Goal: To develop Cognitive Healthy Adult Mode behaviors that demonstrate you’re Loving Yourself

“The concept of differentiation has to do with self and not with others.  Differentiation deals with working on one’s own self, with becoming a more responsible person, and permitting others to be themselves” – Murray Bowen (Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, p. 468).

One of the most rewarding experiences of being a Psychotherapist is observing people rewrite a new “Bill or Writes” (yes, based on the Bill of Rights), where they’ll compose a new “Constitution” to live by, that’s not only based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but where they’ll ultimately give their self permission to love their self.  

Loving their self typically comes in two parts. First, they’ll inventory and move to eliminate stagnant or damaging schemas, mindsets and actions that were corrosive to their body, mind, soul, and spirit, that originated from unhealthy or traumatic experiences in their past.  In this manner, loving their self means they’ve become aware that faulty “1.0” survival tactics and (losing) strategies that were once deemed “helpful” don’t work anymore, are now recognized as maladaptive and have become character defects that need to be replaced, which leads to the second, and healthier way to love their self. 

The second “2.0” and preferred way to love oneself means the inventory continues, but what’s different is therapeutic, functional, insightful, and healing strategies are considered for their inherent value, “uploaded” into the mind, are consistently practiced, and celebrated due to the life-changing benefits experienced within their being! 

To me, this is one of the most important steps in your journey to cultivate love and live with wisdom, because it’ll be difficult to experience personal progress with your overall goals if you’re not loving yourself, which will subsequently impact your ability to love the neighbors in your life.  So, let’s take a look at three healthy mode characteristics for you to consider with this part of your journey, culminating in the quick reference chart below that I call the “Triple A’s of Loving Yourself!”

Healthy Adult Mode Characteristic #1 – Responsibility: Regardless of your past, from the moment you were born you deserved to be loved, to have love in your life today, and to love others (your neighbors) as you understand what love is and the beneficial actions that flow from this state of mind and way of living! 

However, I recognize love isn’t an easy fruit to grow nor behavior to develop, but I do know when you take personal responsibility and engage in the Adult work to give yourself what you’ve always deserved as a human being, one day at a time and one decision as at a time, then you’re on your way to loving yourself.  

Regardless of your past, please know you’re “response-able” to give yourself what you need, but mature and healthy manifestations of love are grown via your Healthy Adult (versus a juvenile or Adolescent mode), who creates an Adult mindset to accomplish Adult objectives and outcomes. 

This is where the first “A” of the Triple A’s to Love Yourself comes in: Assess.  As an Adult, you’ll want to do the deep work to assess how your past has hurt or harmed you, and subsequently what, if any faulty patterns have developed that continue to interrupt you from accomplishing any of your personal goals, chief of which is to love yourself. 

Once you’ve determined how you get in your own way and inhibit your ability to love yourself, I encourage you to focus your attention on healthier processes and strategies to which you’ll commit that are akin to you “coming to your own assistance” to accomplish the second of the Triple A’s to love yourself which is to Attend to yourself. 

Healthy Adult Mode Characteristic #2 – Focused Attention:  Dr. Dan Siegal defines attention as “the process that shapes the direction of the flow of energy and information” in your brain and mind. Focal or “focused attention” is that which you concentrate on and give close and sustained attention to in your brain and mind. 

With this Healthy Adult mode characteristic, I encourage you to identify and determine to what you are giving attention. When it comes to loving yourself, are you interrupting your ability to love yourself by giving attention to tired, worn out, maladaptive and damaging “1.0 strategies” that resemble insanity, because you’re doing the same old thing expecting a different and constructive outcome? Or are you focusing and giving your attention to identifying new, creative, and collaborative “2.0 processes” that yield different, better, sane, and hopefully mutually beneficial behaviors and outcomes for yourself and with others? 

Focused attention that results in healthy self-love means you’ll “tune in,” listen to your body, mind and spirit and based on what you learn and discover, give your mind thoughtful, intentional, and therapeutic goals and strategies designed to love and care for yourself.  

Hopefully, you’ll allow these newly identified processes and activities to shape your thinking and actions which will bring you closer to versus further away from your overall goal of loving yourself (and eventually others in your life!). 

