Affective Therapy, otherwise known as Inner-Child Therapy, facilitates the integration of body, mind, and spirit, which allows for a wider range of choices in behaviors and facilitates access to the internal wisdom and guidance of each individual’s spirit. Each client’s own inner wisdom is the best guide during the course of therapy and it is the job of the therapist to facilitate and cooperate with the client’s inner wisdom. We don’t have to “learn” anything new – everything we need to be successful in our life and in our relationships is all there within us, waiting to be re-discovered and re-integrated.
We are all designed to be an integrated human being with a connected body, mind, and spirit. Early in our lives as children, we receive hurtful – and in many cases – damaging messages and experiences which we begin to then incorporate as our “truths”. These memories not only cause emotional pain, but often guide us unconsciously in our choices throughout our lives. This pain comes from the inability to effectively express the emotions that correspond with the childhood messages we received from others and the consistent invalidation of our feelings. This pain takes up residence in our unconscious spirit, the part of our existence, where our gifts, talents, and uniqueness reside.
Our unconscious spirit recognizes the damage from the pain caused by negative early messages and the consequent “splitting off” of our spirit itself, therefore protecting the conscious part of our selves by developing a system of defense mechanisms and coping skills. Expressions of our defense system can often be seen through various addictive behaviors such as over-eating, sex/relationship addictions, traumas, drug and substance abuse, acting out on oneself, suicidal ideations, codependence, eating disorders, unsatisfying or abusive relationships, staying in an unfulfilling or dissatisfying job or career, and a myriad of other behavioral manifestations and coping techniques. Ironically enough, as this defensive system protects the spirit, it also limits and restricts access to our spirit-parts, which in turn forces the person to live largely out of the coping skills of the defense system. In a sense, when we cannot access the spirit part of our being, we go through life living in an “automatic” way because we don’t have access to our own true inner guide, our spirit-part.
Because we are designed to be integrated human beings (spirit-mind-body), this inability to access our spirit part creates a vacuum, into which we throw whatever we can (addictions, codependence, alcohol or drugs, food, sex, over-working, over-spending, and so forth) in an attempt to fill that hole inside of us that we unconsciously feel on a daily basis. It is also typical for individuals who live in this constant state of disintegration to develop physical manifestations from the stress of this internal dissonance, which can also be seen through chronic illness, pain, headaches, and various other forms of bodily distress.
Typical “talk therapy” does not work to access this spirit part of our selves that was put away a long time ago. Traditionally, this cognitive approach to therapy only accesses our conscious self, which is not the part that has been split off from our being. Since it is our unconscious spirit that we are seeking to reintegrate, we must access this part through a variety of right-brain techniques that communicate with the subconscious through its primary language: symbols. Specific techniques include imagery, art, music, non-dominant writing, and dream work, amongst others. The goal of this therapy is to get the defensive system out of the way so that we begin to operate out of our true sense of self, the spirit; in doing so, we begin to create boundaries, say “no” to others, and make choices truly reflective of our own wants and needs. We then find that we no longer need to rely upon the destructive coping techniques previously used to protect us from the awareness that we are not integrated.