Issue 87 –
Vulnerability: Part 7
Caring for the Vulnerable Child
Drs Hal & Sidra Stone
Once the vulnerable child has been discovered and the issue of vulnerability in relationship has been opened up, there is a chance for real change and sustained growth.
We would strongly suggest that the vulnerable child be addressed directly through the Voice Dialogue technique. However any approach that enables one to directly contact this child or to become aware of one’s vulnerability will be a great help. In her book, The Power of Your Other Hand, Lucia Capacchione has developed a technique of journal writing using the non-dominant hand which provides an excellent means of accessing the vulnerable child. Whatever the means of contact, it is important to become aware of what is happening to one’s inner child, so that the aware ego can utilise the information to care for the child in an appropriate fashion.
The last point is important enough to bear repeating.
When we disown our vulnerable child, we do not attend to it properly. Disowning this child does not make it go away! Since it is imperative for this child to receive adequate care, it will look elsewhere and bond into the people around us, requiring them to provide the care that is otherwise lacking. We will not be aware of this process because we do not know about vulnerability. In an entirely unconscious fashion, we will be automatically drawn into powerful parent/child bonding over and over again.
We see many examples of this kind of bonding in our everyday lives. Perhaps the most common is the strong professional man who relates to everyone around him as the responsible father, who is always available to help others and to care for their vulnerability. If he has no awareness of his own vulnerability, this professional man will bond strongly to someone who provides him with the same kind of care that he gives to others. The caretaker may be a nurturing wife, but often it is an office manager or secretary.
This bonding will be particularly intense if the man is uncomfortably shy around people outside of his professional role, or if he feels inadequate in terms of general business knowledge and office procedures. He will feel helpless if his office manager or secretary must skip work for a day, since he depends upon her to deal with all the aspects of life that frighten him, like disciplining the other office workers or attending to his finances.
When this bonding is particularly powerful and unconscious, as is so often the case, the man who is the strong, supporting father to everyone else is the inadequate and compliant son to the caretaker’s managing mother. When this bonding is in effect, this substitute caretaker can do whatever she wishes in the office; he will be powerless to stop her. He feels frightened of losing her and is helpless to ask her to change any behaviour that might prove problematical. Since the woman is living out of a managing mother self and not through an aware ego, she could become a real tyrant in the office.
Many powerful women become involved in one disastrous love affair after another. Man after man disappoints them in their search for a loving and rewarding relationship. It is our experience that this, too, is often the result of disowned vulnerability. Since the powerful woman does not know about her own vulnerable child, it bonds into one man after another, trying to get its needs met. The primary selves of the woman are strong and independent. They would be horrified to realise that underneath Wonder Woman is a vulnerable little girl.
Without this awareness there is no opportunity for a strong and otherwise sensible woman to find out about her inner child, to honour it, to speak up for it, and to go about meeting it’s needs in a thoughtful way. Her neglected, needy child looks elsewhere for understanding and bonds into the man, hoping that he will understand her completely, do away with her yearning, and make her happy. Since no one but herself can truly care for her vulnerability, she is doomed to bond in as needy daughter to each man in her life, and to be disappointed by each in turn.
The opposite situation occurs when one knows about the vulnerable child and identifies with it completely. For such people, the vulnerability is the primary self system and power selves are disowned. This is guaranteed misery.
For those who are totally identified with vulnerability, there is only an endless parade of bondings in which one assumes the victim role and is repeatedly victimised. For those identified with vulnerability, strength always resides in the other person, and there is complete dependence and constant neediness. Although there may be a period of bonding into the good parent in friends and lovers, this is usually not permanent, and the bad parent exacts the payment for all that the good parent has given, causing much pain and a feeling of betrayal.
As one gets to know about one’s vulnerable child, it is extremely important to keep in mind that indulging all its feelings is no better than ignoring them. One needs an adult around to care for the child, an aware ego to make conscious choices that take its needs into consideration, but is not identified with these needs or run by the child’s fears and sensitivities.
Otherwise one is in the position of a parent who, when faced with a weeping child, identifies completely with the child and weeps with it. The parent, then, is in no position to offer another perspective and certainly has no ideas as to how the child might take care of its pain. The parent is in the same position as the child, and there is no choice available to either of them. They must both remain in pain waiting for someone on the outside to intervene.