Finally, my hope is your activity will be seasoned with inspiring, compassionate, safe, and soothing actions because today, you see yourself and your actions reflect you’re committed to protecting the sweet and authentic person you’ve reclaimed and are becoming!

Healthy Adult Mode Characteristic #3 – Think (Energy):  In light of the opportunity (and hopefully commitment) to love yourself, I encourage you to thoughtfully focus on using your energy to learn about yourself, with the goal of your activity being to love yourself. Who are you, what do you think, what do you feel, what do you need and what activity will you employ to meet and satisfy your need(s)? What’s important and valuable to you that you’ll follow up on and develop because focusing your energy on that goal or activity will help you to convert your dreams and vision(s) into reality? What do you want your life and relationships to resemble, and what focused, intentional and revised activity will you commit to in your effort to accomplish your worthwhile goal(s)? 

Keep in mind (no pun intended) what you put or plant into the soil of your mind, because your mind is always active which means you will grow something (1.0 or 2.0)!  Hopefully, by employing this Healthy Adult characteristic you’ll use your energy to think of new, healthy, and creative ways to love yourself by living by the mores, principles, values, virtues, and ethic you’ve identified, believe in, and want in your life and relationships due to the inherent value you have for yourself and your relationships!

The Triple A’s of Loving Yourself: ASSESS, ATTEND and ATTUNE

Use this quick-reference chart to reflect on areas of your life that deserve your assessment (to change), attention (to heal), and energy to create internal and eventually interpersonal attunement (to grow). As mentioned in previous posts, give yourself time and grace to develop these worthwhile tasks, but do practice and give love to yourself each day and in every season of your life!


A:Take a moment to Assess how you were treated in your Family of Origin (FOO).  Was there love, peace and calm, or anger, anxiety, sadness, hurt, confusion, disconnection, abuse, loneliness, or trauma? 

S:Attachment Styles (Anxious, Avoidant, Ambivalent, Disorganized, or Secure) are formed in your FOO, and they impact(ed) how you see/treat yourself and others.  Schemas/Schema Modes develop too!

S: Secure Attachments help us to feel SafeSeenSoothed, and Secure internally as children and adults. These values promote brain and mind growth, healthy environments and a Triangle of Well-Being.

E: Your responsibility is to Evaluate your formative years and current behavior, to determine what’s your attachment style and how any maladaptive schemas/schema modes erupt and trigger harsh messages. 

S: Which Schemas (Abandonment, Insecurity, Entitlement, Failure, Negativity) and Schema Modes (Critical Parent, Impulsivity, Detached/Self-Soothe, Approval Seeking, Scolding) do you default to? 


A: Pay Attention, then become Intentional:  Take a look at yourself (via therapy and mindfulness) to discover/eliminate thoughts and behaviors that foster harmful reactivity and interrupt intentionality.

T: Attend to Thoughts and feelings connected to life experiences that hurt, create fear, anger, loneliness, perfectionism, codependence, blame, escape, addiction, etc. Learn, own, and do your shadow work

T: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy continues self-reflection and invites you to Accept your thoughts and emotions, Choose values that are important to you, and Take action by living by them! 

E: Consider how you wish to use the Energy of your Mind (because you will grow something!).  Plant and nurture only those thoughts/values that reflect love, self-care, purposeful living, and healing!

N: Think of, “Integrate” and activate plans, strategies and processes that meets your needs and produces insight, meaning, purpose, healing and leaves you feeling content, confident and defines your identity! 

D: Practice Differentiation.  Differentiation means you’ll mutually honor and respect the thoughts, feelings and needs of others, versus diminishing, reacting to, manipulating, or trying to change them. 


A: Attunement encourages you to “monitor and adjust” your thoughts, feelings, or behavior when corrosive messages from your past threaten to disrupt your sanity, serenity or intentional living.

T: Scheduling “Time-Outs to take Time-Ins” is a compassionate and strategic process to deliver calm to your brain and body when you need insight regarding how to love yourself (and others) intentionally.

T: Tune-In to and enlighten yourself by practicing your spiritual disciplines, for inspiration, guidance and when self-love/care requires a healthy infusion of the 4 S’s: Safety, Seen, Soothing and Security. 

