It is never too late to heal and recover from the past. Doing so can help us to lead happier, healthier, and vibrant lives in the present. Reparenting is defined as the act of giving to yourself what you didn’t receive as a child. Our parents did the best they could with the knowledge and resources they had available at the time, but we all grow up with hurt and wounds from not having all of deepest needs met.
You may have heard the concept that each of us has an ‘inner child’ within our psyche. Janet Philbin is a licensed social worker, hypnotist, and conscious parenting coach. She describes the inner child as something real which exists within our subconscious. Our inner child is a reflection of those unmet needs from childhood.
Philbin says that if we are not aware of our inner child they can end up ‘running the show.’ We end up reacting in ways similar to how we did as a child. For example, using coping skills such as ‘tantrums, becoming a people pleaser, lying, withdrawing, enabling,’ This can be challenging but there are ways we can connect to our inner child and meet their needs, so that we can reparent ourselves.
It starts by beginning to recognise and be aware that you have an inner child. If you’re having an emotional, work or relationship issue, you could start asking yourself if the problem is in the present, or if in some way your inner child is being triggered. Philbin recommends that you ‘tune into your physical body, and the physical signs you are feeling stressed and upset.’ Perhaps you have knots of tension or a racing heart. You can ask yourself, what would be the most loving way to treat your physical body, and inner child in that moment? This allows you to undo habits of not listening to yourself that may have been internalised as children.
Journaling can be a helpful way to get back in touch with your inner child. You could ask yourself ‘what does your inner child need right now’? Then simply write down the answers that come into your mind. Follow your thoughts without censoring or judging. Just write whatever comes into your head even if it seems surprising or ridiculous.
This allows your inner child to speak and tell you what they need. Philbin also suggests asking a series of questions with your dominant writing hand, and then writing down the replies with your non-dominant hand. This can be a powerful way to connect with the subconscious mind.
As we grow, we tend to internalise the words that were spoken to us as children. So if you were chastised or criticised this can become your inner voice. How do you speak to yourself? This inner voice may rumble away in the background and you may not even be consciously aware of it. It can affect your mood and self-esteem, giving you a faulty impression of your worth and goodness.
Start to listen to what this voice is saying. Just watch your thoughts about yourself as you go about your day. Notice if they are kind and understanding of your challenges, or struggles, or if they are overly harsh or judgemental. Philbin recommends that you ‘walk back the thoughts’ and say the exact opposite to yourself out loud. If the thought is, you are not worth it, say out loud “I am worth it.” Philbin says that ‘Speaking the positive aloud is an antidote because when we say something aloud, we hear it and feel it. Words have energy and when we speak the words aloud it is empowering.’
Another suggestion is to write down your negative self-talk and limiting beliefs. You can let go of what you have written by burning or shredding the page. You could also write down positive statements to counteract the negative ones and leave them on post-it notes around the house as reminders.
Doing these practises regularly and just making it a habit to have an ongoing dialogue with your inner child can help you heal from the past and become more empowered in the present. Life is so much brighter and more joyful when we bring our inner child along for the ride with nurturing and love.