When I first started recovery, I was more concerned about being a father to my daughters and how much a failed marriage would model negatively on them. I didn’t truly understand I failed at parenting myself.
I was so worried about my marriage and my girls, especially since my daughters were at such a young age, my energy was tied to a timeline of “fix me, fix my marriage, and do it yesterday.” My belief was due to a fear that my time was limited before they too, would have negative patterns wired in their brains for years to come.
And unfortunately, as much as I wanted to be a healthy model for my girls, not learning how to parent myself, kept me locked in this childhood wounded state and a belief that my divorce proved I was unworthy of love, invisible, and not important.
Instead of loving and nurturing me, I held on tightly to a marriage that was destroying all of us.
What I’ve learned through my own recovery, and what neuroscience is now proving, is that we do have the power and the ability to reshape and rewire our brains. We don’t have to stay locked in childhood patterns. Yes, habits and patterns are hard to break, and yet, we can become aware of them and take the necessary steps to change and grow. There is hope.
Dr. Shefali calls this “awakening”.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary is the author of The Conscious Parent who explains how the majority of parents try to heal their own childhood wounding through their children, instead of allowing their children to become the separate beings they were born to be.
Conscious Parenting – Ted Talk
Dr. Shefali Tsabary
Dr. Shefali explains:
The key to conscious parenting is to “awaken the disruption of your patterns so you do not pass on your unconscious emotional legacies to your children…Every trigger you experience with your child is really an inner trigger. It’s a triggering of your own inner wound. It has nothing to do with your child. Therefore, there is no bad child. All the badness you are projecting onto them is coming from your own inner sense of badness. The reason why this is [important] is because I’ve seen so many children being destroyed by parents who believe they are bad. There are no bad children, it’s just broken parents.”
“Awakening is a lonely process. You will be doing it alone. But as you keep doing it, you will then attract a more like minded, like hearted tribe. You’ll attract and you’ll be ready to receive more healthy relationships as you become healthy and whole. But you may have to leave old relationships behind.”
The Different Layers of Awakening
- The Material World: “The first layer I like to speak about is your awareness that we live in a material world that is never going to give us sustainable happiness or joy or freedom…we are stuck in the material world…where you’re constantly reacting to life as if life is against you. That is the most common prevalent way of living.”
- The Psychological Realm: “Then you begin to awaken a little bit you go into the psychological realm. You begin to go back into your ancestral legacies, your patterns. You begin to understand, wow, I’m not living a life, I’m living a pattern. And the pattern comes from my childhood and now I need to deconstruct that and begin to disrupt those patterns…Get in touch with your inner child, what was left wounded, and how do we heal that. And I strongly suggest everyone to be in therapy because we do have psychological baggage that we need to clear up.”
- The Spiritual and Transcendence Layers: “Then as you ascend, you get into the spiritual and the transcendence layers of awakening. And that’s where you realize ok, I’ve done the psychological healing, I’ve left the matrix of the material world, and now I want to discover who I truly am. And in order to truly discover those depths of your deepest registers of existence, you go into a contemplative practice.”
If you’re interested in more insights I had listening to Dr. Shefali, check out my blog titled Breaking Free From Judgment that I had written this almost a year ago to help me learn how growing up, nature, nurture, and addiction affects our judgments about who we are and how that then plays into how we parent our children and the inner child within us.
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my wise atheist friend (yes Solomon is a play on words). I’ve known him since college. We’ve traveled the past 30 years (has it truly been that long? Crap! It has!) on this journey called life. Looking back to when we met in college, one of the classes we took together was an Inner Child psychology class. And here I am, 30 years later digging deeper into my inner child than ever.
Solomon is currently doing ACT group therapy based around the model of the Hexaflex. ACT, which stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, is a behavior therapy about taking action. It’s a therapy based around mindfulness, teaching people to “just notice,” accept, and embrace their thoughts, feelings, sensations and memories, rather than trying to control them. The model of the Hexaflex forms the six core processes that helps structure and guide treatment. Group therapy uses experiential exercises, metaphors, stories, writing, and value-directed goal setting to help individuals.
I’ve been doing Solomon’s weekly assignments with him and will most likely blog about those processes at a later date. There was one conversation that the two of us had which truly got me thinking.
“Solomon, I’d like to hear more about this group therapy class your taking,” I ask as I take a bite of pizza at lunch. It’s rare that Solomon and I hang out together. Most of our conversations are usually done over the phone. While I enjoy our hour plus long discussions, meeting in person is so much nicer.