U: Tune-In to your Feelings by engaging in Emotional Self-Awareness activity to Understand the valuable message your body, mind and spirit is seeking to deliver to you, in your effort live an examined life!  

N: Tune-In to your thoughts and feelings to assess your Needs and how you’ll meet your needs.  Do you need rest, support, recreation, a listener, a collaborator, or assistance?  What’s your plan to satisfy it? 

E: Take Time-Ins during the day to Evaluate if you’re replacing negative and maladaptive thoughts with positive and affirming ones that satisfy your needs and produce Love, Equality and Empowerment?


X: “X” Factor: Love yourself by practicing “2.0” values and behaviors upgraded from maladaptive and virus-laden “1.0” schemas. Let your values serve as your cognitive GPS to experience these Triple A’s.

T: Become Therapeutic by employing strategies that reflect self-care, compassion, grace, and love to yourself when intrusive thoughts or emotions cause you to feel panic, peeved pessimistic or powerless.

R: Re-write your personal narrative (how you see and treat yourself, and act toward others) and give yourself permission to reparent yourself with 4 S+ values that affirm your worth, dignity and future.

A: Visit your Safe Place regularly!  Here you can access your Higher Power, convene “AdultChildconsultations” for self-care, wisdom, and “cortical overrides” from the other side of the wheel

!: Zero in on people who loved you unconditionally. Visualize being in their presence and what they said to you, or did that made you feel loved, valuable, accepted, important, comforted and empowered.

Suggested Activity: Spend some time contemplating the Triple A’s to Loving Yourself. In your reflection, what have you discovered about yourself and where do you need to take personal responsibility to “become an author to your own improvement?” What specifically do you see yourself doing that results in loving yourself? Focus on these areas of improvement and growth, and make sure you celebrate the positive experiences and outcomes that accompany loving yourself!

Skill to developThe ability to consistently demonstrate loving behaviors to yourself for your personal benefit and growth.

Next: Cognitive #12: Your Cognitive Healthy Adult Mode Behaviors (Part 3 – Loving Your Neighbor) or Table of Contents.

Thanks for reading this excerpt from Cultivating Love: Wisdom for Life. As time permits, please visit the other blogs written by Dr. Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2- 5 – 4 – 24” for additional information that could be helpful.

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About Dr Ken McGill

Dr. Ken McGill is an ordained minister and has been involved in counseling for more than 25 years. Dr. McGill holds a Bachelor's degree in Religion from Pacific Christian College (now Hope International University), a Certificate of Completion in the Alcohol and Drug Studies/Counseling Program from the University of California at Los Angeles and a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University. Dr. McGill received his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Family Psychology from Azusa Pacific University in May, 2003. Dr. McGill's dissertation focused on the development of an integrated treatment program for the sexually addicted homeless population, and Ken was "personally mentored" by dissertation committee member Dr. Patrick Carnes, a pioneer in the field of sex addiction work. Dr. McGill authored a chapter in the text The Clinical Management of Sex Addiction, with his chapter addressing the homeless and sex addiction. Dr. McGill is also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the States of Texas and California and Mississippi, and is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, through the International Institute for Trauma and Addictive Professionals (IITAP). Dr. McGill had a private practice in Glendora, CA (Aspen Counseling Center), Inglewood, CA (Faithful Central Bible Church), and Hattiesburg, MS (River of Life Church), specializing in the following areas with individuals, couples, families, groups and psychoeducational training: addictions and recovery, pre-marital, marital and family counseling, issues related to traumatization and abuse, as well as depression, grief, loss, anger management and men's and women's issues. Dr. McGill also provided psychotherapeutic treatment with Student-Athletes on the University of Southern Mississippi Football and Men's Basketball teams. Dr. McGill served as the Director of the Gentle Path Program, which is a seven-week residential program, for people who are challenged with sexual addiction, sexual anorexia, and relationship issues. Dr. McGill also supervised Doctoral students in the Southern Mississippi Psychology Internship Consortium with the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. McGill was inducted into the Azusa Pacific University Academic Hall of Honor, School of Behavioral and Applied Sciences, in October, 2010. Dr. McGill currently works as a Private practice clinician with an office in Plano, Texas, providing treatment with people who are challenged in the areas mentioned above.


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