COVID has transformed the way we take care of our mental health. But mostly, it’s drawn attention to our lack of it. The waves of lockdown brought about a shared mental turmoil but this one was unique. There were no distractions from it. No deadlines to adhere, and no parties to attend.
I, too, had a lot of time on my hands (India imposed a complete lockdown for three months), and that’s when I began noticing my own mental patterns. What surfaced, not for the first time, were shocking mental habits that I’d been clinging to for years.
Let me start with this: research concludes that most of our unhealthy patterns were set during childhood, typically by unwholesome parenting and household. Now, before you cluck your tongue or shut this down: allow me to explain.
All parents are not bad parents.
But all parents are flawed people.
Because all humans are flawed people.
Parenting is just one aspect of an adult’s life issues. Most adults grapple with multiple issues while they bring up a child. Soul crushing jobs. Too many children to deal with. Health problems. Messy divorces. Domestic violence. Anxiety. Existential issues. It may be hard to imagine but most of our parents did struggle with some of the other issues while they put on their smiles and got on with parenting us.
This is the reason why parents, even those with the best intentions, are bound to leave crucial gaps in their child’s upbringing that, over time, create unhealthy patterns.
What Is Re-Parenting?
Sigmund Freud (the founder of psychoanalysis) theorized that behind every mental or emotional hysteria, there was a causal trauma experienced early in life. This was known as “aetiology”, i.e., treating a person by establishing the association between the problem and its cause.
Take anger issues, for example. To heal an anger issue, psychology asks us to first understand what is it that constantly makes us angry. Why do we get triggered so easily? What’s at the bottom of our emotional pit that’s burning still?
Learning the cause of a problem as a means to treat it, is aetiology.
Re-parenting, or “self-parenting”, is one such strategy where you heal your childhood issues by becoming your own parent—a healthy, patient, and loving parent, a parent that you needed but didn’t have—and the ultimate goal of this is to improve your life by improving the relationship with yourself.
Psychologist Kati Morton describes re-parenting as “figuring out what it was that we needed when we were little, and then giving that to ourselves now.”
When done with another person—a close friend, or a therapist—it’s called “re-parenting”. When you do it with yourself, it’s “self-parenting”.
Why It’s Important to Re-Parent: What’s the End Goal Here?
Understanding the origins of your personality and working through your deeper issues results in a calmer, more confident adult. You find it easier to face life challenges and triggers rather than pushing them away or hiding behind unhelpful, short-term strategies. Over time, it also helps you create self-worth, because now you not only know the real you but you also fully accept yourself. Perhaps the biggest benefit of self-parenting is that it gives you a peek into your own parenting strategies and how you can alter these to give a better future to your children.
Identify Your Emotional Pattern
To be able to dive deeper into re-parenting, we need to start with our personality concerns. That means we chalk out the negative, limiting, self-sabotaging emotional habits that we really want to break out of.
This is your first exercise in the “Inner Child Work” program that I’ve created as a part of this course. Every day, I will include a new exercise to be performed as Inner Child Work. I promise I’m going to explain all about this term and its origins in the next chapter, but for now, let’s figure out this exercise.
I’ll also provide you a separate “Inner Child Worksheet” with this course as the last lesson. Inner Child Work is something you need to do long term. The Worksheet will be a blueprint for strategies you can implement time and again to comprehend and work through your issues.
Inner Child Work Exercise
Write down the core issues that bother you about your personality. It could be your reaction to particular events or habits you struggle with.
Here’s an excerpt from my own exercise sheet:
• I’m afraid of being seen as “too sensitive” or “hyper” by others. I flare up if someone calls me sensitive, or asks me to “relax”. It brings a lot of resentment, and it takes some effort for me to calm down.
• I criticize myself very harshly. Like, it’s really hard for me to just take a break even if I’m tired. I also have anxiety about being productive. I always feel guilty if I take time off.
In the next chapter, you will learn about the “Inner Child” and its role in shaping who you are.
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