Monday, January 15, 2018

The Inner Parent


We began life as the “Wonder” or “Divine" child of Jung, the “Natural” child of Bradshaw, and the “Inner Child” or “True Self" of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA); this child is healthy, confident,  creative, sensitive, playful, trusting, enthusiastic, vulnerable, magical, authentic, and fully alive; “The original person, being, or force which we truly are” (ACA Big Red Book).

Many healthy adults got what they needed to thrive and flourish as children and through-out their lives. They reached for the stars and got them. Others had decent childhoods, getting many important life skills and experiences they needed, but missed out on many as well. For a quick look and list of what we could  have learned, take a look at a list of opportunities in: Parental and Other Mentoring.

Unfortunately many of us had condemning, critical, neglectful, or otherwise abusive parents or other authority figures that either neglected our needs, or  bashed and berated our spirit. Growing up in a dysfunctional family environment required we develop survival skills that in turn created a False Self. This False Self was carried into adulthood and perpetuated by an internalized Critical Inner Parent or voice. This leads to The Problem (or Laundry List).

We reclaim our True Self by re-parenting our Inner Child via our Loving Inner Parent with the help and guidance of our Higher Power. Becoming your own Loving Parent is The Solution and core of healing from a neglectful or abusive childhood, as well as the gateway to the child within. In fact it is recommended develop the Loving Parent prior to accessing our Inner Child as it may be holding onto intense rage, pain, and suffering and so can fuel addictive and destructive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

By re-parenting ourselves with gentleness, humor, love, and respect, we find our child within and true connection to a Higher Power. This is the God who does not abandon. We come to understand that we can release our biological parents. We can continue to separate from our family in body and mind if we so choose. This is an important step for us as we develop our own identity that is different than our dysfunctional family role. 

As we learn to re-parent ourselves we acknowledge and honor the feelings of our Inner Child and affirm that we do have many good qualities. We replace the internalized critic with a Loving Parent, reclaiming our True Self with unconditional love and compassion. Wholeness requires the acceptance and integration of our coping mechanisms and survival traits with our healthy and positive character strengths, so that we have a balanced personality.

Although we look like adults on the outside, we often still use the codependent survival tools of wounded children in daily life, not having been given the love and security to be emotionally and psychologically healthy functioning adults. The need to resolve our childhood creates a repetition compulsion; an unconscious recreation of the circumstances in which we grew up, and the patterns of behavior we used to survive. This is not the end of the story, only the beginning, The Solution is in sight.

Unfortunately we are attracted to relationships and situations that mirror our dysfunctional childhood environment because it is familiar and comfortable despite being neglectful or abusive. We may be harmed by or cause harm to the people in our life by perpetuating the negativity, shame, anger, rage, resentment, avoidance, isolation, control, judgment, perfectionism or addictions we experienced growing up. Because we are terrified of abandonment, we may tolerate high levels of victimization or abuse and consider it normal, living in chaos and using denial to remain in a dysfunctional comfort zone. 

Because we have internalized the negative voices or Critical Parent of our youth, we perpetuate the abuse; believing the voice of our inner critic as it judges us harshly and unfairly; undermining our self-worth and leaving us feeling depressed, incompetent, insignificant, empty and alone. We are in fact doomed to repeat this cycle unless we find help and healing in wise teachers, teachings, and communities.  

A good way way to understand Inner Parent is to look at the bigger picture of human nature. The Stages of Development is a good example, as growing up we learned either trust or mistrust, autonomy or shame and doubt, initiative or shame and guilt, competence or inferiority, and identity or role confusion. As adults we move on to have either love and intimacy or isolation, care for others or stagnation, and integrity or despair. These stages, if achieved, can lead to a full and satisfying life, or much suffering and loss if not.

Another way is to consider the more obvious stages of childhood, adulthood, and parenthood. Childhood and parenthood are addressed at length here, but adulthood can be considered a differing in between state worth looking at. A healthy adult is rational, reasonable, and responsible. One good example is an employee that can always be depended on to do their job very well. 


How is parenting different? Parenting can be imagined as the manager, boss, or leader. Here examples could be teachers, politicians, or kings. These people don't just take care of their own responsibilities, but are responsible for others, and work for the benefit of all. Visually you might imagine the Inner Child as residing in the heart space, the adult as the intellectual aspect of personality at the level of mind, and the parent inhabiting the higher levels of mind and heart.

Why bother to make these distinctions? Because "To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom" - Socrates. Life is somewhat of a puzzle, so it is good to know how things fit together. We need to be aware of the differences between these aspects of ourselves so we can understand them better and gain wisdom to make best use of our strengths and transform weaknesses where needed. Whenever we take inventory of our defects, we must also inventory our basic strengths and positive attributes. 

As parents and other authority figures seemed to hold God-like power over our lives in our youth it is only natural that these experiences become overlaid on our concept of a Higher Power. Those with positive experiences tend to have a kind and helpful God, but those who were neglected, abused, or both may have a apathetic or cruel and condemning one, and any are in between with both attributes.

