In our lifelong journey of learning to understand ourselves, work on our emotional wellbeing and develop our emotional intelligence, it is understandable that there may come times when we find ourselves relying on our romantic partners to take care of us. While there is nothing wrong with this and some may even enjoy caring for their partner, it's important to ensure that we understand how to self soothe, why it's important, and develop self soothing strategies that work for us as individuals. In order to effectively self soothe, it can also be beneficial to understand ‘reparenting' - what it is and the role it plays in emotional healing and understanding your inner child.
Being Your Own Parent
Reparenting focuses on the idea of becoming your own parent as an adult. It is described as ‘giving yourself what you didn't receive as a child' and rather than laying the blame at the door of your own parents, it encourages an understanding that parents can only give what they have themselves. Reparenting encourages you to acknowledge the pain caused by your parents inability to meet your needs, and then to release that blame while accepting that they were unable to do so because they themselves have not had the needs of their inner child met.
As adults, many of us carry with us childhood trauma that we did not, at the time, have the emotional abilities to cope with. This pain could have been caused by incidents of bullying, our parents divorcing, the death of someone close to us, abuse or any number of other incidents.
Reparenting ourselves is the process of nurturing our inner child, and healing the trauma that they might be carrying with them while providing the love and support that our parents may not have been able to give us. The process of reparenting ourselves allows us to develop a strong foundation of self worth and resilience which, in turn, enables us to develop effective tools to meet our own emotional needs without having to rely on a partner to do it for us.
Self Soothing: What it is & how it can help
Self soothing consists of recognising our emotions, validating them, and then implementing healthy coping strategies. Of course, we need to have developed healthy coping strategies first.
It gives us the ability to comfort ourselves in distressing or turbulent times, rather than needing to lean on our partner for emotional support which can, in time, breed resentment and unhealthy dependence.
Self soothing techniques can encompass things such as deep breathing, mindfulness or meditation, creativity such as colouring or knitting, or even gentle movement such as yoga. Understanding what we can do to make ourselves feel better in moments of high stress allows us to better regulate our emotions and our response to negative stimuli. As a result, we become more self-reliant and more emotionally resilient.
Often when we find ourselves struggling to handle our emotions in a difficult situation, it can be because we're lacking effective self soothing strategies. This could be for a number of reasons - not being aware of our own emotions due to a lack of emotional awareness, a history of neglecting our own needs, or a lack of understanding of how we can effectively self soothe and what techniques work.
It is important to note that in both reparenting and self soothing, the focus is on acceptance and release of blame. If you find yourself in a situation that you are struggling to cope with, rather than blaming yourself for not having the right technique - accept that you don't. If, over the course of reparenting yourself, you come to realise how your parents might have not met your needs - accept that they did what they could with what they had, and release the blame.
Recognition of what you do not currently have is important, as without understanding what we are lacking, we cannot move towards change. When we understand what it is that we do not have, we can then understand what it is that we need to work towards - in this case, developing an understanding of which self soothing techniques work for us.
An Unhealthy Dependence
When we are running from facing up to childhood trauma and struggling to understand how to self soothe, it is almost inevitable that we may turn to our partner (if we have one) to do the heavy lifting of supporting us emotionally. While being a support to your partner is, of course, a natural part of being in a relationship - the problem arises when we rely too much on them, using them as a crutch and an excuse to stop working on ourselves.
As with most things, emotional dependence follows a scale; starting at entirely emotionally independent - fulfilling all your emotional needs by yourself, resisting all emotional support or even ignoring your emotional needs entirely. The other end of this scale is emotional dependence - relying on your partner to fulfil all your emotional needs and, in many cases, looking to them for support before trying to fix the problem yourself. The middle ground is the ideal - having a good understanding of your emotional needs and how to fulfil them, but at the same time being able to rely on your partner for support when it's needed.
Relying on others can be due to many reasons - needing validation, fear of being vulnerable or trauma from childhood. Working to understand the reasons for our overdependence on other people means that we can develop self soothing techniques that work around this - a support network is healthy, but relying too heavily on it is not.
The journey through reparenting ourselves, learning to self soothe and developing emotional independence can feel hard. It is, naturally, going to be a difficult process and can often involve confronting memories of childhood trauma. By developing self soothing techniques we can work towards becoming more self reliant, and less over dependent on others, leading to healthier, more balanced relationships, and leading to us being better equipped to handle difficult emotions when they arise. The reparenting journey enables us to heal wounds from our past and move forward towards a place of self love. It empowers us to nurture our inner child who may be harbouring trauma from our early years.
A counsellor is ideally placed to guide you through this process - giving you the support to work through troubling memories, develop healthy coping techniques and guide you towards an understanding of self soothing.
If reparenting yourself is something you're interested in considering, get in touch to find out how I could help you with the process.