Taming Your Outer Child
Susan Anderson : Outer Child and Your Future

Taming Your Outer Child

Outer Child and Your Future

Using Your Imagination to Create a Future Vision

By Susan Anderson | Updated 7/25/15
A selection from Taming Your Outer Child

Building a better relationship with yourself includes developing a more confident sense of future. Everyone has a sense of future. Though they’re not always conscious of this sense, it looms in the background, working for or against them. For most people, it’s a vague assortment of assumptions ranging from positive to negative about where life seems to be taking them. Take a moment to reflect on the quality of your own sense of future. Does it stretch before you like a yawning vacuum? Is it tinged with a subliminal sense of dread? Is it punctuated with events you are looking forward to, like a trip you’ve planned or a move to a new home?

In conjuring up your “future,” you can’t help but use your imagination because the future doesn’t exist yet. You have to imagine it. When you engage your imagination in this automatic manner, you can unintentionally project worry, anxiety, or pessimism into the scenario — or you might infuse it with an unhealthy dose of wishful thinking — maybe you’re unrealistically expecting a risky business venture to land you on easy street, so you let more solid prospects fall by the wayside.

The good news is that once you start using your imagination in a more deliberate, conscious way, you can get it working for you, rather than against you. The exercise in this chapter exemplifies the second component of the Outer Child program: guided visualization. In the last two chapters, we worked on separation therapy, personifying the Inner Child, Outer Child, and Adult Self parts of the personality. This chapter uses your imagination to create a Future Vision — a powerful image that helps to nourish the mind and restore your dreams. As you continue to build a better relationship with yourself, you’ll become more open and alert to new opportunities. Your self­esteem will manifest itself in more forward­looking, goal­directed behaviors.

You can think of the mind as divided into two camps. One camp strives forward, while the other, plagued with self­doubt, tries to sabotage it. Intention, when it is not fully crystallized, can be defeated by self-doubt. Visualization exercises use the powerful resource of your imagination to develop and crystallize your intention. There will always be self-doubt, but when your intention becomes stronger and moves to the forefront of your mind, the opposing camp has a much harder time sabotaging it.

The rigors of everyday life have a tendency to weaken intention. In fact, when most people think about the future, they muse about things they would like to achieve, but never get beyond fantasizing about it. Without realizing it, they live in an if-only world:

  • If only I’d meet the woman of my dreams.
  • If only I could make more money.
  • If only I could lose the weight.

People become tacitly resigned to never reaching their dreams. “I wish I could feel better about myself” is more pessimistic lament than aspirational goal. Our aim is to move beyond fantasy about a would-be future. We’re going to take forward steps toward a future of richer possibilities.

To reach your dreams you need a crystal­clear picture of what constitutes that dream come to life. Originally, the Eiffel Tower was nothing more than an idea, a picture in Monsieur Eiffel’s mind. The building stands today because he stayed focused on that image, coupling it with the steadfast intention of seeing his dream realized. He also took action; in other words, he did the design and drafting work that conveyed his vision to those who could build it. Bottom line: The Eiffel Tower would never have been built without the vision, intention, and follow­through of the man who conceived it.

No doubt many brilliant ideas have formed in other brilliant minds and never reached fruition, most likely because the people who conceived them lacked the necessary intention and initiative. Perhaps all they needed were better tools to help them direct their energy at the intended target. The exercise I’m going to show you provides those tools. It uses your sense of future to improve your aim and increase your trajectory toward your goals. I call this powerful but simple exercise “Back to the Future.” It’s especially effective when used in tandem with the Outer Child dialogues.

Back to the Future

Like the separation therapy exercises we’ve been working on, this exercise creates a distinct mental boundary, in this case between the future and the past. It separates your future potential from your past failures, the higher Adult Self you are becoming from your former Adult Self, who was mired in self­defeating patterns. In marking a bold line between past and future, it places you directly in the now, where all of your power resides.

This exercise serves a practical purpose. In focusing your cognitive mind on your imagined future, it takes your imagination to acrobatic heights. Stretching your mental resources this way stimulates significant areas of your higher brain functions.

The idea is to create an image of yourself at some time in the future — say, two years from now — an image of yourself feeling happy and at peace because you’ve left all the problems of today behind you.

Pretend you are in the future. And that the future is now. Your needs are fulfilled, your goals achieved. Imagine that you are enjoying the benefits and how good you (would) feel to have left all your self­sabotaging Outer Child patterns behind.

Working backward from the future, see yourself overcoming obstacles and taking steps to move your life forward. Imagine how confident you (would) feel now that you have achieved these gains, and that you, not anyone else, made it happen. Here’s how Sarah, a woman we met in Chapter Two, applied this tool:

My dilemma was that I was 50 pounds overweight. So I imagined it was two years from now and that I’d already lost the weight. I imagined how thrilled I felt to get my sexual power back. It felt great.

By picturing yourself in this already-there state, you are stimulating your mind’s problem-solving and as-if reasoning functions, giving your changing brain a good workout. It is important to picture your stronger  Adult Self as the one who resolved your problems. Don’t make the achievement of your goal dependent on someone else’s actions — it’s you who made it happen! This exercise borrows strength from an essential truth: The only control we have is over our own behavior.We have no control over how someone else might act or react, so the solutions to our problems must be centered on our own actions and no one else’s.

There are five easy steps to the Back to the Future exercise:

  1. Create an image of how good you would feel two years from now if your current problems were behind you. Remember you’ve already achieved your goals.
  2. Identify the goals you achieved.
  3. Then identify what obstacles you had to first overcome to achieve them.
  4. Working backward from the future, imagine the steps you must have taken — behaviorally — to overcome those obstacles. See yourself taking those steps.
  5. Now imagine how wonderful and blessed you feel about this change — grateful to your higher self and the powers that be.

Next: You, Two Years from Now Exercise »

Susan AndersonPsychotherapist Susan Anderson is the author of Taming Your Outer Child and The Journey from Abandonment to Healing. More »
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