US, by Terrence Real, with a focus on the 5 tools we can use for our remothering journeys
US by Terrence Real
By Simona Vivi H
5 important tools for our remothering journeys from the book US, by Terry Real
Notes from the book US: getting past you & me to build a more loving relationship. by Terrence Real
Looking through a remothering lens for takeaways from this bestselling book about relational health
Adaptive Child or Wise Adult?
Which version of you shows up to your relationships, the adaptive child or the wise adult?
In his book, US: getting past you & me to build a more loving relationship, Terry asks: which version of you shows up in your relationships? He goes on to share that one of his mentors, Pia Mellody, describes the adaptive child as a "kid in grown-ups clothing".
If you sense that you may have been raised by a child in an adult's body, then one of the challenges that may show up in your remothering work is that as you turn within more often for the mother qualities you seek, there may be some outdated programming running in the background about what it looks like to be supported and loved.
Adaptive Child vs Wise Adult
Terry describes the adaptive child as a child's version of an adult, the you that you cobbled together in the absence of healthy parenting. He includes a chart detailing the traits of the adaptive child as distinct from the wise adult.
Black and White
Tight in Body
Relaxed in Body
Remothering Take-away #1
Self-reflection without shame.
In step two on the remothering journey, we learn to recognize our adaptations and greet them with an of-courseness. Of course we adapted to our environments when we were children, that is what humans do. And now we are adults, and there is a cost.
Terry has a saying, "adaptive then, maladaptive now".
When we spot that we are showing up with adaptive child behaviors, we can celebrate that we've uncovered a clue. Perhaps we can even think of the awareness as a welcome opportunity to break free from our unhelpful adaptations.
As Terry says in the book, "we must learn how to tend to our own immature parts, to our own reactivity, to our avoidance, our long-suffering frustration."
For those of us that weren't modeled what it was like to be lovingly accepted as we are and as we are becoming, it can take practice. But, it's worth it! If you are looking for more tools for how, check out our "How do I remother myself" series on the blog.
"I relied on myself"
In the book, Terry shares a client story where he asked "How young were you when you first learned to take care of yourself?".
Terry then goes on to talk about passive abuse and emotional neglect. For some of us, the words abuse and neglect won't resonate. If that's you, notice if his description rings true to your experience. Keep in mind, this is not a report card on the parenting you did or did not receive. It's about you and future you receiving the insights and tools that best support you on your remothering journey.
Terry says that with emotional neglect, it's not that something is present that shouldn't be (like a parent hitting their child); rather it's that things that should be present are not, such as guidance and comfort.
Remothering Take-away #2
Not a report card.
The remothering work is not a report card on the parenting we did or did not receive, and we don't need to have experienced a complicated parent-child dynamic to lean into our personal power in this deep and meaningful way.
The and/also is that for those of us that were not modeled what it felt like to be able to turn to a Wise Adult for guidance and comfort, we'll have some unlearning to do.
The good news, as we learned from Annie Wright, is that neuroplasticity is on our side. Check out a 2-minute clip from my interview with Annie on the reMothering.org YouTube channel here.
Harmony, then disharmony, then repair
Terry teaches that relational health is a cycle that moves in rhythm from harmony to disharmony to repair and back to harmony.
If repair is a new concept for you, I feel you!
My FOO (family of origin) model of the world went from harmony, to me over-functioning to ensure harmony was maintained, to if disharmony did happen then figure out how to be an even better good girl next time. The end. No repair process.
In the book US, Terry says to expect the stumbling as part of the rhythm. He says it's like walking: you have your balance, then you stumble. You catch yourself and rebalance.
Leaning into his decades of experience, plus quoting research from Ed Tronick, he says that it isn't unbroken harmony that makes for trust in relationships. Rather, it is the countless repetitions of repair.
Terry goes on to ask: Where in your life have you witnessed the skill of repair in relationships? The truth is, that unless you were very lucky and grew up in a relationally intelligent home, learning the skills of repair means unlearning what you internalized. One way forward is learning with a mentor - for example through coaching, workshops, online courses, or readings like this one.
