by M. Millhauser Castle
If you look around at your life, you're likely to see the trappings of adulthood everywhere -- in your job, in your family life with your spouse and children, in your place in the community, in your obligations to aging parents, and elsewhere... The adult part of you is home to your life experience, your wisdom, your abilities, and your capacity to reach out and get help when you need it. It is the part of you that is empowered to act on your own behalf, to make decisions and choices. It is a reflection of your strength, your accomplishments, your perseverance, and your will. It needs to be acknowledged and given the chance to participate fully in your life today.
Yet many people are not connected to their adult selves. They discharge all of their adult responsibilities from a place inside themselves that somehow doesn't quite know, or perhaps believe, that they are actually on their own. They don't let themselves really take in that at this point in time, they, in partnership with G-d, are the ones responsible for their lives, that it is no longer their parents' responsibility and never was their spouse's or children's.
They don't quite get that if something is not working in their lives the way they would like it to, it is up to them to try to make things better. They forget that although other people may help them along the way, ultimately the task is theirs. They don't focus on the reality that each person has a soul to shepherd through this lifetime, and that it is up to him or her to make choices that further that soul's growth.
As an adult, it is up to you to determine the values you want to live your life by, to decide what is meaningful for you and what is not. When you were a child, all of these things were decided for you and imposed on you. You were expected to fall in line with your parents' reality. Once you are an adult, this is no longer the case. You are free to choose the things from your upbringing that you want to perpetuate in your own life and those that you want to leave behind. You are now the one in a position of authority vis-a-vis yourself.
That means sifting through all that you learned and were conditioned to accept and deciding consciously whether it is right or wrong and whether it is appropriate for you. You are now the one who can give yourself the type of love and care you coveted in the past but were denied. You are the one who can impart to yourself values and goals that you consider important and help yourself to realize them. These are all functions of the adult part of yourself.
To connect with that part of yourself is not always easy. You may be so overwhelmed with feelings from the past that keep you stuck in earlier times, that you don't know how to really feel yourself in the present. It's a matter of experimenting to see what works best for you. Some people find looking at a photograph of themselves today is a good reminder. Others use photos of themselves with other members of their family, a spouse, and/or children to make the image even fuller. For some people it helps to recount in their minds jobs they've had, places they've lived, experiences that were significant, talents they possess, compliments they've received from other people -- anything that connects them with their strengths and capacities as an adult.
The important thing is to have a genuine sense of your adult self, one that is real enough for you to appreciate what is going on for him or her as you move through the [life] process.
Reprinted with permission from InnerNet.org and excerpted from "PRACTICAL INNER TORAH" with permission of Targum Press.