens in life by accidental events, Shifts happen in life by intentional choices”. I changed it in this context to: “When we by intention do not let others control us but remain content and caring in our presence, the recipient of that experience feels and internalizes comfort. My choice sent a subliminal message of care. The quiet reassurance about “presence of care” gradually won out.
The truth is a child can only trust presence that he cannot control. Maybe there is a hint here about why when we sense God’s presence even when we feel he/she/they are absent we find our greatest sense of contentment and peace. When we cannot control God or feel God is not there for us we lose the sense of his presence, and realize God knows to pick us up would send the wrong message. He chooses rather to send the message, “I am here” to keep you from falling or failing to know the power of presence. It is presence not action that provides contentment and peace.
Waking up to the reality that the practice of my presence is not as powerful as just being present.
When a person feels like they can control you they feel lost. When they feel they cannot control you, they feel comforted by your presence and confident in your care.