By Kate Orson
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.
How many times have you heard the phrase, waiting for the other shoe to drop?
I know I have said it many times.
That phrase has its origins in the tenements of New York City. The story goes that at the turn of the century, apartments were built with bedrooms on top of one another. It was common to hear your upstairs neighbor take off a shoe, drop it, and then repeat the action. In other words, waiting for the sound of the other shoe to hit the floor. It became known as an anticipation for something you knew was coming.
This has now become synonymous with anxiety, specifically anticipatory anxiety. According to psychology today, about 85 percent of things that people worry about never happen. Think about that 85 percent of us are lost in thought, which creates an emotional experience of worry, anxiety or fear about something that will never happen. That uses a lot of emotional and physical energy. It can leave you feeling exhausted, sad, confused, unable to take action steps to move forward in your life and feeling disconnected from the things that can bring you joy. It may even create the need to turn away from feelings because they are so painful, which can lead to all types of addiction and distractions.
What I have come to understand through working with my clients, is that this type of anticipatory fear is actually held in our cellular memory. That means that the painful memory from a past event is so strong that the energy and the physical feeling you experienced from that event, actually gets lodged in your body. When a memory is lodged in the body the result may be that every time you feel, experience, go through, or anticipate an event that is similar to the original painful memory your body reacts with the same response. The fear you hold onto rises to the top and you get stuck in the cycle of fear and anxiety.
You respond from a place of fear, a fear that was trapped in your body.
As a clinician and as a hypnotherapist I understand this with a unique perspective. First, through the lens of Polyvagal Theory and second through the lens of the subconscious mind. Polyvagal theory takes us through the experience of the autonomic nervous system and its three predictable pathways of response. These are: Ventral Vagal, Sympathetic and Dorsal Vagal.
Each pathway has unique adaptive responses to help us survive. We interpret these responses through neuroception. Neuroception is our ability to detect what is going on in our environment, this happens without conscious awareness, just like we are not consciously aware of how often we blink, it just happens. When we are detecting what is happening in our environment we are always assessing for cues of safety and cues of danger. Based on our interpretation of the cue, either safety or danger, we respond from one of the three pathways of the autonomic nervous system. When we are in Ventral Vagal, we are experiencing safety and connection. When we are in Sympathetic, we are in a mobilized fight-flight state. When we are in Dorsal Vagal, we are in a state of immobilization, conserving our energy and resources.
Keeping Polyvagal theory in mind lets move onto understanding why we are waiting for the other shoe to drop from the perspective of the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind has no sense of time, it does not know the difference between real and imagination, and it reacts from old “programming” until those old programmed messages are healed. When it comes to the emotional experience of anxiety, this is something that is experienced when our Sympathetic system is activated.
Anxiety is an emotion.
We interpret a physical sensation we feel in the body and label it anxiety or maybe fear. We are activated in some way. If the sensation feels like a tightness in the chest we immediately interpret that as a cue of danger. This happens because we learned a long time ago, maybe as a child, that every time my parents fight, I get scared, my chest gets tight and I am anticipating something really bad may happen next. Now, it does not matter if something really bad happened or not, the body now has a cellular memory of a tight chest and this is connected to strong emotions. The Sympathetic system is activated, and you are in fight or flight. You learned to experience anticipatory anxiety every time you get this feeling of a tightness in the chest. Since the subconscious mind has no sense of time you respond to the event in front of you with the same or very similar coping skills you developed when you were young.
Now, as an adult, every time the Sympathetic system is active you experience this anticipatory anxiety. It is interpreted as a cue of danger. The shoe is about to drop. What if you were able to change this perception? What if you still felt that feeling in your chest but did not have to automatically jump into your imagination and go into all of the stories of a bad outcome. What if the feeling in your chest was just a message to you to pay attention to yourself for a moment or two? It is an invitation to tune into what you are internally experiencing, slow down, to carefully assess the situation. Imagine that the tight feeling did not mean something bad was going to happen but instead means you can have a positive outcome in this situation.
You can be in charge of how you respond.
It is possible what you are anticipating is a good thing and when you get that feeling in your chest it means to be excited about the next event and not scared. You have the power to change your response, you have the power to change your thoughts.
Here are a some steps to take on how to do this.
- When you feel that physical feeling in your body stop and pause.
- Take a breath in, let the exhale be longer than the inhale.
