Grief and loss are universal experiences that can deeply impact our lives. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a job, a relationship, or even a pet, the emotions that come with grief can be overwhelming and complex. Let’s explore the journey of healing and how to navigate through the process.
Acknowledging the Pain
The first step in healing from grief and loss is acknowledging the pain. It’s important to recognize and accept the emotions that arise, such as sadness, anger, guilt, or confusion. Each person’s grief is unique, and there is no right or wrong way to feel. Give yourself permission to grieve and understand it’s a natural response to loss.
During times of grief, it is crucial to seek support from others. Surround yourself with trusted friends, family members, or support groups who can provide comfort and understanding. Talking about your feelings and sharing memories can be therapeutic and help in the healing process. Consider reaching out to a professional therapist or counselor who specializes in grief counseling. They can provide valuable guidance and support as you navigate through your grief.
Self-Care and Coping Strategies
Taking care of yourself is essential when dealing with grief and loss. Engage in activities that bring you comfort and solace, such as exercise, journaling, or spending time in nature. Practice self-compassion and allow yourself to grieve at your own pace. Establish a routine and maintain healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and avoiding excessive use of substances like alcohol or drugs.
Finding Meaning and Purpose
As time goes on, you may find yourself searching for meaning and purpose in the midst of grief. Consider exploring activities or practices that bring you a sense of meaning or connection. This could include volunteering, joining a support group, or engaging in creative outlets like art or music. Finding ways to honor your loved one’s memory or creating new rituals can also provide a sense of purpose and healing. (Considering your Core Values may help you work through finding meaning in your loss.)
Embracing the Healing Process
Healing from grief and loss is not a linear process. It’s important to recognize that healing takes time and there may be ups and downs along the way. Be patient and allow yourself to experience the healing journey in your own way. Healing does not mean forgetting or moving on, but rather finding ways to integrate the loss into your life and continue living with purpose and joy.
Grief and loss are profound experiences that require time, support, and self-compassion to navigate. By acknowledging the pain, seeking support, practicing self-care, finding meaning, and embracing the healing process, you can gradually find solace and move forward on the path of healing. You are not alone, and there is hope for brighter days ahead.
I love getting book recommendations from clients and I tend to listen to a podcast and want the book written by whoever is interviewed. I thought it might be a cool idea to list out the most recent books on my Audible account.
These books have no particular themes, but I feel like all of them gave me a little something. The topics include: coping with grief, finding strength in unexpected places, as well as confronting fears head-on. Here are my thoughts on the books and I hope one or two might speak to you. Here it goes
#1: The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
I love this book! I bought the audible and about half way through I broke down and bought the hardcover version as well. It is dog-eared and marked up. Did I say I loved this book?
Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act is an inspirational and insightful book that delves deep into the creative process. This book presents a variety of strategies to get more creative, including exploring different types of creative media and developing a creative lifestyle.
On a deeper level Rubin’s book spoke to that part of me that drips with the fear of being “not enough” or wondering “who do I think I am”. He emphasizes all humans are creatives and we are only limited to what we allow to filter into our awareness. I was pleasantly surprised with the approach to confronting all those existential crises that occur throughout our lives.
I bought this audiobook after listening to an interview with Rick Rubin on a podcast. I’m so glad I ran across him. The Creative Act is an invaluable read for anyone looking to get more creative or explore the depths of their creativity. Highly recommended!
Read this book so you can …
Learn strategies to get more creative
Develop a creative lifestyle
Gain insight into the creative process
Feel inspired and motivated to explore your inner creativity
#2: The Mountain is You: Transforming Self-Sabotage into Self-Discovery by Brianna Wiest
I decided to listen to this book after a session with a client. The Mountain Is You by Brianna Wiest is a must-read for anyone wanting to make meaningful and lasting changes in their life. This inspiring and informative book speaks to how to break through our self-imposed limitations, move past fear and uncertainty, and begin living with the courage, confidence, and clarity that comes from embracing who we are and what we want.
The Mountain Is You presents the tools to build a life that is built on their own terms and filled with joy, adventure, and success. The author shares her personal story of transformation, which makes the lessons learned easy to relate to. Her message of using mountain-climbing metaphors as powerful reminders of our own resilience and strength is both uplifting and inspiring.
The Mountain Is You offers practical advice on how to shift our mindset, create meaningful and sustainable changes in our lives, and move forward with intention. The exercises throughout the book are there to help readers develop a growth mindset while also helping them challenge themselves and push past their comfort zone.
Read this book so you can …
Learn how to break through self-imposed limitations and move past fear and uncertainty.
Gain the courage, confidence, and clarity that comes from embracing who you are and what you want out of life.
