our anger, and so on. Then we must work backward to the early
Parent messages. Harris and Harris (1985, pp.69-89) call this a
"Trackdown." It involves several steps:
Being aware of our feelings, our current hurt: sad, mad, bad,
dumb, clumsy, guilty, afraid, a failure, unlovable, selfish,
Remember, it is the little 5-year-old girl or boy inside that
hurts. She/he still lives within our billions of memory cells.
Figure out, if you don't already know, what recently set off the
Ask yourself what childhood experiences this feeling or hurt
makes you think of. What old pains are mixed up with our
current reactions? The old lessons from our parents may not
apply now. Become aware of what your Parent ego state is
saying (repeating a parental message) and of how your Child is
Feeling like a
"Don't you ever finish anything?" "Sloppy!"
"You messed up again." "Just stop trying!"
"3.8 is good, but why did you make this B?"
"You can't depend on people." "They don't
want you around." "You always want too
"You'll be punished if you defy me." "Don't
overlook any opportunity."
Parents never gave a straight answer--"Pick
the right friends but don't be too picky." "Sex
is wonderful but not before you're 20."
or dies, the child may learn, "Don't let
If a friend rejects you or if a parent leaves
anyone get close again."
Note that all injunctions were not actually spoken directly by the
real parent. Children misunderstand or make up their own destructive
messages. What might a child remember from being told "don't hit
your brother?" Quite possibly something like "I do things I shouldn't;
I'm bad" or "Acting on your feelings gets you in trouble; so, don't
feel." These conclusions were probably not intended by the parent.
Certainly these self-created messages would be hard to "track down"
as an adult.
Figure out what you can do differently. Just knowing these Parent
tapes are messages from your distant --no longer relevant--past,
works wonders in preventing irrational emotions. Refuse to let your
own old Parent tapes control and upset your life. Talk to a friend; see
a therapist. Also, refuse to act in ways that hook others' Critical Parent
(e.g. by being irresponsible or weak). And, if you are being bossed
around by someone's Parent, refuse to let your Child "collect stamps"