- Take a few of these breaths, being sure when you inhale you are taking deep abdominal breaths so you can feel your belly rise up each time you inhale.
- Notice how the physical feeling in the body begins to shift or become alleviated as you breathe this way.
- Become aware of your physical body. Feel your feet on the floor, your body in your chair, take note of the time, day, what clothes you are wearing. Reorient yourself to the present moment.
- Talk to yourself by asking questions like; what is the truth of the situation right now? What are the real possible outcomes? What is the best outcome? What is the worst?
- You are empowered to choose how you will approach the situation. Will you approach in from the perspective of the worst outcome or the best?
- You get to choose the way you respond. What emotional and physical energy do you want to bring to the situation?
- Take another breath and notice the shift within you.
- Now you can move forward and choose to interpret that feeling in your chest differently. Now it gets to mean to stop, pause, pay attention and choose you.
When you step into the empowered self by choosing you, you are letting yourself know you are safe. You are in charge of how you respond. You are here in this present moment, not five, ten or thirty years ago in the past. You no longer need to imagine bad outcomes with anticipatory anxiety of a shoe dropping. In fact, you get to move into a new space where you do not have to hear the shoe drop at all.
Loving oneself is a daily practice of self care.
Love is something that is ongoing.
It is something to be celebrated daily for yourself.
Love who you are, make time for you.
Do not wait for another to tell you or show you they love you in order for you to feel it or be it. This will not fully work, the effect will be temporary. It will be temporary because you first need to love you. When love comes from the outside without having a home on the inside it cannot fully be felt, it “wears” off. However, when you – love you, then love from another can stick because you already believe, know and feel the love. Essentially, it has a place to call home within your very own heart. A place within you that feels safe with being loved!
As you begin to acknowledge that you need to love yourself, you are actually stepping out of our own shadow. This means you begin to see that the story you have been telling yourself about why you are not lovable, why you are not really worthy of love and making excuses for others for not loving you begins to fall away. When you open your heart to yourself, then you open up your ability to love yourself. And when you open up to loving yourself, it is at that time that you are making room for another to love you.
We can not take in from another which we already do not possess within.
We have difficulty taking this in because we can not recognize it. Sometimes, we can not even believe that another would feel this way towards us or about us. It is like learning to read a new language, you may see letters on the page but without understanding the words the letters are forming, you can not take it in or understand it. You have no internal context for interpreting the word in front of you.
It is the same for love. If you do not know love for yourself, you can not, or will have a pretty hard time, recognizing it coming to you from another.
Today is the day to start loving yourself.
How do you do that?
Well, it starts with you. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Place your hand over your heart and say, “I love you,” silently in your mind.
2. Stand in front of a mirror, look into your own eyes and say, “I love you,” to yourself while placing your hand on your heart.
3. Write it down. Write, Dear(fill in your name), I love you. Write down 3 positive attributes. Write these attributes down 3 times on the same page and then read it aloud.
4. Do a is self care activity. Pick something that brings you joy. Some examples may be listening to music, reading a book, cooking a favorite meal, calling a friend, exercising or meditating. The options are limitless. You are only limited by your imagination.
5. Stay present and remind yourself that at this moment in time you are ok just as you are.
6. Choose you! You get to choose to let go of all you have held onto that has hurt you.
7. Imagine sending love from your own heart to any part of you from the past or present that is in pain and open up to the love you have for yourself.
Love does not happen in a small container. Love is abundant. Love really is everywhere when you open yourself up to see it, take it in and own it as a part of you.
Pause here with me now. Place your hand on your heart with me, take a breath in and say, “I love you.” Hold it there, feel the warmth, and when you are ready, exhale.
If you want to learn more about this, my book, Show Up For Yourself, explores this and helps you find a way toward healing.
If you have questions DM me in Instagram or send me a message through my website.
What is a nervous system to do?
Our children feel it, we feel it. When under stress our thoughts tend to take us into the future with worry. Right now, during the pandemic children all over the world are in a variety of new learning situations for school. Parents are worried. Parents of young children are worried about the impact of online school due to the lack of socialization and learning through play and sharing. Parents of older children are worried about how this will affect their child’s ability to get into college or be successful in life after graduation. We are all worried and wondering if our child is really learning what they need to learn and questioning if they are missing out. We are living in the year 2020, yet we are bringing the worry about some future event into the now.
