Outer Child and Your Future
Let’s try another visualization, one I call “Dream House.” Like the a href="/articles/susan-anderson/two-years-exercise.html">previous exercise, it’s designed to bypass the internal gatekeeper, otherwise known as your Outer Child, the hidden barrier to achieving success. Outer’s defenses have created a veritable obstacle course to reaching your potential. One obstacle is having a low sense of entitlement. When you have an appropriate sense of entitlement, it means you feel deserving of an equal share of the rewards and benefits of life. When you feel less than entitled, Outer Child acts out your feelings of self-dismissal and unworthiness through passivity, avoidance, and underachieving. Outer acts out similarly with your feelings of despair and helplessness. When you feel “I can’t” or “I don’t know how,” Outer seeks substitute fulfillments, like food, alcohol, spending, or resting. Visualization uses your sense of future to break through these internal stumbling blocks. Dream House nourishes your mind with a fully crystallized, positive image. Gazing upon this imaginary view provides an opportunity to engage your mind’s solutioncreating capacities and strengthens your motivation to behaviorally follow through to reach your goals.
Some of you might be relieved to hear this exercise doesn’t involve writing. But like all of the exercises in this program, you still have to do it. In this case, the doing is creating a mental image of a house and frequently referring to this image throughout the day. Once you create the Dream House image, it only takes a few seconds to conjure it up. You can focus on it at any time, any place — driving your car, running on the treadmill at the gym — whenever you have a few minutes to hone your thoughts.
I know Dream House works because I’ve used it myself with remarkable results, and I’ve seen it transform the lives of my clients, workshop attendees, friends, and colleagues. It is an active, strenuous form of physical therapy for the brain that works by stimulating growth in areas that promote focus, trajectory, aim, forward motion, and goal-achievement. Einstein formed pictorial images in his mind to engage in a process referred to as “synesthesia” — the merging of sensory images with mental content — to solve complex problems of the universe. When his brain was examined during an autopsy, one part was particularly large — the parietal lobe. That’s the brain’s imagination factory, the part that creates pictures in the mind’s eye. For now, though, we can forget about the mental mechanics of how this exercise works. The important thing is that it gets results.
Some people, rather than construct a Dream House, prefer to mentally construct a Dream-Scape — a place in nature they leave mostly undisturbed. Perhaps they help the economy and the planet through intensive conservation projects over a great expanse. Dream-Scape is often the preferred option of those grieving the loss of a loved one (since it is difficult to visualize the benefits of a luxurious house when someone you love has died). Others who might prefer the Dream-Scape include those who have just built a new home (their real-life dream home, perhaps), as well as those dealing with a serious chronic illness who might prefer a natural, peaceful setting. If Dream-Scape is your preference, just read along, conjuring details of your ideal natural landscape rather than an enclosed one.
First I want to remove any pressure you might be feeling to believe what you’re about to imagine. You don’t have to believe you will one day live in your Dream House. You are just creating a crystallized image to nourish your mind.
Begin by imagining that in the near future you come into unlimited financial resources — a distant, improbably wealthy relative has bequeathed you a fortune, or maybe you win the lottery, who knows. Imagine that your ethical, spiritual, and financial advisors all urge you to acquire some land and on it construct a home that expresses your personal dreams. It can be a vacation home, permanent residence, or way station on another continent from which to explore the world. In fact, they advise, the more you invest in this property the better. You’ll be boosting local economies and offsetting some of your personal tax burden as well.
You’re in the enviable position of being able to put all your financial worries aside. Your trustworthy advisors have helped you safely invest more than enough of these finances to fund ongoing philanthropic projects closest to your heart, as well as to bankroll your family’s security for generations to come (you are using your imagination, remember). So you’re free to indulge in your dream property.
Many of you will likely want to build your home with green principles in mind, perhaps using your Dream House to create a showcase for new sustainable, environmentally friendly materials and building practices. Your Dream House can set an example, serve as a model to instruct and inspire others.