Discover practical advice on how to shift your mindset, create meaningful change in your life, and take action with intention.
Find a source of inspiration to reach new heights in your life journey with ease and motivation!
#3: The Winners: A Novel (Beartown Series) by Fredrik Backman
Fredrik Backman is one of my guilty pleasures for sure. I love his books and most of them have been “beach reads” – which are wonderful. However this series of books (The Winners being the 3rd in a trilogy) hits a little harder than a beach read.
The Winners is a compelling and inspiring story about the power of community, resilience, and hope. Set in a small Swedish town called Beartown, the novel follows the lives of its inhabitants as they struggle to rebuild their town after a devastating tragedy.
Through an engaging cast of characters (some of who I felt like I knew) and a powerful story, Backman conveys the idea that while we cannot always control our circumstances, we can work together to overcome them. The Winners is an emotional rollercoaster of a novel that left a lasting impression. It was hard not to think about the story even when I wasn’t actively reading.
Backman’s writing style is engaging and incredibly moving. He is able to capture the nuances of human emotions and experiences in a way few other authors can. This book is an absolute must-read for anyone looking to gain insight into the power of community and hope in times of adversity. There are valuable lessons to be learned from Backman’s characters and their individual stories, which make this novel not only enjoyable, but also thought-provoking.
Read this book so you can …
Experience the power of community, resilience, and hope in a small Swedish town called Beartown.
Receive insight into the nuances of human emotions and experiences through an engaging cast of characters
Okay, first of all, this guy makes me feel super lazy! Second of all – if any of you know me – my daughter the hiker and runner bought it and told me to read it. I’m not sure if I should be insulted. I’d also like to recommend the audio version that includes extra features of conversations at the end of each chapter.
Never Finished is a powerful and inspirational book that touched my heart and made me want to push past my comfort zone (and I’m not a big fan of being uncomfortable). It details Goggins’ remarkable journey from a humble upbringing to becoming one of the most accomplished endurance athletes in history, showing readers how setting goals and taking steps to achieve them can lead to lasting change. Goggins outlines his mental and physical strategies, inspiring readers to take control of their own paths in life by pushing themselves beyond what they think is possible.
Goggins’ story is an inspiration to anyone looking for motivation to push their limits and take control of their own lives. The lessons outlined in this powerful book will help readers break through barriers and find the strength to succeed. Never Finished is a must-read for any reader looking to make lasting change.
Read this book so you can …
Learn how to set and reach ambitious goals.
Gain insight into the power of breaking through comfort zones.
Understand the importance of perseverance in achieving success.
Discover motivation for making lasting changes in your life.
I am a little bit of a Neil deGrasse Tyson fan girl. If I hear or see him on a podcast, or youtube, or some Netflix special then I’m going to pause and listen. I love how he makes astrophysics – of all things – somehow relatable.
Starry Messenger by Neil deGrasse Tyson is a captivating, educational, and insightful book. Drawing from centuries of observation and study, the renowned astrophysicist provides an incredibly detailed look at our place in the universe. He touches on topics such as how the Earth’s position in the Milky Way impacts the night sky we see, why the stars twinkle, and the beauty of constellations. As he guides us through these celestial wonders, Tyson presents a captivating overview of our understanding of the cosmos, often peppered with his trademark wit and charm … I love his trademarked wit and charm.
The writing style is accessible to readers of all ages, from beginner stargazers to experienced scientists. Even those without a background in astrophysics will find it engaging, as Tyson’s passion for his subject shines through on every page. With its abundance of diagrams, photographs and illustrations, the book helps to develop the reader’s understanding even further. Make sure to download all the images on the audible version.
While exploring our place in the universe can be daunting, Starry Messenger is an incredibly rewarding read. It offers an opportunity to learn about our universe in a fun, informative, and entertaining way.
Read this book so you can …
Learn about our place in the universe in a fun, informative and entertaining way.
Develop an understanding of topics such as why stars twinkle and the beauty of constellations.
Gain insight into astrophysics without needing any prior knowledge or background in the subject.
Enjoy Tyson’s passion for his subject that shines through on every page.
Gabor Mate is one of the rockstars in the field of psychology. Pretty much if he has a new book, then I’m going to read it. This one really spoke to the normalization of all of those defense mechanisms we developed in childhood that may not be working for us anymore – you know, like when we’re 50.
Gabor Mate dives deep into the psychological, neurological and biological causes of mental illness. He dispels many of the myths and stereotypes that people have come to accept about those living with mental illness.