The stressors you are under cause you to become emotionally dysregulated, and if you are dysregulated then your children may also be feeling dysregulated.
My clients often ask, “What am I supposed to do when I am feeling so dysregulated and I still have to parent my children?”
Essentially, they are asking, when I am dysregulated, how can I show up for my children?
This question applies to all life stressors not just the pandemic, online school and the current ways we have had to significantly alter our day to day lives.
It is up to you, the parent, to first regulate your own nervous system. Once your nervous system is regulated then you can show up for your children and help them by becoming their co-regulating partner. You do this for and with them, no matter how old your child is. Let’s explore how to do this through the lens of Polyvagal theory. Polyvagal theory gives a framework to understand your autonomic nervous system.
What is the autonomic nervous system?
The autonomic nervous system is always behind the scenes working and taking in the environment. Assessing what we see, feel, hear, and sense for cues of safety and cues of danger. This is called neuroception. The autonomic nervous system is always perceiving what is going on in our lives, in each and every moment. We react or respond based on whatever is coming into our autonomic nervous system through neuroception.
Based on our experiences, we respond through a hierarchy of one of three autonomic states when outside information comes into our awareness.
The 3 autonomic states are:
- The Ventral state. We feel safe and connected here. When we are in this place we respond, we do not react. We feel good, balanced, calm and connected. We also feel safe in our environment. When we are in this feeling of safety and connection we can pause, look at the situation with some objectivity and then thoughtfully respond.
- The Sympathetic state. Mobilization, fight or flight. Mobilization gets us moving and taking action which can be a good thing. However, many times mobilization is fueled by anxiety and/or fear. Not enough to cause collapse but enough to cause us not to function at the highest level we can function at, usually we react. Many of the times these reactions are not in our best interests or the best interest of our child. These reactions can look like yelling, punishing or other reactions that make no sense and much of it comes from a place of fear.
- The Dorsal Ventral State- Feeling immobilized or collapsing. We shut down because outside influences are way too much for us.
These are the three states of our Autonomic Nervous System. Our children have these 3 states as well. We are born with them and they develop over time. When we learn how to regulate our nervous system, we can be a co-regulating partner for our child’s nervous system. That is the key.
Become a co-regulator.
Tips and tricks, you can use to regulate yours and your child’s autonomic nervous system.
- Begin to be aware of your own nervous system by asking questions like: What is happening within you when you become overwhelmed or triggered by your child or an outside event? What happens within your body when you think about how you feel in relation to the trigger? You may feel or experience fear, confusion, anxiety. You may feel like a victim and may wind up shutting down or becoming very anxious. These reactions bring us into either a dorsal or sympathetic state. We do not function optimally when in those states. The goal is to move up the hierarchy into a ventral state.
- When you feel these big feelings of anxiety ask yourself these questions:
“In this moment that I am in, what is the response I need in order to begin to feel better? “
“Where am I feeling it in my body?”
“What does my body need to do right now to feel more calm and balanced?”
– Maybe you need to take a few breaths, grab a glass of water, take a walk, sit in quiet, stretch or anything else that helps you move into a place of balance inside.
-You are now tuning into and taking care of your nervous system. When you take care of your needs you can move from anxiety into the calm place of safety, the ventral state.
- Once you are back in safety then you can ask: What does my child need, in this moment, right now from me?
If you respond to your child from a place of anxiety, fear or uncertainty without taking care of you first, your child will respond to your anxiety, fear and uncertainty. Your child will mirror back to you the state you are in.
Your child’s nervous system reads your nervous system.
Autonomic nervous systems communicate with one another. This is why we need to take care of our autonomic nervous system first, before interacting with our child. Once we become aware of this, we can regulate ourselves, this sends our child cues of safety. In other words:
Your calm nervous system calms their nervous system.
Ways to create autonomic safety for your child’s nervous system:
- The tone of your voice– Prosody- when we speak in a calm, soft tone of voice your child’s nervous system will calm down. The research has shown that the tone of your voice actually matters more than what you are actually saying.
- Non-language sounds like hmms, ahhs and ah-ah allows your child to know they are being heard. This non-language sound is called a vocal burst and it lets your child know I hear you and you are safe telling this to me.
- Tilt your head– when you are listening to someone, tilt your head to the right or left. This creates safety. This goes back to our primitive brains and our basic needs for safety. If the neck is exposed, you are at risk. If you show your neck to another you let their nervous system know there is no risk here.
