Reparenting Strategy: Track Your Feelings as a Habit
Jordan Peterson, in his bestseller book, 12 Rules for Life, says, “Treat yourself as if you were someone you were responsible for helping.”
For that, you need to first know yourself at a deeper level without ignoring those parts of you that you’d rather not see. And it is hard to admit weaknesses and flaws. But the whole point of self-parenting is to approach your issues from a place of objective understanding rather than self-blame or hatred.
The catch is: you’re not going to feel like it. You’re never going to feel like it. But you have to start and then you have to keep up. In other words, you have to cultivate a habit.
Which brings us to the question: How do you cultivate a habit?
This morning, I asked myself: What’s one common habit that binds the civilized world?
Bathing. We do it every day. But who says you need to take a bath as often as every day. It’s not essential for your daily survival. But we do it because it’s always been like that. Everybody else does it (or at least pretends to). Our mothers bathed us when we were little and now we can’t fathom a life sans bathing.
We don’t challenge it; we don’t over-contemplate it. We just do it, and now: it’s a habit.
That’s the key to forming a habit: do it before you challenge it (and that really holds true for bathing). A habit is something you do for its long term benefit, not the short-term gratification. On a cold day, you might not want to bathe but you know you can’t make that a habit.
Through self-parenting, we can identify our unhealthy emotional patterns and replace them with healthier, more sustainable emotional habits. Think about it: if you can live with an unhealthy emotional habit, then why couldn’t you live with a different, healthier one?
The Feelings Chart is an emotional tool that helps you keep track of your emotions.
It’s a printable circle that you can easily put up in your space. You start at the center of the circle where seven basic emotions are drawn. Choose one and as you go outwards, you are given options of layered emotions. Choose further, and you arrive at a complex, unique emotion that you’re actually feeling but you wouldn’t be able to tell right away. When you know exactly how you feel; it becomes easier to figure out specific remedies that will alleviate your issues.
On the surface, we hardly know what we feel. Take my example. I don’t feel good today. Now, if you would walk into the café where I’m sitting right now and ask me how I’m feeling, I’d probably say, “I don’t know—I just don’t feel very good today.” It’s an unclear message.
When I used the Feelings Chart, it indicated something else. I started with the feeling “bad” (because that was simple) and as I moved outward (but actually you move inwards), I immediately resonated with words like “Busy”. “Rushed”. “Overwhelmed”.
It lays down every unique emotion for us to recognize and absorb. You can use it when you undertake the Inner Child Work. Hopefully, it will help you access and place your emotions correctly.
Free Yourself from Enmeshment
Perhaps the most common form of self-sabotage we undertake on a daily basis is enmeshment. It happens when there are no clear boundaries in a relationship. We become too emotionally occupied with our family’s behavior towards us that we deny ourselves any independent mind space.
E.g., we might say to ourselves, “If only they could do ________, then I could finally ________.”
But when we base our personal growth on other people’s actions, we give away our power to them. If we keep waiting for Mom or Dad to understand us better or change in this or that way, ultimately, we’re just telling ourselves to stay in the same toxic thought-pattern because no matter how painful that is; it’s familiar territory.
The simple truth is: we cannot control other people, even if they are our parents.
Part of self-parenting is to extricate ourselves from these old narratives and reframe our point of view to that of an independent adult.
Next time, try something like: “It is my responsibility to ________ regardless of if my [Mom/Dad] ________ or not.”
In the last lesson, I will provide you with a consolidated worksheet for Inner Child Work. The goal is to inculcate this as a long term practice.
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