If you were one of the less fortunate ones, accessing a Loving Inner Parent can also be the door way to a Loving Higher Power and Inner Child (and become a triple winner!) Then, with help from a Loving Higher Power we move out of denial through increased awareness of our early experiences. One way to access and create dialogue between our Higher Power, Loving Parent and Inner Child is prayer and meditation. 

Another is writing and journaling. We may use the dominant hand to express the Loving Parent and the non dominant hand to express the Inner Child. We may write out thoughts and feelings, write poetry, or simply allow our Inner Child to draw with markers, crayons, and colored pencils to bring to the surface their energies and experiences. Feel free to write out plans to paint, play, sing, dance, or have fun anyway you would like in your journal as well.

You may also find these practices will enhance your spiritual life and conscious contact with a Higher Power as many people use journaling as a way to speak with and listen to their Higher Power. Communing with God in this way on a regular basis can build an intimate relationship that goes beyond human relations, as God is all present, powerful, and knowing in our lives and all creation.

We are not alone in this journey, for safe space and healing for our Inner Child is found in Twelve Step meetings, fellowship, study groups, sponsorship, outreach calls, retreats, and conferences as well as supportive friends, family, and therapy. Here we find the strength and support necessary to heal our wounds, grieve our lost childhood years, and move forward with courage and confidence as we create a safe space to nurture our Inner Child. 

In our new life as a whole and complete person, the False Self is integrated, the Critical Parent is quieted, and the Loving Parent is manifested to become a constant guide to encourage and affirm us,  negotiate wise and fair choices, and set and enforce reasonable and healthy boundaries.  The True Self and Inner Child again express the wonder, joy, enthusiasm, spontaneity and zest for life that is our birthright. This is our homecoming, to that still, peaceful, holy place deep within us that never changes or is lost. 

There are many ways we might view how we developed, and how we parent ourselves or others. These differing perspectives can serve to widen and deepen our understanding of ourselves and others and lead to wisdom and transformation. the following paragraphs highlight these differing aspects with links to full page and/or blog links for further illumination. Pick some that interest you and take a look!

We consider love the most important thing for humans in general and each of us personally. Many of us growing up in dysfunctional homes and families missed out on love, or had it quashed over time. We built up barriers to protect ourselves, but this also kept out true connection, intimacy, and love. See how we tore down the walls to at last find our true loving selves in "Love Broke Thru" 

Next we explore the secrets and science of love in "Matters of the Heart". Here we see how science is verifying what we felt all along in our hearts, that love affects our health and happiness in many, many ways. Taking this to the extreme, we wonder if love might be the uniting "Theory of Everything" in "Love Force". It is perhaps a stretch of the imagination, but a fun one at that!

When Brene Brown, a top researcher professor at the University of Houston and author of five New York Times best selling books studied connection, love, and belonging, she found vulnerability, shame, and empathy at the core. She discovered what was troubling us at the most basic levels. Her work has brought great healing to many, many people, we couldn't recommend her more highly. 

As connection, love, and belonging lie at the heart (literally) of all that is really important to us, relationships are where these are realized (or not). For this reason you may want to read the post on "Relationships - Love and Belonging", inspired by the work of Brene Brown and consider how these dynamics work (or don't) in your life.

Dr. Alan Watsons video entitled "Being Brilliant Every Single Day"  is a very intriguing, informative, and entertaining expose of how stress creates, as he says, "A do it yourself frontal lobotomy". Really not what we want in our relationships, speaking in public, and other important but stressful situations. Here we learn how to keep our heads and hearts when the going gets tough. The TED Talk is nearly forty five minutes, but well worth it.


Dr. Watson's work is mirrored in the work of the HeartMath Institute which claims heart rate coherence can lead to 24% improvement in the ability to focus, 30% improvement in sleep, 38% improvement in calmness, 46% drop in anxiety, 48% drop in fatigue, and a 56% drop in depression. Amazing numbers for sure. Were not sure of the validity of their claims, but The Science of Heart Rate Variability is worth looking at.  

 "The Circle of the Soul" explores how the conscious and unconscious, and positive and negative aspects of our psyche and soul affect us on a daily basis and through-out our lives. Plato first imagined this, then Joseph Campbell ran with it, now it's our turn. We find it helpful to see what dynamics are working through us consciously and behind the scenes.

Another way we can come to know ourselves better so that we can treat ourselves better is through personality states and traits. States are where we are in the moment, and traits are the habitual tendencies we commonly use to to process our world and function on a daily basis. While not very scientific they still can help us get to know ourselves and make changes where needed. See that post here.

Lastly, we would like to again reference one of favorite posts in the pursuit of the True Self; "True Happiness" and it's corresponding side by side comparison of True and False Happiness (and Self). The focus is happiness, but the fact is this concept of happiness being a deeply intrinsic and infinite resource applies to many things ("Super Powers") we hold most dear, such as love, peace, joy, beauty, and so on.

Resources and further reading:

BRB” or  “Big Red Book”: Chapter Eight, The Solution: Becoming Your Own Loving Parent

 “Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child” by John Bradshaw  

Recovery of Your Inner Child” by: Lucia Capacchione                              
                                                                     
“Healing the Child Within” by: Charles Whitefield                            
                                                                           

Copyrights 11/17

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