What are Adaptations and Creative Adjustments and How Can Therapy Support?

Think about yourself as a child, what did you feel when you were around your family? How were you received and met by the differing adults around you? What did you do for confirmation or approval from your parents or guardians and what made you anxious or sad as a child?

As children, we naturally observe life and read energy – however it’s a rare situation to find a child who is asked about what they observe, let alone supported and then confirmed with how they feel about it. Instead of having an adult hold a space for the child and allow an opportunity for them to feel, express and be met, the child is instead often left to self-regulate via their own internal resources. Through experience the child learns from their own perception what makes dad proud of them, what makes mum and dad fight, why mum gets sad and so on and so forth. This is all carefully received and somewhat calculated by the child informing them of how to behave in order to get the desired outcome and feeling.

As we grow up it’s only natural to then gauge our surroundings and adapt our behaviour to survive these differing experiences and environments. The concept of survival occurs on a spectrum depending on the differing levels of trauma and risk we have each experienced. However, as a child who has little to no power or resources to move away from pain and risk or to make boundaries to an authority figure, there is a very real sense of survival no matter the circumstances and so we adapt ourselves in order to secure safety (in all it’s different forms) and maintain survival.

These adaptations can also be termed as creative adjustments – how one creatively adjusts themselves to manage their environments. Our patterns of creative adjustments generally begin from the intricacies of family dynamics but can also be informed and further engrained by messages from society, education systems, media, culture and religion. Almost always, unconsciously, we carry these adaptations into our adult life, managing our current experiences by assessment of our past experiences in an attempt to avoid repeating history and certain feelings that hold memories.

Living life still trapped within these creative adjustments means we are engaging and entering relationships with little awareness of how these adapted responses are now totally outdated. We now have the authority and independence adult life affords us to make boundaries and move towards or away from whatever may be taking place, offering us an opportunity for true connection and a potentially a different outcome.

Working therapeutically can allow a client to identify their different creative adjustments and gain understanding and empathy around their past experiences. The therapy can support the client to connect with their own inner child and hopefully meet the inner child in their missed experiences from childhood. Through this process the client can have more awareness around how they engage in life, no longer needing to hold onto their previous adaptations out of protection but instead re-imprint the experience and break free from their creative adjustments.

People’s fixed patterns of adapting and reacting to present circumstances as though they were the past are often so habitual and unaware that they do not realise they are responding in a rigid fashion or that they may now have alternative choices which could be more effective or life enhancing. (Mackewn)

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