Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How To Become Your Own Loving Parent

At Adult Children Of Alcoholics meetings and in ACA books we learn that we need to become out own loving parents. The ACA Solution states:

"We learn to reparent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect."


"You will take responsibility for your own life and supply your own parenting."

But beyond these lofty goals there is not a lot of explanation of the mechanics of how this is supposed to happen. Just how does one become a loving, nurturing parent to themselves when they haven't experienced this in real life? One cannot give what they do not possess. Or, as Drs. Cloud and Townsend have said, it's a bit like expecting a car with an empty gas tank to fill itself up.

And what if your internal parent is judgmental and harsh? Or exacting, intolerant and perfectionistic? Then you may be just replicating the past and reinforcing your own dysfunction. It's not enough to just come out of denial and face the pain of the past. That only goes so far. That pain needs to be comforted, that hurt child needs to be loved. This is perhaps the most important part of the process.

Here is an insight into the exercise of discovering your inner child AND becoming your own NURTURING parent:

"First, one becomes conscious of his or her own inner child. Remaining unconscious is what empowers the dissociated inner child to take possession of the personality at times, to overpower the will of the adult. Next, we learn to take our inner child seriously, and to consciously communicate with that little girl or boy within: to listen to how he or she feels and what he or she needs from us here and now.

The often frustrated primal needs of that perennial inner child–for love, acceptance, protection, nurturance, understanding–remain the same today as when we were children. As pseudo-adults, we futilely attempt to force others into fulfilling these infantile needs for us. But this is doomed to failure. What we didn’t sufficiently receive in the past from our parents as children must be confronted in the present, painful though it may be.

We should not as adults now expect others to meet all of these unfulfilled childhood needs. They cannot. Authentic adulthood requires both accepting the painful past and the primary responsibility for taking care of that inner child’s needs, for being a “good enough” parent to him or her now–and in the future."
- Psychology Today, Stephen Diamond, Ph.D., practicing psychotherapist

I believe that becoming your own parent is a big step with a large learning curve for those that did not get it when they were young. So be gentle and patient with yourself. Go slow. In trying moments, ask your child what they need from you most. Is it a hug? An understanding tone and reassurance that it's going to be alright? Or simply to be recognized that they are present?

If you feel resistance to acting on the last four sentences above, ask yourself why. Is that your "judgmental" parent rearing it's ugly head, ready to scold you for having such foolish thoughts? Use this reaction not as a reason to further beat yourself up but simply to gauge how nurturing you are being to your own self right now.

Then ask your inner child how he or she feels and what they need from you here and now. Take a small step and be just a tad more nurturing to yourself than usual. And keep doing it consistently, especially during difficult situations when your inner kid needs you the most.

The more your inner child can trust you to be there for them, the more they will come out of the shadows to play and be free!


Anonymous said...

I believe everything you say is true. It is just difficult to learn how to do this. I guess when you have feelings that are not from an adult we must learn to be patient and loving with these feelings. I know abandonment has been a huge issue for me. I guess I need to assure the child more frequently that she is OK and things that go wrong are not my fault. I felt guilty for my mother's drinking or the fact that I couldn't stop it. I was told to be couregous in my recovery and at first I didn't understand but I think I am getting it. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Dealing with healing the Inner Child can be a difficult journey indeed. Be careful about the Therapist you choose. She or He may have Unresoved Codependent Issues Themselves. What you may experience is an exchange of Illusions Vs Illusions. You might never get to the Truth of your pain because they the Therapist are living in there own False reality and have no idea in having your best interest at heart. (Be Careful)

Anonymous said...

very own family member is lost due to her therapists influence, it's quite sad really, I have lost my favorite sister =/

Anonymous said...

I am often feeling that I am not a good enough parent- kind of like a teenage parent even though I'm in my forties. I realized that this was in fact 'beating myself up' and not helpful. I am trying, and I am doing a good job. It is helpful to me to say to the child when feelings are very "big" - "I gotcha" and "I know, it was so sad..." Validating the child's reality is very healing. We are good enough.