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George Hartwell M.Sc.

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Spontaneity vs Super-Responsible (Parental Inversion)

© G. Hartwell, www.HealMyLife.com, (416) 234-1850, (Parental Inversion is a term used by John and Paula Sandford)

A.What do we mean by spontaneity? 

Write a poem to express this.

Is God spontaneous? What are we to make of God declaring, "I will be who I will be?" I would say this is the statement of a being who insists on being free, who resists being given a handle.

God is free to surprise us. God does not present us with the same challenge in the same way twice. This means that man's theology, man's religious rules are not able to prepare us for the spontaneity of the life that God will provide us with.

God is into change. Seasons change. Weather changes. And variety. People are different. Snowflakes each form a different shape. Fingerprints are different. In animals, butterflies, fish and birds we see God's love of variety.

A child's spontaneity delights our hearts. What about when Jesus says we must become like a little child. Could it be that God delights in our spontaneity, uniqueness, playfulness, and being open and expressive like a child.

B.What are the benefits of spontaneity? Write down your own thoughts on this.

Is it true that laughter and fun are good for our immune system? 

Do we trust someone who can express his or her feelings and passion spontaneously? Is spontaneity necessary for bonding in close relationships?

Can we encourage new solutions by being spontaneous as in a brain storming session? Does sheer expressiveness lead to creativity? What about keeping a genius journal where you write down anything and everything?

Why did writing help Agnes Sanford break the hold of depression? Do you have an expressive talent that needs to be expressed? Does it bring you out of depression to use this talent?

Did you know that 'deadly serious' is not a description of a life giving church? That laughter is a gift of God? That Satan doesn't like laughter? That our God laughs? (Psalm 2.)

C.What are the obstacles to spontaneity?

One of the obstacles to spontaneity is the tendency to work and play based on rules and instructions rather than relaxing and flowing more intuitively.  In religion we call this Legalism - that following God's rules is the way to run our relationship with God. 

Also it is hard to be spontaneous, free (lead by the Spirit) when our head wants to be in control.  And our head does want to be in control.  We are most conscious from the frontal cortex where cognitive and volitional functions operate.  This seems like me.  bit it leaves out heart and spirit, feelings and freedom.

In sports the focus on winning and beating the enemy can result in us trying too hard. Change the focus to enjoying the sport and one may find fewer injuries, have fun and play better. 

A sales team was doing poorly under great pressure to make quotas. Then their manager asked them to focus on having fun doing their sales call. Productivity went up and they were able to make their quotas without focusing on quotas. It seems to be that we can be healthier and more productive if we have fun, enjoy the game and relax.

The Super Responsible Person(Parental Inversion)

We can pick up a tendency to be too serious even in our childhood. For example, if mother and father are fighting all the time a child assumes the emotional responsibility of keeping the family together and becomes a serious child.  This is what I call the Super-responsible Pattern.

The serious child grows up to be a super or too responsible adult. They work too hard, care too much for others, assume too much responsibility, and remain too fixed on remaining peaceful and calm at all times.

Here are some questions that help you to understand what I mean by: 'super-responsible' and what John Sandford meant by Parental Inversion.

Looking back at childhood was there lack of safety in your childhood family?

Was either parent out of order, out of control emotionally?

Were your parents fighting in ways that you felt unsafe or insecure?

Did you step in in some way to provide family stability? (Peacekeeper, go between, etc.) 

Was there enough love and security that you could be playful, expressive and spontaneous?

Were you seen as a young well-behaved adult?

Do your friends find you to be a 'serious' person?

Do you find it hard to be a child in adulthood? (Be playful, expressive, spontaneous)

Do you negate or ignore your own needs?

Are you good at being there for others and meet their needs?

Are you very self critical?

Live with an inner judge?

I suspect that the too serious child and the super-responsible adult have beliefs like those described in my "Spontaneity Attitude Test." Try the SAT (informal uses only). Do any of these statements sound familiar to you?

Some of the factors that lead to the serious child and the super-responsible adult are listed in the "Over-responsible Assessment of Childhood." Try the "OAC." You may be able to describe other factors in your own childhood that resulted in an inordinate burden of responsibility being laid on you as a child.

Using the PAC diagram we can show that there is pressure from the 'Tyrannical Parent' upon the inner Child. The result is to suppress, oppress and depress the inner Child and spontaneity is lost. Instead of nurture and spontaneity the inner Child becomes weak and depressed. In some cases there are periodic breakouts.

 In some cases there is a nervous breakdown. In a nervous breakdown the whole personality pattern disintegrates, however, the result, with wise counselling, can be a positive change in personality and life style.

Spontaneity Attitude Test (SAT)

© George Hartwell, March 2003 (416) 234-1850. Permission to copy for noncommercial use only.

To what extent do these statements sound how you feel? Rate the following statements from 0 to 10 where zero means not at all like how you feel and 10 means exactly how you feel. 0 to 10:0 = not at all.  10 = exactly like me.

1.Spontaneity is so childish. I don't want to be acting like a child.______

2.Spontaneity is irresponsible. I don't want to be irresponsible.______

3.Spontaneity is so selfish. I do not want to act so selfishly.______

4.Spontaneity is disorderly. I like things to be stable and orderly.______ 

5.Being spontaneous is so often inappropriate. If I was spontaneous______ I might do something that is bad or wrong.

Over-responsible Assessment of Childhood (OAC)

Answer the following scale from 0 to 5 where zero means not at all true and 5 means completely true.   0 to 5:    0 = not true    3 = maybe or sometimes    5 = quite true

1. I remember times when mom and dad were fighting and I was scared.______

2. I had the role of peacekeeper in my family.______

3. My mom (or dad) was very emotional - out of control emotionally. ______

4. I felt that my parents needed care themselves and were not there for me.______

5. One, or both, of my parents were very self-centered and immature.______

6. I had so much responsibility in the home that I didn't have time for play.______

7. I was careful around mom or dad because I never knew how they would act.______

8. My family life was unstable. I never knew what would happen.______

9. One, or both, of my parents were unpredictable (for example, when drinking).______

10. I felt guilty or to blame for the problems in our family.  ______


Scripture focusses on Today

Spontaneity taps in to what God is doing now -  in the present moment.

This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

 The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6

"In John 2, when Jesus turned the water into wine, what did the chief steward say about the quality of the new wine? Many people think that he said "You've saved the best for last". But actually he said "You've saved the best for NOW." The principle here is that things are getting better and better and right NOW God wants to pour out the better wine.

The message sounds rather elementary, but meditating on these verses has revolutionized my faith levels. Every time I go into meetings, I think TODAY is the day God wants to do miracles. This past year my friends in ministry and I have seen that everything seems up by two to three times - healings and miracles are increasing and finances are exploding."

Quotes are from Mark Dupont's web site.