- A soft stare or soft eye contact. A soft gaze
- A welcoming facial expression. Smile with your eyes.
Three essential elements to help your child’s nervous system feel safe:
-Our nervous systems need these three elements to feel safe during uncertain times.
- Context: Information- We need answers to the questions of who, what, where, when and why. Giving this kind of explicit context and information gives our nervous system enough information that lets us know we are safe.
- Choice: Choice helps our nervous system feel safe. We need to find creative ways to create choices. This will be different for each child based on their needs and learning abilities. If your child is old enough, include them in coming up with creative choice.
- Connection: This is key, and it goes hand in hand with conscious parenting. Connection over correction. Keep coming back and ask yourself how I can be most connected with my child right now. We want to have connections to help them feel safe to decrease anxiety and strengthen the relationship.
Examples for creating safety:
-Have a dance party on a break.
– Give a hug.
– Give a cue of safety: sing a song softly into their ear that you used to sing when they were a baby while you rock and hug them. This works to calm their nervous system because the subconscious mind will remember. This will help them feel safe and help their nervous system regulate. What are the things you can bring forward from the past that used to be a cue of safety for your child and use it in the present?
-You are only limited by your imagination.
Have compassion for yourself and your child. This is a learning process. The more you learn about your own nervous system and how to regulate yourself, the better you will be to help them regulate theirs. You are your child’s co-regulating partner.
“What does conscious parenting mean?”
“Who is a conscious parent?”
“What does it mean to be a conscious parent?”
These are the questions I was asking myself as I began to delve into the world of conscious parenting. My own journey into this subject began quite by chance from a book recommendation. The book, The Awakened Family by Dr. Shefali Tsabary, felt like it was speaking directly to me. One of the first sentences that I read was: “We awaken when we become aware of who we truly are.”
To me, that message was that our essence, our true self is important. And while I was intrigued by the desire to find my true self, I also immediately wanted to know how this related at all to parenting.
As a clinical psychologist who merges the world of Western psychology and Eastern philosophy, Dr. Shefali has a totally different approach to parenting than anything I had ever encountered or experienced. She talks about our job of parenting our children as raising a spirit and honoring their essence—that the children who are delivered to us are done so for a reason. According to Dr. Shefali, conscious parents implicitly trust their child’s intuition to recognize their own destiny.
But here’s the part that might really blow your mind: They are brought to us to mirror back to us the parts of ourselves that we need to pay attention to and to heal. This aspect of Dr. Shefali’s approach to conscious parenting gets me so excited. It is why I have become so passionate about the subject, and why I feel a calling to teach and share this philosophy with as many people as possible.
This premise is also the foundation for understanding the reasons why we yell and provides us with the tools to learn how to stop yelling and start connecting.
Coming back to my original questions about what is a conscious parent and how we can become one: Conscious parenting uses ordinary, moment-by-moment interactions with our children to enable an authentic connection with them.
By being present, conscious and aware in the moment, overtime, a new family dynamic emerges which can dramatically impact families. When a parent changes their own reactions, behaviors, responses, and interactions the child’s behavior changes. This leads to a behavioral shift in relationships. How we respond to them, not react, becomes our own inner barometer of how conscious we are.
A conscious parent is something that is learned. It is learned through the actual experience of relating to our children, things we cannot learn by reading all of the many “how to” parenting books that are out there.
As we learn to become conscious parents some questions arise:
- Can we accept our children in their “as is” state in each moment?
- Can we get our entire heart and mind involved and in agreement to the process?
- Can we also accept the kind of parent we need to be for our particular child
- Can we be the parent our child needs us to be as opposed to the parent we think they need?
- Can we allow them to exist without the snares of our own expectations?
These are some of the challenges that we have to navigate in becoming a conscious parent. Conscious parenting spoke so deeply to me because of my many years of clinical work as a social worker and as a hypnotherapist. I understand the way our deeper mind works and how unresolved, unhealed childhood conflicts impact us in our adult lives. These unresolved issues will and do directly affect the way we parent and we probably don’t even realize the degree to which this happens. Being unaware of those issues is one of the reasons we wind up yelling.
Dr. Shefali teaches us that when we react to our children’s emotional reactions, tantrums, defiance, etc. we are reacting from our own child inside of us who is now triggered and is fighting back. She asks us to tune in and pay attention to our own inner landscape so we do not react from the place of our wounded inner child but instead can respond to our child from our adult loving self.
