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To live an empowered life, you must understand how and why you perceive, believe, think, feel, and behave as you do.

How often are you surprised by your own reactions to an event in your life? Something happens. You feel a sudden surge of emotion and you react. You feel hijacked by yourself. You flip off the driver who cuts you off and scares you. You snap at your someone you love or care about. You are rude to someone.

Or maybe it’s more subtle. It’s not so obvious what set you off. You procrastinate, drink or use too much, complain about your spouse, embellish to make yourself look better.

If you’re honest with yourself, you have to admit that, at least in the moment of acting out the bad habit, the character flaw, or the regrettable reaction, you are out of control. Both life and the way you interacted with it happened without your control or consent.

Without a sound explanation, it’s tempting to conclude that this is “just the way you are.” Or you tell yourself that what happened ‘out there’ is responsible for how you reacted to it. With either of these explanations, you claim powerlessness.

“That’s just the way I am” means “I can’t change.” Powerless.

“If only things were different, if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have done what I did or reacted in that way. If life were different I wouldn’t have these bad habits.” This all really means, “I am not responsible for how I am.”  Powerless.

Powerlessness sucks. Really. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing worse. If I believe I am living at the mercy of circumstances that I can do nothing about, and if I believe I have no power or choice about the way I react to those circumstances, I am stuck with a life I must endure, tolerate, and survive.

There are a lot of things we are powerless over. But we are not powerless over how we perceive, believe, think, feel, and behave.

What if you could understand why you are the way you are? What if you had a say in how you react when life happens around you?

The way you are and how you react is up to you. But to get your hands on the levers of your own life, you need to understand how and why you perceive, believe, think, feel, and behave as you do. In other words, your focus needs to turn from ‘out there’ to what is happening inside you.

I was almost 50 years old when I was introduced to The Work of Byron Katie (TheWork.com) and learned to question my own thoughts and beliefs. This was a huge turning point in my personal growth and development. While I still have questions about what is happening ‘out there,’ my real power comes in finding answers to the questions about what is happening inside.

Byron Katie taught me how to question my thoughts. She asked, “Do you believe everything you think?” Yes, I was in the habit of believing everything I thought. She suggested that I question my thoughts to see if they were true. I soon realized that most of them weren’t. While this might sound like bad news, it was just the opposite. Suddenly I had access to the real cause of my suffering.

By seeing that what believed wasn’t especially the truth I stopped suffering so much.

I practiced The Work of Byron Katie for years until I discovered the Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy model. I still love The Work and sometimes use it, but IFS showed me where the beliefs come from.

For several years now, I have been practicing the fine art of self-regulation. I’m not saying I learned to control my out-of-control automatic reactions. Rather, I have found a space, a pause between being “triggered” by life and how I react. How I interact with life changes as my old belief system melts away in the light of curiosity.

Sometimes I just notice that I respond differently to things that used to hijack me. Other times, more effort is required. I must choose my way into a better response.

I was recently introduced to the work of Terry Real who, in his book “Us” puts it this way. We either show up as the adaptive child or the wise adult. The wise adult responds to life with conscious awareness and choice. The adaptive child reacts to life as if it were the unresolved past.

Many of our automatic reactions to life are adaptations that helped us stay safe and make sense of life when we were young. As adults, these automatic reactions happen without conscious awareness. But with awareness and intention, it is possible to override impulsive reactions and instead show up as the wise adult.

What Terry Real teaches lines up very well with what I have learned in my training and personal transformation using the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model.

In IFS, the adaptive child is referred to as a part. And the wise adult is referred to as Self.

The wise adult responds to the circumstances of life through a clear lens that reflects current reality. These responses solve problems, bring calm to stormy waters, and help us stay connected to the people we love.

The adaptive child wakes up and influences our reactions when current circumstances remind them of their pain and the problems they are trying to solve. These reactions often trigger the adaptive child in others and create conflict and disconnection.

Why am I the way I am? Why do I do what I do? The answer depends on what version of myself is showing up. Am I showing up as the Wise Adult or the Adaptive Child?

My transformation began in 1982 when I got sober. I’ve been on this path for a long time. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve changed a lot. I use my training and personal transformation to support my clients as they make the changes they wish to make in their lives.

To learn more about Terry Real and his work with couples, go to TerryReal.com

To learn more about the Internal Family Systems, go to IFS-Institute.com

To learn more about The Work of Byron Katie, go to TheWork.com

If you’re interested in working with me, find 30 minutes that work for you at https://billtierney.as.me/30Minutes or check me out at BIllTierneyCoaching.com

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