Think about where you would like to build your Dream House: What climate suits you? Is it warm? Tropical? Dry? Breezy? Are there changing seasons? Does it snow in winter?
Think about the larger community in which you’ll want to live, about places where you’ll find productive outlets for your Outer Child’s energy. Is it tucked in a dense forest? In a farming community? Is it on a cliff overlooking an ocean? Is it neighborly, with friendly people all about? Is it private and remote, surrounded by lots of property? Is it an apartment whose windows look down on a bustling street? Is it a houseboat? A communal living coop? Create a mental picture of yourself wherever that is, scouting out the location.
Now start thinking about the house itself. Is it spacious or cozy? Create an internal space not only for your Adult Self, but for your Inner and Outer Children as well. Within this space your behavior will be channeled constructively and you’ll enjoy security, peacefulness, and joy.
Remember that money is no object. In creating the Dream House, the more money that flows into the pockets of tradesmen, artisans, sustainable environment consultants, suppliers, and construction workers the better. Imagine yourself distributing this money to all of the many people who help you build your Dream House.
Don’t worry if you don’t believe you’ll ever come close to living in a place like the one you’re imagining. You’ll reap the benefits of this exercise simply by visualizing the Dream House — you don’t have to believe it’s going to be built. You just need to pretend. You can remain a Doubting Thomas (like I am) as much as you like, as long as you do the exercise.
Now think about which room you’ll enjoy the most, the room where you’ll entertain your (current or potential) friends and loved ones. This room is the emotional center of the house (regardless of its actual location within the floor plan). What is this room like? Is it open with lots of space, lots of light? Or is it a cozy nook tucked in an upper loft?
Now think of your favorite chair in that room — a chair enticingly welcome and familiar. It’s the place you’re most likely to plop yourself down in after a long day of satisfying work or exercise — the place you like to read your mail, write in your journal, return phone calls, or just collect your thoughts. Imagine yourself in this chair, happy to be resting in it, even when you are in the Dream House alone.
Picture a captivating view from this favorite spot in this emotional center of your house. This view gives you endless pleasure. Can you see it? Can you hear it? Is there a sound of rushing water or ocean waves? Is there birdsong or wind rustling through the trees? Can you smell salt air, chlorine from the pool, or loam from the dense surrounding forest? These sensations bring you awe and wonder, capture your full attention, bring you out of your thoughts and into the moment. What a gift life is, you think, gazing upon this view, taking it all in.
What about the rest of the house? Is there an observatory? Library? Porch? Gym? Deck? Kitchen nook? Meditation room? Home theater? Are there balconies? Sleeping lofts?
Are there outbuildings on the property? Guest houses? Garages? Communal living spaces? Stables? Barns? A chapel? Art studio? Concert hall? Wine cave? Lodge? Let your imagination run wild.
One important enjoinder: In creating your Dream House, you can’t rewrite the laws of nature. You can’t, for instance, bring people back from the dead, make houses fly to other planets, or control other people’s behavior (to make them love you or behave properly). Staying within the laws of reality allows you to integrate your imagination with the practical, problem-solving regions of your mind.
Let’s return to your favorite room, the center spot of the house. Imagine that it’s two years from now and you are alone in the house, sitting in your special seat. Why two years? Because two years is a reasonable time in which to solve almost any problem, overcome Outer Child patterns, and transform your life. Two years is also a reasonable time in which to overcome any technical obstacles that you might encounter in building. Don’t think of your Dream House as perfect in every detail after these two years — instead think of it as a work in progress. There are still craftspeople, artists, and consultants at work on particular details, though you (and yours) can now stay in it very comfortably anytime you want.
Maybe you are sitting on a comfy stool in your kitchen, elbows on the counter, gazing at your beautiful view. Maybe you are on an amazingly comfortable sofa in the den or living room. Maybe you are sitting near a huge stone fireplace or enjoying the breeze on your porch swing. Imagine yourself contented and at peace in this space.
