Understanding emotional reactivity-it’s childsplay

Who is talking…your child or adult?

This is an important awareness couples develop in the course of RLT work with me. (Terry Real Relational Life Therapy).

The conception is that there are two parts of our psyche that come into play in a relationship. One is our Adaptive Child which was formed by either modeling or coping with our family environment when we were powerless children.  The AC is the reactive part of us that is interested in self protection and tries to look like an adult.  Essentially she tries to look like an adult by adopting any number of psychological coping skills -defending, walling off, blaming, being critical, hiding, self righteousness …..All of these reactions are adopted instead of a measured access of that elusive Functional Adult that is often only exhibited in our workplace and rarely with a person that matters and pushes our buttons. The FA has the ability to see the other person’s perspective before defending themselves, restrains himself from criticizing or making mean comments, takes responsibility for his part and knows that listening doesn’t mean he agrees. In short, the FA wants intimacy.

Our bodies give clear signals of which part of us is showing up.


Black & White                                 Nuanced

Perfectionistic                                 Realistic

Relentless                                        Forgiving

Rigid                                                Flexible

Harsh                                               Warm

Hard                                                 Certain

Tight in body                                 Relaxed in body

When couples have conflicts it is usually their ACs that are engaging. Part of the couples work is to “take their sticky hands off the steering wheel” and let the FA do the driving.

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