I know we can all heal our inner child; I am living proof. If our child is shining light onto the issues that we—as parents—need to address, acknowledging it is the first step. The next step is actually addressing it so that we can heal. We then can be in a healthier place with ourselves, and with our children. We will finally be able to connect with them and develop stronger bonds. This is your invitation to begin to peel back the layers to a better self-understanding, to yell less and to connect more.
Janet Philbin is the author of the book, Show Up For Yourself- A Guide to Inner Awareness and Growth. In this book she takes the reader on a journey to heal their own inner child. When we heal our own pain of the past it no longer will have control over us in the present. If this article speaks to your heart, the book will give you a framework to help you heal the pain that your heart has been holding. You can get a copy of the book here: https://amzn.to/3cgxKCp.
Janet works with clients worldwide, helping them to heal the wounds their inner child carry. You can reach her through her website, https://janetphilbin.com/. She is also available to come speak at your event, business or school.
the end of my meditation on 3/23/20 I saw an image of a red poppy flower. I did
not know why I saw this image. It was just there. When things show up for me in
my meditations, I know that is an invitation for me to learn more. I needed to
understand what this poppy was all about. I went straight to google. This is
what I learned:
poppy became an enduring symbol of remembrance for those who lost their lives
are many meanings of the poppy flower. Here are some of the meanings:
-restful sleep and recovery
-consolation for a loss or death in the
-remembering the fallen of various wars
-a lively imagination
-messages delivered in dreams
-resurrection and eternal life
-beauty and success
-extravagance and luxury
are in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic at the moment. After reading all
these meanings it struck me that I was shown this poppy in meditation for a
believe the poppy is here to offer us the opportunity to remember we are all
one, that we are all connected, and to remember to take care of the Earth. When
we take care of the Earth as a global community, we are taking good care of
each and every one of us individually.
want to take a look at those meanings more closely.
all need rest, sleep and time to recover. There are thousands of people sick
all over the globe who need to heal. There are way too many who have died all
over the world from this virus and they need to be remembered. Their families
need love, kindness, support and compassion.
are fighting a new world war. All of us, no matter our race, color, country of
origin are all in this together. It is a worldwide collective effort to bring
healing to humanity.
all need to be imaginative at this time to come up with new ways to be, to
interact with one another, to create and from those creations boost the economy
when life gets to hit the “restart” button.
are born out of our dreams. I encourage you to listen to your dreams.
Messages are coming to you; ideas are coming through. See what you can harness.
is beauty and success everywhere. Have you been getting outside more? Taking
walks? Do you see the beauty of the sky? The sun? The flowers? The kids playing
with parents in their yards or on their bicycles? Chalk drawings of rainbows
and colored pictures of rainbows hung in windows by children who are teaching
us to look at the beauty, look for the silver lining. There is a silver lining.
is a lesson that extravagance and luxury is not what is needed. Things take us
away from our true self. Look around at all the extravagant things you own, if
you own them. What kind of meaning do they have now? Are they adding to the
emotional, psychological or spiritual value to your life? Are these things
really important to keep? Can you scale back, can you resist consumerism and do
with less extravagance? As a worldwide culture we have overindulged. What if we
began to become more objective and pause before we made that big purchase? What
if we just owned less and shared more.
we begin to think about the Earth again? Can we begin to think about each other
is my contribution. After my meditation and seeing the poppy I then asked
myself, “why am I being shown this and what am I supposed to do with it?” The
message and understanding came the next day. I am to share this message. In
today’s day and age what is the best way to share a message? A hashtag and a
photo. The #weareallone and #remember is for this time of the coronavirus. We
need to come together as one, as one energy, as one collective voice. You are
not different from your neighbor or the person of another race who lives on the
other side of the Earth, you are the same. We are all the same. We are one. One
humanity. We need to remember all who are fighting this illness and those who
have died. We also need to remember the front-line workers in health care who
are putting their lives on the line each and every day. Please share this post.
you can do:
and share the poster on all social media.
Help me share this message worldwide. Share the link for the blog on social media.
this post. Just like the ribbons we know for cancers. Awareness is key.
your children home.
part of the solution. Knowledge is the way to make changes.
one worldwide community we can heal and I believe we will all be in a better
place when we do.
love to all,