Think about what other things are in the room with you. These are things that bring you enormous pleasure just to look at. Indulge your fanciful imagination. Maybe your floors have precious seashells or even jewels embedded in them, or are made of 100-yearold reclaimed oak. Maybe you have an exquisite set of dishes, an old potbellied stove, a beautiful rug, a beloved piano, a bouquet of fresh flowers, or photographs of loved ones. Add all of the comforts and materials that might delight you and your loved ones (both current and potential).
Glance around the room in your Dream House for a moment. Take it all in. Imagine how grateful you feel to the powers that be for being alive in this space, so satisfied within yourself, so confident about your achievements. If you can picture yourself this way, you can become this. In creating a Dream House you’ve created a crucible in which to forge your higher Adult Self. Every time you conjure up your Dream House — even if it’s only for seconds at a time — you place your energy in this crucible that holds the possibility of your growth and nourishes your brain with healthy new messages.
Conjure up the whole house — its climate, landscape, architecture, favorite room, and space for loved ones — gathering up as many details as you can in a single image. This house, as you might have guessed, is you. And it’s the you you’re becoming. Its overall shape, location, and embellishments represent your emotional needs, your potential to overcome obstacles, your most deeply held dreams, and your future. By visualizing it, you are projecting all that you are, all that you need, all that you will be into a single, vivid image. In your real life, this image guides your future in the direction this house symbolizes.
Conjuring up your Dream House is designed to be pleasurable. It provides its own builtin reward. When your brain receives rewards for performing a behavior, longlasting changes occur in the neurons of the basal ganglia, the region involved in learning new patterns. The basal ganglia are rich in receptors for dopamine, a neurochemical that mediates reward, and which we will explore in Part Three. There is another area in your brain rich in dopamine that is also sensitive to reward (and punishment) — the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), part of a neural circuit that mediates between impulsive behaviors and the higher thinking brain. Dream House spritzes these significant brain areas with healthy doses of dopamine to reward your problemsolving efforts each time you mentally rehearse new skills. Conjuring up an image of your Dream House nurtures, satisfies, and pleasures the brain, effectively reinforcing the positive new behaviors you are learning throughout the course of this book.
It isn’t necessary to rebuild the house every time you visualize it; you’ve already created it. You just need to take a few seconds three or more times a day to conjure up the image of it. Repetition and consistency are what make the difference. If you do this consistently for up to three months, you will surely see your life change.
In creating a Dream House, you’ve become engineer of your own life, master designer of an environment suited to your greatest needs, goals, and desires. The process has transformed you into a virtual architect engaged in a problemsolving activity whose intention is to promote goalachievement in your real life.
When you bring the image to mind, you might want to take that moment to tweak or change some of the details. As you make virtual decisions, like how to enlarge a closet or where to put the stereo speakers, hold in mind your goals. Holding those aims in mind stimulates integrative regions of your brain that allow you to simultaneously design, mastermind, and plan for a projected future outcome. This integrative mental activity is akin to what happened when, as an infant, you learned to walk. Your newfound mobility inspired your developing mind to explore the world around you as you hadn’t been able to before, helping you grow by leaps and bounds. Similarly, in creating your Future Vision, you are strengthening an ability that will free your Adult Self from the constraints of Outer Child and bring you closer to your dreams.
So add this Outer Child exercise to your toolbox along with your Outer Child dialogues. Use the exercises frequently. Soon you’ll notice you’re incrementally developing greater selfentitlement, increasing your confidence, finetuning your goals, and moving your life ahead on many levels and in many areas.
As you change — achieve goals and then set new ones — you can change your Dream House accordingly. Renovate it to reflect your evolving self. You may decide to move it to another country. Or make it smaller. Or larger. You may decide to add a room or delete one. You may change your favorite spot from one room to another, perhaps to enjoy a different view.
If you’d like, you can sketch your evolving Dream House and map out its floor plan. Many of my clients carry a diagram of the house with them. You can also cut ideas from magazines for your Dream House and keep them in your Outer Child notebook or make a collage of them. The important thing is to keep this Dream House prominent in your mind.
Copyright ©2015 Susan Anderson. All rights reserved.