According to Terry, the key to repair is a felt experience of safety. "The neuro-scientist Stephen Porges posits that feeling safety in another person with whom we interact consists of two important qualities-- the absence of agenda, and the absence of judgement."
Remothering Take-away #3
Harmony-Disharmony-and-Repair in our Self-Talk
While we may or may not have people in our lives that have the emotional maturity for a healthy relationship rhythm, we can practice the cycle of harmony-disharmony-repair in our internal relationship between me & me.
We can notice our self-talk, aim to notice when we've shifted into disharmony within (which is a normal thing that happens), and practice repairing with integrity.
As we deepen our relationship between me & me, the benefits ripple into our other relationships, and ultimately have a positive impact on the people we care about most in this world.
What did you learn about yourself?
According to Terry, as we were growing up, the particularities of our parents' limitations and dysfunctions became the imperfect "holding environment" we adjusted to. Those adjustments become our adaptations. There's a line in the book that really struck me: "through reaction we resist the way our family viewed us; through modeling, we internalized it".
Terry teaches something he calls the Trauma Grid (see below).
Terry invites us to locate ourselves on the grid and notice where we operate from when we are in our Wise Adult as well as when we are in our Adaptive Child mode.
What are you noticing about your own relational stance?
Remothering Take-away #4
How psychologically safe are we feeling?
Current research shows that what determines if we shift into our adaptations is how safe we feel. Our nervous systems are scanning our environment to assess for safety four times per second. The good news: we can offer ourselves that safety by knowing that we have ourselves.
That "I've got you" experience in our relationship between me & me is part of the power that comes from doing our remothering work. You can read more about cultivating that internal sense of safety in The Neurobiology of Of-Coursenesson the blog.
The Feedback Wheel
Terry talks about Janet Hurley's feedback wheel in US: getting past you & me to build a more loving relationship, as well as in many of his courses. I was introduced to the structure by my sister (thank you Mich!). The feedback wheel is a tool for helping us to organize our thoughts and to more skillfully speak up when we are feeling hurt.
The Feedback Wheel
This is what I recollect happened
(a 1-2 line, succinct, specific, fact-based statement)
This is what I made up about it
(owning our meaning-making)
This is what I felt
(naming our feelings)
This would help me feel better
(checking in with ourselves to notice what we need; and then communicating our needs to our trusted other)
Remothering Take-away #5
Practicing with a Trusted Other
I'd highly encourage you to practice this with a trusted other.
It may not be comfortable at first (at least, it wasn't for me). My explainer part had a real challenge with the instructions of 1-2 succinct statements. And I have a few parts that don't feel comfortable noticing that I have needs. Like many of us, I was not particularly practiced in asking myself what I needed, let alone making the request to someone else.
If you do not have someone in your life that has the emotional maturity to practice this with, consider finding a mentor or coach. I offer private coaching over at The Center for Remothering. You can also read more about other wonderful therapists, coaches, and healers by reading the profiles of our 2022 reMothering Masterclass Speakers.
Our relationships, whether they are our relationship between me & me or our relationships with others, are, as Terry says, "the atmosphere we depend upon, so it makes sense to be a good steward of your relational biosphere".
As I wrap up this book review of US: getting past you & me to build a more loving relationship, I want to include a special thank you to my sister, Michelle Marks. Michelle is trained in Terry Real's methodology of relationship therapy (known as RLT) and was my initial inspiration to study with Terry. Plus, she's awesome. Thanks Sis.
Based on the book US by:
Terrence Real (Terry)
Terry Real is an internationally recognized family therapist, speaker, and author. He founded the Relational Life Institute, offering workshops for couples, individuals, and parents along with a professional training program for clinicians to learn his Relational Life Therapy methodology.
He is the bestselling author of I Don't Want to Talk About It, How Can I Get Through To You?, and The New Rules of Marriage. For more about Terry and Relational Life Therapy, visit TerryReal.com
Article written by:
Simona Vivi H
Simona Vivi Hadjigeorgalis is the founder of reMothering.org, a collaborative space where industry leaders create remothering resources for independent-learning. Simona also has a private coaching practice at The Center for Remothering.