Solomon’s eyes light up as he explains the Hexaflex model and starts in on the first assignment about values and goals. “Here’s the cool thing we did. After thinking about our values, goals, and where we want to be in the future we had to write down, what would your 80-year-old self say to you today? I mean, if you’re now 80 years old with all the wisdom you have gained, what would you tell a younger version of yourself?”
“I like that,” I reply, nodding my head. “Gives you a sense of direction. A goal for the rest of your life.”
“Exactly!” Solomon grins, points his finger, then leans back in the booth. “Once you figure out who you want to be and how you want to live your life, then what do you need to do today to become that 80-year-old so he can pass the wisdom down to you.”
“I remember Rafiki once said something similar about my relationship with my ex. He asked me what I wanted my relationship to look like in ten years, then challenged me to take the baby steps to be the person I wanted to be in the future.”
“It’s a very profound idea. And rather simple when you think about it.” Solomon takes a bite out of his meatballs. ‘Maybe I didn’t only want the salad today,’ I think to myself. Oh well.
“The thing is,” Solomon continues, “we go about our lives worrying about what the future will bring in the material sense. We don’t put the energy into figuring out who we want to be and do the introspective work to become that person for ourselves, our loved ones, and the community we live in.”
“To become that person,” I add, “is really learning how to love and accept all of who we are.”
“And that,” Solomon concludes, “is the key to this therapy. Accept. Choose. Take Action. The core of being mindful. The steps that you can take to awaken yourself to the world around you.”
“You do realize Solomon. I mean you say you aren’t religious. And I probably shouldn’t go there, but I just have to point it out. This therapy sounds like it has some roots in Buddhism. And in college, you highly recommended I read the book The Tao of Pooh. Maybe there’s a bit of spirituality within you yet.”
Solomon laughs, “I may follow certain principles of different faiths because they match my morals and values, but it doesn’t mean I must believe in a supreme being.”
“I don’t know,” I wink. “There still may be hope for you yet.”
Letter to Me
The other day I was driving in the car and Brad Paisley’s song, Letter to Me came on the radio. I have listened to this song for years and have enjoyed the meaning of being seventeen and finding a letter from your older self.
Unexpectedly, the tears started streaming down my face. This song is about all the things that happened to him as a teen. But what if…
What if it was my 80-year old writing to my teen?
What if it was my 80-year old writing to my 30-year-old when he got married?
What if I received a letter when my wife was pregnant with our first child and I had so much internal hate towards myself as a human?
What if I had a letter when I first went into treatment and it felt as if my world was crumbling before me?
What if I had received a letter just before writing this blog three years ago when I had moved out of the house and was facing divorce with my ex?
What would my 80-year-old tell me today, after I have signed the divorce papers and everything has been finalized? What would he tell me about my next thirty years (hey that’s another country song) in his journey of life?
What must I do in order to become that 80-year old that will help guide me and love me for who I am, with all my imperfections?
It Starts with Our Inner Child
“Inside each of us resides the truth, the absolute truth. But sometimes the truth is hidden in a hall of mirrors. Sometimes we believe we are viewing the real thing, when in fact we are viewing a facsimile, a distortion…We too, must shatter the mirrors. We must look into ourselves and root out the distortions until that thing which we know in our hearts is perfect and true, stands before us.”
~ Garth Stein
I think back to a couple of days ago, watching my roommate’s child play. What must I give him to help him feel Seen, Soothed, and Safe?
What must I give myself?
What must you give yourself?
Better yet, grab a picture of you when you were a baby. When you were a toddler or a small child. When you were a teen. Keep these with you at all times.
Periodically, throughout the day, pull them out. What do each of your younger selves need from your adult, so they feel Seen, Soothed, and Safe?
Place your hand over your heart and check in with them daily. Feel them.
Remember, at first, there will be resistance. They’ll be closed off to you. There’ll be a fight. They’ll have their tantrums. They have never learned to trust. It’s in their nature to protect themselves.
Yet, eventually, they will open their wounds up to you. And that, my Fledgling, will hurt deeply.
It is your job to nurture them, to soothe them, and to put up boundaries to protect them.
We are born precious and loved. Our childhood wounding ends up dominating how we see ourselves and what we show to the world.
“That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.”
~ Garth Stein
What would your 80-year-old self write to you?
~ Lauren Daigle
I believe your 80-year-old would say you are loved.
I believe your 80-year-old would say you are strong.
I believe your 80-year-old would say you belong.
Integrate your adult with your inner child so you can learn to love the precious soul you are.
Take the steps to grow, so your 80-year-old can tell you how much you are loved and how strong you are.
You are the creator of your own destiny
Rise from the Ashes, both child and adult.
Together We Can Heal