Chapter 7a of Meeting the Voices in My Head and Searching for an Inner Adult
Your head must be reeling with all the inhabitants of my mind I’ve introduced so far. How do you think I feel, with everyone chattering away, wanting me to do what they say? Between the Innermost Child, The Face of the Other, Firefighters, the Fuck-Its, Linus, Bots, Critics, and all the Feelings, including Shame, I’ve often wondered, where do I come in? Is there any room in my own head for me?
I’ve felt this way since I was a child. Faced with a legion of inner voices bossing me around, I made one more. Its job was to free me from the rest. I call this part of me the Rebel. It’s still there, rebelling against everything there is to rebel against.
The first targets of the Rebel were my Parents. I should say the Rebel thought it was rebelling against my parents. In truth, it was rebelling against my conception of my parents, those mental simulations I constructed to predict what my real parents would do. They seemed to control my whole life. My actual parents did control my life in that they were always wanting me to eat my dinner and not pull the cat’s tail. I couldn’t run away and do what I wanted because I was only two years old. If my real parents were controlling, my Simulated Parents were worse, for they knew what I was thinking. Even if I could run away from home, my Simulated Parents would’ve come with me, giving me advice every step of the way.
I was unable to make the distinction between my real parents and the parents that existed in my mind. I thought they were the same. The Simulated Parents are a child’s version of what the real parents are like. They lack the nuance and grace actual parents may have. There is a good reason to rebel against the Simulated Parents. They represent a primitive and distorted version of the real people.
The Rebel Rebels
The Rebel generally mounts its first rebellion at age two when the toddler discovers she has something to say about the way things go. An assertion of her point of view, an acknowledgement of agency, it’s come to be known as the terrible twos. A mother tries to put shoes on her child so they can go to Grandma’s, but the two-year-old refuses to sit still. She pitches a fit if the mother tries to make her. A wise parent will give the two-year-old a choice, “Would you like to wear the red shoes or the blue ones?” to preserve the kid’s autonomy and mollify her Rebel. This usually works because the Rebel at that age can’t push the issue much further.
As aggravating as the terrible twos are for parents, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. When a child becomes an adolescent, the Rebel takes control of a car, some money, some independence, and hangs with a bunch of friends who introduce her to activities she never dared to do. The prospect of disaster is much higher and the capacity of the parents to intervene is practically non-existent. So, when the kid is out joyriding with her friends and someone proposes getting some beer, only the Simulated Parents can intercede, and the Rebel is gunning for them.
There are a few factors that conspire towards the emergence of the Rebel during adolescence. For starters, a serious conflict arises between the child’s Simulated Parents, simulations of other influential figures, and his own feelings. Feelings come up with solutions that contradict some of the rules of the simulations. They want to have their own way and see the Simulated Parents as out of touch and old fashioned. A Rebel seeks to overthrow the tyranny of the simulations. One way or another, it can discredit all the simulations.
Next: The Self-Concept