Healing our layers of pain and wounds from our childhood is a long process. So few of us received the loving listening and support we needed as children, so we are carrying around a lifetime of unheard pain and tears. There are times when it feels like trying to heal the pain is endless and sometimes we wonder – “Shouldn’t I be done by now? Why am I still feeling upset about things from my past after doing so much work to heal”? But healing is on-going work and we sometimes need to remind ourselves that healing is a process not a destination.
As we heal, our pain becomes easier to live with and we often move through painful experiences and are able to let them go. And as we learn how to support ourselves and get better at reaching out for support, it becomes easier to deal with the inevitable challenges and pain that life throws our way. But parenthood invites us again and again to tend to our sore parts and to work on ourselves.
So, how do we do the work and support ourselves to heal our pain? What does healing with Aware Parenting look like?
- Aware Parenting supports healing by encouraging us to explore our patterns and beliefs, to release and heal from our stress and trauma, to identify our unmet needs and find ways to meet them and to reconnect to our authentic selves.
- One of the core aspects of Aware Parenting is getting support for ourselves. Aletha Solter, the founder of Aware Parenting, writes “One of the most helpful things you can do for yourself (and your children) is to find someone who can listen to you and accept your feelings without judgement or advice”. If we haven’t received compassion ourselves, it’s very difficult to offer it to our children.
- Because we listen to our children and can see how powerful it is for them to be lovingly heard in their deep feelings, it also shows us how powerful it is to find someone who can listen to our deep feelings, who can tell us “I’m here, I’m listening and I care”.
- It encourages us to reach out for support from our Empathy Buddy or Listening Partner or with a voice messaging service. In this process we get to verbalise all of our feelings without judgement, advising or fixing. It is a safe space with a safe supportive listener, where we can start to unpack our feelings and thoughts. So having another person, particularly one who understands Aware Parenting, can really help us to see more clearly what we need to see and to release our pain and stress through our tears.
- Because AwP teaches us how to offer our children acceptance and unconditional love, it teaches us self-acceptance and self-love too. It shows us how to treat ourselves in a kind, gentle, and supportive way, just as we support our children when they are in need. By starting to take care of ourselves, we are showing ourselves that we are enough, that we deserve love and that we can accept ourselves in all our imperfection.
- We understand through AwP that often our thoughts and conditioning are getting in the way of us feeling in balance. So we find ways to explore our thoughts. We are encouraged to try journaling to deepen our self-awareness and understanding of our beliefs and thoughts. Then we can start to enquire more, with curiosity and compassion, as to what we are telling ourselves and why. We learn that we had to create these beliefs to stay safe when we were younger. From this understanding we can then choose new thoughts that serve us better now that we are adults.
- We understand that often our children are behaving in ways that are challenging because they are experiencing unheard stress and trauma which is bubbling up wanting to be released. This allows us to see our own younger parts that come up and need our love and care. So we can offer ourselves that loving connection and listening, or we can ask for that from an outer support person, we can hear what we needed to hear then, we can say what we needed to say then and this gives us a reparative and deeply healing experience.
- Because AwP prioritises connection, we learn how to build deeply connected and loving relationships, with our children, with our partners, with our families, with our friends and with ourselves, all of which support us with our healing process.
- We are encouraged to identify and connect to our needs, to reflect on what our unmet needs might be, and to prioritise finding ways to meet our needs. This might be needs for help, community, understanding, autonomy, belonging, rest, fun, joy etc etc. Whatever our needs are, AwP encourages us to take little steps to fill our cups in any ways we can, as often as we can.
- By welcoming all feelings from our children we learn to welcome all feelings from ourselves too and we start to learn that there is nothing wrong with us. In fact, we quickly learn that, unless we are welcoming our own feelings and crying with loving support ourselves, it is not possible to listen lovingly to support our children with their feelings.
- When we learn to set loving limits with our children, we also learn how to set loving limits with ourselves. This might be around things that we do that we don’t want to do anymore, or to start doing things that we do want to do. It could be setting limits for ourselves about feeling guilty or beating ourselves up with self-judgment or shame. Loving limits help us to act more in alignment with what we want and what we truly value.
- Attachment Play is another central component of AwP. Sharing playful fun and laughter with our children, is so healing for us all. It reduces stress, tension and anxiety. It is very effective to release painful feelings, particularly feelings of fear, embarrassment, disempowerment or shame. Anything that gets everyone laughing releases lots of feelings and bring a light-hearted fun to the serious business of healing! And it has been shown to have significant positive impacts on our physical health, which in turn, improves our mental health.
- AwP increases our understanding of control patterns, which are habits we use, often unconsciously, to protect ourselves from painful feelings. As we learn to support our children with their control patterns, we also increase our awareness of our own control patterns and we learn how to lovingly start to let them go and heal the painful feelings that are lying underneath.
- We become aware of the Broken Cookie phenomenon – when our children have a big emotional reaction which seems out of proportion to a small situation, as a pretext to release accumulated stress. We can then bring this awareness to when our own reactions to small challenges with our children seem to be out of proportion and recognise that we have the opportunity to heal some deeper pain that is coming up for healing, rather than the situation in front of us. As Scott Noelle says “You know you are face to face with the unfinished business of your own childhood, when you react with strong negative feelings to your child’s behaviour”.
- When we start to practise Aware Parenting, we are often making choices that are very different to our friends and families. We have to learn to be strong and clear about how we want things to be and defend ourselves at times. This helps us to develop strength, courage and self-belief, especially if we also allow ourselves to reach out for support when we are feeling wobbly in these moments.
All these steps help us with the on-going process of healing and, by doing this work, we have the capacity to support our children. By Aware Parenting our children, the healing process for them is so much easier because they are healing from the moment we start parenting this way, whatever age they are. And by Aware Parenting ourselves, we can shift so much pain and trauma from our hearts, we can model to our children that healing is part of life, and we can reconnect more and more to the power, joy and delight of parenthood.
This work is hard to do alone. I still reach out for lots of support after 33 years of healing work and 16 years of parenting this way. I have a listening partner, some beautiful AwP voice messaging friends, I have sessions with an Aware Parenting instructor and I have regular practices that I offer myself to explore my thoughts and to listen to my feelings. If you would like some support and guidance with the healing process, I am here to help you.
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