Mate begins by discussing how modern science has revolutionized our understanding of mental health. He then delves into why so many of us struggle with emotional, psychological and even physical issues. Through his thoughtful analysis, Mate demonstrates that issues such as anxiety, depression and addiction are often caused by underlying biological and environmental factors rather than simply being a matter of “weakness” or poor character.
Read this book so you can …
Gain insight into how our minds work and why we may struggle with certain illnesses.
Gain a greater understanding of the psychological, neurological and biological causes of mental illness.
Understand how different individuals may be affected by their environment or biology in terms of mental health issues.
Confession: I have read this book more than once and have listened to it more than once (mostly on long trips). This book is amazing! I made both of my daughters read it and neither one complained.
Educated by Tara Westover is an incredible and inspirational story of a woman’s journey from growing up in a fundamentalist, survivalist family in rural Idaho to becoming a Cambridge University graduate. The book chronicles Tara’s personal struggle for self-formation, as she faces difficult decisions about how to reconcile her past with the future she wants to create for herself.
Tara’s story is so beautifully written, and her courage in facing the challenges she faced is truly remarkable. The book left me feeling inspired to take stock of my own life and make a conscious effort to stretch beyond the limitations of expectations and reach for the future I want.
This book is a must-read for anyone looking to be inspired to break the boundaries of their upbringing or simply grow as an individual. It’s a beautiful story of self-discovery and courage that will stay with you long after you finish reading it. Highly recommended!
Read this book so you can …
Gain insight into the struggles and triumphs of a woman’s journey from rural Idaho to Cambridge University.
Feel inspired to take stock of one’s own life and reach for the future you want.
Learn how to break boundaries, face challenges, and grow as an individual.
Okay, another confession. Matthew McConaughey is not only nice to look at, he’s fun to listen to. For the love of all that is worthy – listen to the audible.
Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights is an inspiring, uplifting and refreshingly honest memoir about life, love, and the pursuit of personal growth. The book chronicles McConaughey’s personal journey from his childhood in Texas to his eventual superstardom. It is a deeply personal exploration of the many highs and lows of his life and career, sharing timeless lessons to be taken away.
McConaughey’s book provides a unique perspective on the meaning of success and how to live your best life. Through honest storytelling, he offers readers insight into what it takes to succeed – from hard work and determination to personal growth. Greenlights is an inspiring read for anyone looking for a little motivation or seeking to uncover their own life’s purpose.
Whether you’re just starting out on your journey or are already well on your way, Greenlights is a great reminder that life is all about following your passions and making the most of every opportunity.
Read this book so you can …
Gain insight into what it takes to succeed in life and career.
Learn timeless lessons about hard work, determination, and personal growth.
Feel inspired to pursue your passions and make the most of every opportunity.
Get motivated by McConaughey’s uplifting story of success.
Even though the title is a little scary – and especially since my daughter told me to read it – this was an incredible read. Despite the author being a child-actor from the days my kids watched “kid-TV”, I could relate so much to her story.
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy is a poignant and powerful exploration of grief, loss, and finding strength in unexpected places. The book is a raw portrayal of one woman’s journey through her mother’s death, and how she navigates the complex emotions that accompany it.
The narrative follows Jennette as she deals with the death of her mother, and the struggles that come with it. Jennette describes in vivid detail how she copes with her loss, from long days spent alone crying to moments of anger and confusion. Through these experiences, she discovers a strength within herself that she never knew existed before.
The writing is heartfelt and honest, capturing all of Jennette’s raw emotions. At times, it is hard to read, as she confronts her deepest pain and fears. Yet the narrative never feels exploitative; instead, it has an authentic and compassionate voice that truly resonates with its readers.
Overall, I’m Glad My Mom Died is a moving story of resilience and perseverance. Its honest and brave exploration of grief is both inspiring and heartbreaking, and it will stay with you long after you finish reading. If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, this book can provide comfort, understanding, and hope. It’s definitely worth a read!
Read this book so you can …
Understand and cope with grief in a healthy way.
Find strength in unexpected places.
Connect with an authentic and compassionate narrative.
Gain hope and comfort from a story of resilience and perseverance.
Learn to confront pain, fear, and other difficult emotions head on.
Yet another confession. Not only do I have the audible, but I have bought this book about a half dozen times. I keep giving it away. This is a book I return to over and over. It is a short, easy read and whenever I am feeling that resistance pop up – it’s my go to. I made my oldest daughter read it … well kind of. She quit half way through because she was going to “lose it” if she saw the word “resistance” one more time.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a must-read. This work provides powerful insight into the psychological blocks that can stop individuals from achieving success and offers useful strategies for overcoming these negative influences.
