Self-Parenting Strategy: Create an Ideal Inner Parent
Read the statements below and ask yourself if any of these apply to you:
1. “Everyone leaves me eventually. I’m unworthy.”
2. “It’s always my fault. I just can’t get it right.”
3. “I feel wary of other people’s intentions.”
4. “I give too much of myself to others and end up getting mistreated.”
5. “I feel so angry all the time.”
6. “I find it so hard to let go of bad memories. It’s not in me to forgive.”
If you have been doing the inner child work at the end of each lesson, you’ll have some idea about how your inner child has been hurt. Now, we can start working on reprogramming this wounded inner child and all the bad parenting we’ve internalized.
Creating an Ideal Inner Parent
An ideal inner parent is that part of you that is like a soul consultant. Think of it like your higher self, somebody who wants the best outcome for your life, practically and personally, in the most stable and positive way possible. Let’s explore this a bit more.
Dr. Daniel P Brown is a clinical psychologist at Harvard. He talks about five basic needs that must be met during childhood:
1. Safety & protection
3. Soothing & comfort
4. Expressed delight
5. Support & encouragement for self-development
When we don’t get any of these—and it’s hard for a parent to ceaselessly provide all of these needs—it creates emotional trauma and limiting self-beliefs that haunt us through adulthood.
A 4-year-old boy cries whenever he is sad. His father says, “Don’t be weak”, or “Stop it. Be a man.” The boy then understands that crying is not allowed, and therefore, must be bad. So, the emotional release he gets from crying is repressed, and the boy grows up associating sadness with being weak.
But Dr. Brown believes that such unhealthy patterns can be remapped by visualizing ideal parents. If we imagine such a parent over a period of time, we can remap our brain to create a positive working model of an inner parent to guide us.
Inner Child Work Exercise
Visualize yourself with an ideal parent.
This is a great exercise by Dr. Brown. Basically, he asks us to first settle down in a comfortable position. Now, imagine yourself as a child. You are in a family different from your real family. These parents are suited to your personality.
Imagine yourself in a scene with them where these parents are totally attuned to your needs and your personality. These parents know how to comfort you in the way you need to be comforted. Specifically, think of scenes where these parents give you the utmost sense of security and satisfaction.
Now, imagine another scene with your ideal parents. They are completely interested in your habits, behavior, and all your developmental activities. These ideal parents discuss your growth, your hobbies, and your internal state of mind. You feel deeply noticed by them.
Now, imagine another scene with these ideal parents where you are upset. Your ideal parents know exactly how to soothe you. They understand your problem on a deeper level, and they respond the way you need. Imagine all the ways they comfort you physically and emotionally.
Imagine yourself exploring and discovering something new with these ideal parents. They support you completely and that is bringing out the best in you. Your ideal parents are honest and they support you in your unique quests.
Now. Recall the lack you felt, the lack of something particular which you needed the most as a child, but never quite got. This feeling is a familiar one, and you have felt it many times before. Let yourself feel it now. Now, imagine your ideal parent steps into the scene and knows just the way you feel, and they respond in the exact way that you need them to respond.
After every scene, notice the way you feel in the company of your ideal parent. Notice your feelings after you have been heard, comforted, and nurtured by this ideal parent who knows the deepest part of you and wants the best for you.
Dr. Brown’s exercise has been developed for long-term practice and can be listened to as a guided meditation here.
You can journal about the scenes that you imagine with your ideal parents, and then write down the shift in your feelings after each scene.
In tomorrow’s lesson, we will discuss dealing with negative self-narratives.
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