This is not about your parents or the people who hurt you; this is about you.
Nobody had perfect parents and as such this is not a self therapy reserved only for those who experienced severe trauma.
“If we had parents without boundaries, who had emotional immaturity or their own unresolved trauma, we may need re-parenting because some core needs have gone unmet.” —psychotherapist Nicole LePera, PhD
Our healing is at the centre now.
Your inner child is the you resonating from your infancy through to your present moment, echoing your earliest memories and most primal needs.
More often than not our inner child has needs which were not met, or perhaps were met but with inconsistency, during our earlier lives.
The experiences we have throughout our lives influence and change us.
We begin to establish thinking and behavioural patterns focused on surviving the world we perceive to be around us, from the moment we have conscious thought.
We develop expectations and learn how to achieve responses as some of our earliest understandings evolve. Before we have linguistic ability, our subconscious understanding is stored for future application.
These understandings are reinforced by the surrounding environment and lifetime experiences.
Our teenage years are fraught with challenges, difficulties and new experiences too but of a different kind.
We are put to the test while we evaluate and re-frame who we are and where we fit in relation to others, more often than not around other chaotic teens doing the same, for large portions of our time.
As we move into adulthood, discovering that the world is not what we thought it was or won’t respond as our caregivers did, we experience confusion, hurt and frustration. These feelings can result about either what we knew growing up or what we anticipate for the future as a result.
We try to learn how to behave in our environments to achieve or communicate what we need. When the posts move we are confused.
The beliefs we develop in our early lives form scripts for behaviour and contemplation which extend beyond their place in time, and have an effect on the way we conduct ourselves as adults.
The early notions about what we should become, who we should be, and what to expect from others can set us up for disaster due to their immature or unrealistic and misguided natures.
We have mentioned previously that 90% of our activity is subconscious. If these scripts written by our inner child influence us from our subconsciousness, then in shadow work or in trying to understand ourselves, we need to revisit who we have been, what that has meant to us then and now and how we might meet our own needs now.
When there has been a lack of consistency in our understandings of the world whilst developing, adulthood becomes more difficult to understand and our selves more difficult to regulate or manage.
Children not disciplined will usually have a hard time disciplining themselves for success in the future. They might have difficulties in finding motivation as adults
Children disciplined without affection may inappropriately seek approval, love and affection or become victims in trying to please or be good enough within abusive relationships.
Childhoods heavy on education with a lack of love that isn’t reward for achievement, can cause adults to feel only valuable or worthy through their achievements rather than in and of themselves.
Unhealthy relationships where caregivers or codependent relationships do not provide boundaries, structure and discipline/support, keep children second guessing, dependent and striving to please. This can also lead into adulthood where more codependent relationships stand to follow.
The type of re-parenting you need will depend on what your unmet needs were.
Often when people enter therapy with a ‘wounded inner child’ they show the following types of behaviours/traits: low self-esteem, poor body-image, mood and emotional imbalances, problems with boundaries, eating, self-harm, psycho-sexual difficulties, ‘falseness’ and wearing ‘masks’, identity problems, being a rebel/ a hoarder/ a bully/ a perennial victim or a super-achiever, intimacy problems, commitment problems, a general lack of trust in yourself and others, criminal behaviour, lying, being ‘overly-responsible’ for others, being fiercely competitive and a poor loser, dependencies and addictions, a lack of genuine friends, obsessive and needy behaviour, fear of authority figures, being manipulative, being passive, or being aggressive.
By learning to love, protect, and attend to our inner children, we can let the grown up part of us take care of the physical world more effectively, confidently and healthily.
As ever, by taking care of ourselves, we can better care for those healthy relationships we come to recognise and develop moving forward.
Step one) Spend time alone and contemplate yourself as the child you were. What did you want most? Enjoy? Fear?
What can you do now to fulfil your wants? Can those enjoyments be useful to you now? Are those fears useful/realistic in your current situation?
Step two) Be your own accepting, forgiving, unconditional love.
Be compassionate with yourself. Forgive yourself. Grant yourself permission to be in a state of learning, to not know all of the answers.
Step three) Recognise your needs.
– Do you need to be more disciplined with yourself, to achieve more so that you feel accomplished? Maybe just so that your basic needs are met?
– Do you need to give yourself positive affirmation and develop the belief that you are worthy of the care and love you need from yourself or should expect from others?
– Do you need to spend some time focusing on your connection to yourself or family, rather than work and other commitments? Perhaps you are always too busy to attend to yourself and need to change that priority so that you can feel more able to connect with others without the pressure to be achieving something else.
Step four) Engage in physical activities to manifest self care. Do things just because they make you feel good to take care of yourself.
Step five) Develop your inner dialogue in line with your perception of the ideal parent.
When you feel sad be a consoling parent to yourself. Use your reasoning side to acknowledge that ‘it is okay to feel sad, I understand, we can get through this, here’s a hug.’ Literally hug yourself.
Reward yourself for your positive, feel-good behaviours, congratulating your own success, and encourage yourself to keep trying through setbacks, as a consoling parent would do.
Remember to care for yourself. Changing internal dialogue is a process that takes time and effort. I realise there is a lot more that could be said about re-parenting the self but because of its similarity to shadow work I will incorporate the principles into the shadow work blog collection this month.
I hope this has been interesting, would love to hear your thoughts.