Pressfield examines the inner struggles that many individuals face when attempting to move forward with their lives, and he offers an interesting perspective on what separates those who succeed from those who fail. He speaks candidly about the idea of “resistance” — namely, the negative inner voice that keeps one from taking action and moving toward their goals. He then goes on to discuss strategies for combatting this resistance, from recognizing and accepting it to developing daily rituals that help one stay focused and motivated.
The War of Art is a great read for those looking for an inspiring guide to overcoming the psychological blocks that impede success. It’s packed with practical advice and wisdom that can be applied in any situation, making it an essential companion for anyone looking to break through their current obstacles and find success.
Read this book so you can …
Gain practical advice on how to tackle resistance and other negative inner voices that can hold individuals you back from achieving goals
Gain powerful insight into what separates those who succeed from those who fail
The very thought of engineers in therapy can be a difficult idea for engineers … and often mental health professionals. Engineers want to solve problems in a “shortest path” or optimized approach. Unfortunately, that’s not really how therapy works – even though I would absolutely love it if it did.
Mental health is a critical component of overall wellness. However, finding a mental health provider who understands the unique perspective of logical thinkers can be challenging.
Let’s explore some of the reasons why logical thinkers may struggle to find a mental health provider who understands them.
1. Expressing Emotions
If you’re someone who usually relies on reason and logic, you might find yourself struggling when it comes to emotions. Emotions rarely rely on reason or logic. The idea of just “feel your feelings” is frustrating and not helpful.
I get it. Expressing emotions can be tough because we don’t always see the practicality. We often feel emotions are unimportant or irrelevant to the task at hand. You may ask yourself, “What is the value of dealing with this crap right now?”
We don’t want to fight your goto strength of logic, but rather, maybe we can use it. A more structured and logical approach to facing these feelings may help bridge the gap for you to identify and express your emotions.
Finding a mental health provider who is patient and understanding can be a game-changer. It helps if that provider has been in the field and has some experience with these struggles herself.
2. High Standards
Logical thinkers are known for their analytical and problem-solving skills. They are often able to approach situations in a structured and logical way, which can be helpful in many areas of life. Yet, when it comes to mental health, those high standards can make it difficult to find a therapist who meets their expectations.
One of the main reasons for this is that logical thinkers tend to prioritize methodology. They want to know the therapy process is going to be effective and the therapist has the knowledge and experience to provide the type of treatment they desire. They may also prefer a more structured approach to therapy, with clear goals and measurable outcomes.
If you’re a logical thinker who is looking for a mental health provider, don’t be discouraged. There are therapists out there who understand the unique needs of logical thinkers and who can provide treatment that meets your high standards. Take your time, ask questions, and choose a provider who fits your needs.
3. The Subjective Nature of Mental Health
Mental health can be a complex and multifaceted. While it’s a subjective experience, it’s important to understand that mental wellness is not just the absence of mental illness. Rather, mental wellness is also a state of well-being that allows us to realize our potential and cope with the normal stresses of life.
It’s understandable you may find it difficult to navigate the subjective terrain of mental health. This is not a reflection of your intelligence or capabilities, but rather a reflection of the complexity of mental health. It’s okay to feel uncertain and hesitant about seeking help from a mental health provider.
Through a collaborative approach, you can work together with a therapist to identify objective markers of progress and set achievable goals to ensure continued growth and improvement. A good exercise is to start with defining your Core Values.
Please don’t hesitate to seek out a provider who can provide a healthy and understanding connection. Your mental health is important and you don’t have to face your challenges alone.
4. Asking For Help
Logical thinkers are often hesitant to seek help for their mental health, even though it is just as important as physical health.
It’s okay to feel uncertain and hesitant about seeking help, but it will be worth it. Taking proactive steps towards mental wellness can lead to a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Healing is something that happens in relationship. If you truly want to fast track your healing, your emotions must be witnessed. Not an easy task for most engineers – and I’ve received a lot of pushback with this idea.
When you are in the mental health field, it is always amazing how shame, guilt, and all those difficult emotions begin to melt once witnessed.
Asking for help and truly being seen may be the hardest obstacle to overcome, but again, it will be worth it.
Let’s Get it Started
It can be tough to prioritize self-care, especially when you’re used to solving problems on your own. But you don’t have to face your challenges alone.
Do your research, make some phone calls, and schedule an appointment. It may take some time to find a good fit and you may have some false starts. I hope you stick with it because even engineers have emotions.
If you’re a logical thinker who is considering therapy, Dr. Guess may be a good fit for you.
Gaslighting examples, displaying that sneaky form of emotional abuse. It is like a twisted game of “Is it real or is it in my head?” The abuser tries to make their partner doubt their own memory, reality, and sanity, leaving them feeling confused, anxious, and paranoid. It all starts with little things that make you question your own judgment, but then it escalates into a full-blown mind warp. (Also see The Impact of Narcissism on Relationships.)
