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What is Self Parenting?

Image of mom and toddler at the beach. Raleigh Psychotherapy, Katherine Broadway, Counseling, self-parenting

I feel so out of control. Everything makes me emotional. I get angry and hurt at the smallest situation. What is wrong with me?

I hear this so often. Someone who seems like the calmest person on the planet comes in and tells me about an interaction. They are shocked and dismayed by the intensity of their feelings and their behavior. They are left amazed, confused and scared. They want to know why they said what they said, and why they feel how they feel.

The Problem With Storing Feelings

One explanation could be that they deny their feelings and they get stored inside. It could be that, rather than feeling and expressing their true emotions, they transform them into feelings they consider acceptable.

When feelings are transformed they are also stored. These stored feelings build up over years and begin to push us to express them. The feelings will leak out at times we don’t expect. This leads to a sense that our feelings are out of control.The ability to regulate emotions is something that you learn from your parents and the environment where you re raised. One reason people cannot regulate their emotions is that they were not taught the value of feelings and the many helpful things they do for you.

As adults, we treat ourselves the way our caretakers treated us as children. We hold ourselves to the standards that were imposed upon us. We live by the rules we were taught. We hold beliefs about people – especially ourselves - that we do not even know we have.

This is true for all adults, especially for those who were neglected or abused. No parent, regardless of how hard he or she tries, can meet all the necessary needs of a child's development. Raising a healthy child truly does take a village, and even then we will reach adulthood with unmet needs and many developmental tasks not accomplished.

Helping Ourselves Through Self-Parenting

One way to help ourselves is through self-parenting. It is an essential skill for dealing with the Harsh Inner Critic and for adult functioning. Self-parenting is the process of developing our own mature, loving parent who is capable of loving all of you – the opposite of the Harsh Inner Critic.

Self-parenting helps the wounded child inside of you heal and grow. It is created through nurturing ourselves and regulating our behavior and feelings. It means that we have a part of ourselves that overrides the impulse to run wild or to be self-punishing.

We treat ourselves like we would a favored child and a favored adult. Simple? No.

Complicated? Yes. It is a contradictory concept that is necessary for happy and productive living.

The process of learning how to treat ourselves begins at birth. We learn how we are valued through how our main caretaker treats us, even before we know we are learning it. Those cues form who we are and how we believe we deserve to be treated.

Learning What We Need

Self-parenting means learning what we need and how to be that good parent or adult who will provide them. It teaches us to align what we want with what is good for us.

Successful self-parenting begins with learning about all our aspects and traits so we can find the pieces of ourselves that need attention. Because no parent or parents can provide for every single developmental need of a child, there are parts of each of us that were neglected, or experienced trauma, or hurt. They are confused, immature, and dysfunctional. These aspects of ourselves do not know how to live life on life’s terms and thrive.

Self-Parenting is About Giving Ourselves What We Need.

In self-parenting, we identify those areas that need nurture, discipline, and transformation. The victimized internal child, the bully that picks on that child and the rescuer that thinks that he or she can live life without help (See Internal Drama Triangle) so that we can begin to treat ourselves with love, respect, and concern.

The good news is that we can heal the wounds of the past. We can reduce the deficits from childhood through self-parenting. With the help of a loving inner parent, you can meet the unmet needs from childhood.

Next week, I will talk about specific ways to self-parent.


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