It's hard for us to imagine that we have an innate part of our Whole Self that Bill Plotkin named, our Nurturing Generative Adult, and that this part of us, together with the other aspects of our Whole Selves, is capable of healing us.
Well, how can that be? Aren't I going to be stuck this way? Don't I need some major intervention from someone outside myself?
Well, sometimes we do, indeed, need help from outside ourselves. I have, myself, benefited from lots of outside help. Great therapy, at its core, reflects back to us our innate wholeness, and serves as a mirror. We see our Nurturing Generative Adult, modelled for us in the form of a counsellor, teacher or healer. Eventually, we need to cultivate access to our own Nurturing Generative Adult and learn to embody it, making us less dependent on good mirrors and less vulnerable when our mirrors are lousy mirrors.
The idea is this.
We all have a Self, with a capital S. This Self is a bundle of resources we are born with that every human has in common. They exist at birth but only as possibilities that we may or may not learn to access, actualize and embody. That means that while we have these original capacities, we may never cultivate access to them and learn to live from them rather than from our wounded sub-personalites. In fact, if we don't cultivate conscious access to our Whole Self, we are living from our default setting, our psyche's fragmented or wounded parts, our sub-personalities.
Healing occurs in relationship to the amount of resources we can bring to bear in a given situation. No access to resources=no getting better. One of our most important aspects of the Self, our most important resource, is called our Nurturing Generative Adult (NGA), or, if you prefer, your Inner Comforter, Coach or Listener. Some cross-cultural images of the NGA are elder, leader, teacher, parent, healer, empath, mentor or compassionate king or queen.
So, what is it, exactly?
If you've ever loved another being, the human kind or otherwise, cared for it, nurtured it, provided for it, then you've accessed your NGA. If you've ever turned a vision into a song or work of art, dedicated yourself to revitalizing or re-wilding a ruined place, acted in defence of a marginalized people or spoken truth to power, you've accessed your NGA. In Bill's words, the NGA is the facet of our innate human wholeness that “...enables us to genuinely nurture others, provide for those less able, care for the environment that sustains us all, defend the lives of future generations of all species, carry forward the life-enhancing traditions and wisdom of our ancestors, and contribute to the vitality of our human communities”. This part of you is “rooted in a nourishing and boldly resourceful love...With a well-developed NGA, we act from the heart, act out of an uncompromised love for others and for the world. We also act from Soul in the sense that we can see from our own depths into the depths of others and into the depths of the world as a whole. We have the capacity to discern truth and respond with love.” (Bill Plotkin, Wild Mind)
When accessing this part of ourselves, we are able to nurture ourselves. We can embrace, without judgement, our own woundedness or immaturity. We can hold ourselves and the mistakes we make with kindness and compassion. This part of ourselves gets us, it really does. It knows exactly why we do the things we do. It knows exactly why we have protected ourselves in this way. It also sees how much of ourselves we still haven't accessed that is still inside, waiting to be accessed and lived. It is not afraid of any part of ourselves, or anything we have done. It holds it all. I picture my NGA with it's arms stretched wide, holding and gathering ALL of me. It says to me, “Sweetheart, I get why you are doing that but this is not the way, let me show you another way. You will hurt yourself or others if you keep doing it this way.” It is not co-dependent or enabling, nor caretaking...it calls me to the deepest expression of myself, the fullest me I can be.
So, how do I access it?
Well, it's like beginning a friendship with someone you have a vague recollection that you have met before, but you can't really remember them. You turn inward and ask your NGA to reveal itself to you, then you use your four windows of knowing (feeling, sensing, imagining, and thinking) in order to experience it. You might let yourself recall a person that was a nurturing adult for you (aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, teacher etc) and imagine them standing behind you with their hands on your shoulders. What might they say about you right now, or about this issue you are facing? How would they convey their love to you? Maybe you can picture them kneeling right in front of you and you can see their face and all the love they hold for you. Perhaps you can just look at their face and see if you can take the love in? You can also remind yourself of times when you have operated from this place yourself, when you have nurtured and loved others.
Another great idea is to write a letter to yourself, with fiercely loving support, from the perspective of this mature and unconditionally accepting parent of yourself. Sometimes it helps to 'put on' the NGA of yourself. You can do this by changing your posture. What would this NGA feel like in your body? Probably not hunched over. Remind yourself of this fiercely loving part of you and then let your pen go. Maybe don't expect a huge novel, first try. This is a practice and you actually get better at it. Believe it or not, it gets easier to access this part of you. You can even write a series of letters and track your progress. Even if all you can do is write a letter saying how you would really, really like to access this part of yourself, your NGA would say, “Well Done!”, or in the words of my then 2 year old grand daughter, “Yay! You did it!!!”
Oh, one side note, if it's hard to picture this part of you and it's love directed towards adult you, picture yourself as a little child. What does your NGA say now? If this little one of you was struggling with the same problem as you are now, what fierce, loving support would your NGA have for this little one? Sometimes it's easier for us to picture a child and we need to start where we can.
The beauty is, it's in you and you can access it. This is the part of you that you need in order to change the voice of the inner critic. This part of you is a game changer in terms of really learning to love yourself and others and it's been in you all along, you just lost sight of it.