Here is a brief description of the fantasy I used to set up this negotiation:
I was walking in an old town and came across a Tudor rectory. Adjacent to the house was a small chapel. I went into the chapel which was brilliantly lit by stained glass windows at the end where the altar was. I knelt in front of the altar and prayed for guidance.
On my way to the altar I had noticed a mirror hanging on the wall. Now I went to the mirror and looked into it in order to see some aspect of myself that required healing or integrating. The mirror started looking very dirty and clouded. Slowly the murkiness was dispelled and as I saw a reflection I recognised it as that of a very sad 5-year old boy – a younger version of myself. I was immediately filled with a great deal of love and compassion.
Here is a summary of the negotiation that followed:
Me: “ I really want to be your friend. Is there any way that I can look after you?”
The small boy just looked past me and ignored my question.
Me: “What is it that you really want?”
Boy: “All I want is my mum. I just want her to love me, and she doesn’t.”
Me: “How can I help you with that? I am not your mum but I have a lot of love for you.”
Boy: “I will never depend upon anyone ever again. Mum doesn’t love me so how could you? I don’t want to depend upon anyone!”
Me: “I don’t want you to become dependent on me. I want to help you to grow up to be yourself. I want to know how I can help you so that I can be a better father to my own sons and understand what they need.”
Boy: (smiling for the first time) “Well I could be your friend. But only if you allow me to be grumpy sometimes. I am so sad that I cannot be happy – even if you love me. I also need time to myself, so sometimes you just have to leave me alone.”
Me: “I can certainly allow you to be grumpy sometimes. And it is fine for you to have time to yourself as well – I have found it essential in my own life. So what would you like right now?”
Boy: “A hug would be nice”
At this point I picked up a cushion and hugged it, imagining it was the 5 year old boy. I cried as I hugged it, remembering all the times when as a young boy I had wanted a hug and not received one. After a while I felt finished, so I said goodbye to the face in the mirror and returned from the fantasy.
As I reflected on what had transpired I realised that there had been two shifts occurring. The first was a repairing of my relationship with my young self. The second was a recognition of what I was not allowing in my relationships with my young sons: they needed to be grumpy and alone sometimes – and it was fine to allow them that space.