Healing my inner child alive has been a big part of my life over the years, and I have been trying to do it through reparenting – a process where you give yourself the love which you didn’t receive as a child. It has not only helped me notice my own behavioural patterns, but has also helped me overcome my negative thoughts, be mindful of my emotions and grow much faster as a person.
While going to a therapist or a coach is the traditional way of reparenting, it is just the first step. You are required to do a lot of other self-care activities in order to speed up the healing process. As for me, I went to a therapist and also took the medicines as prescribed, but somehow none of that worked out for me. I am not trying to dissuade you from going to a therapist – you must if you want to – but you can also try reparenting on the side. It takes time, but you will surely come out as a stronger person. And I am saying this from my own personal experience.
I was raised in a house where I was constantly craving for love and affection. In my adulthood, when I came face-to-face with my past experience with my mother, it felt like I was unraveling many layers of my grievances against her. I realised that I had a lot of issues with how she treated me. I remember living a large part of my life in isolation.
I lost my father at the tender age of six and after that, my brother and I shared an abusive relationship. On top of that, due to patriarchy, I had to bear the burden of my gender. I used to cry and no one was there to listen to what I was going through. There was a lot of chaos and co-dependence. This is where my anxiety began, and it manifested in my eating disorder and depression.
I was born in a so-called upper caste patriarchal family, where I never received love and care from anyone. My brothers, on the other hand, got everything they wanted. When I married someone outside our caste, my entire family boycotted me. This impacted my mental health, and I had to deal with severe anxiety and panic attacks. Though I am successful today and am married to an amazing partner, the chaos in my mind is still there. I am 29 now, but the wounds of my childhood continue to haunt me.
Some time back, my friend Akanksha told me about the process of reparenting and its positive effects. As I learnt more about it, I realised that all parents are flawed in one way or other. We all fall short of being the parent our child needs and wants us to be. My mother wasn’t perfect either. As a result, many of us carry around childhood wounds that weigh us down and hold us back from our full potential. Thankfully, there is an inner child in all of us, right now, that we need to nurture and love unconditionally.
Reparenting is a concept used in psychotherapy that empowers you to overcome the pain from childhood without having to seek validation or closure from those who hurt you. You take on the active role as caregiver and nurturer for your past self, and thereby receive the empathy and connection you needed, but didn’t get from your caregivers. We can all benefit from comforting the hidden pain inside of us. Our inner child is the foundation for our relationships with others and the place from which we make automatic decisions about love, trust, and safety. The reality is that we live in a culture that does not teach conscious awareness, so most of us are born to unconscious parents.
Unconscious parents then repeat the same habits and patterns they’ve learned and imbibed. They operate from a wounded space because of their own unprocessed emotions. It’s important to understand that our parents operate from their own level of awareness.
Today I can say it was not my mother’s fault. It didn’t matter who she was as a person, or how much she loved me. She was doing the best she could.
Reparenting is our personal responsibility. Anyone can begin the process of reparenting themselves. It takes time, commitment, and patience – there is no quick fix. It will require you to show up every day. But it will also help you heal yourself and forgive. As for me, all I did was freeing my inner child and let her express her every emotion.
But discipline, I must say, was the most difficult part. There was no part of me that wanted to wake up early, go to the gym, or really do anything as “planned”. It was a process of grieving for my past self as well as allowing myself to see discipline in a different way. Another difficulty that I faced was finding happiness. It is an emotional experience. It’s the product of spontaneity and being present in the moment.
I am new to the reparenting process, but I can definitely say that I am on my way to become a different person. Now I know how to understand my emotions. I was not recognised and celebrated at home but through this process, I am learning to love myself, and so can you. Go for a walk for few minutes, meditate for few minutes, celebrate your achievements and so on.
Lastly, I would like to say that reparenting is a process. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s not something that happens over a couple of months. If you try to do too much of this work at once, you’ll become overwhelmed and fall back into old patterns. So give yourself time to grow and love yourself. And do not do it for your parents because eventually you will fall into the trap again and it’s completely okay to disconnect from social media for some time or give yourself some time.
Jagisha Arora has an MA in History and has worked as a freelance writer. She writes on issues of gender, caste and democracy.