The following are some examples of gaslighting you may experience in a relationship:
1. Gaslighting Example: Denial of Truth
Your partner denies things that have happened or things you have said, making you question your own memory and perception of reality. Your partner may deny they said something hurtful to you, even though you clearly remember the conversation.
Sarah started to notice Alex would deny things that had happened or things she had said, making her question her own memory and perception of reality. At first, she brushed it off, thinking maybe she was just forgetful. But as time went on, Alex’s behavior became more frequent and intense. He would deny things Sarah was sure had happened, making her feel like she was losing her mind.
Sarah confronted Alex about his behavior, but he told her she was overreacting and nothing was wrong. Sarah started to feel like she was going crazy and began to doubt herself. She became anxious and paranoid, wondering if she could trust her own memory or if she was losing her mind.
It wasn’t until Sarah talked to a friend who had experienced gaslighting when she realized what was happening to her. She began to recognize the signs and sought help from a mental health professional. With the help of therapy, Sarah was able to rebuild her self-esteem and confidence and set boundaries with Alex. Eventually, she realized she deserved to be treated with respect and kindness and ended the relationship.
2. Gaslighting Example: Blaming
Your partner blames you for things that are not your fault, making you feel guilty and responsible for things you didn’t do. Your partner may blame you for her own mistakes or shortcomings, leaving you questioning if everything that does not go perfect in his life is somehow your fault.
The relationship was going great for the first few months for Tom and Rachel. Tom started noticing small indications something was not right. Rachel began blaming him for simple actions or decisions he made that she labeled as “mistakes” or for things that were out of his control. Over time, Rachel’s blaming only became more frequent and intense.
Tom tried to talk to Rachel, but she responded with anger and defensiveness. She told him he was overreacting and he needed to figure out his own insecurities. As time went on, Tom began to feel more and more responsible for Rachel’s behavior. He started to question his own judgment and wondered if he was the cause of all their problems.
One day Rachel said to Tom, “What have you done lately to help my happiness?” and it clicked with Tom that Rachel’s happiness is not in his control. The experience of being blamed for everything had a profound effect on Tom, but with the help of therapy and support from loved ones, he was able to learn to trust his own decisions again.
3. Gaslighting Example: Withholding
Withholding information, affection, or attention can be used as as a way to punish and promote insecurity. Your partner may stop talking to you for days without any explanation, leaving you wondering what you did wrong.
From the outside Emily and Mark seemed like the perfect match for the first few years of their relationship. However, Emily was feeling more and more left out as Mark seemed to be withholding information, affection, and attention leaving her feeling punished and insecure.
It started small, with Mark giving Emily the silent treatment for a few hours or not responding to her messages. But as time went on, Mark’s withholding became more frequent and intense. He would stop talking to Emily for days without any explanation, leaving her wondering what she did wrong.
Emily tried to talk to Mark about his behavior, but he told her she was overreacting and she needed to learn to recognize when he needed space.
As time went on, Emily began to feel more and more insecure in the relationship. She started to question her own behavior and wondered if she was causing Mark to withdraw. Her final straw was during an event they attended. He was kind and friendly to anyone but her – not just his friends, but also strangers or people she knew he did not like. She finally saw Mark’s withholding behavior for what it was.
Emily started on her quest to rebuild her confidence. With the help of her therapist and supportive friends and family she was able to understand her own worth.
4. Gaslighting Example: Projection
Your partner accuses you of doing things they are actually doing, making you question yourself without reason. For example, your partner may accuse you of cheating on them, even though they are the ones who have been unfaithful.
Max was charming and attentive at first, but as time went on, Lily began to notice Max’s behavior was becoming increasingly unpredictable and erratic. He would accuse her of things she had not done, and he would become angry and defensive whenever she tried to talk to him about it.
One day, Max accused Lily of cheating on him. Lily was shocked and hurt by the accusation. She had never cheated on Max, and she couldn’t understand why he would think she had. Max became more and more convinced of her infidelity, even though Lily tried to reassure him that she was faithful.
Lily started to question her own behavior. She wondered if there was something she had done to make Max think she was cheating. She tried to reason with him and explain she had not been unfaithful, but Max refused to listen. He became increasingly paranoid and controlling, even going so far as to check her phone and social media accounts for evidence of her supposed infidelity.
Lily eventually learned Max’s accusations were actually projections of his own infidelity onto her. Max had been cheating on Lily, and he was using gaslighting to make her doubt her own behavior and cover up his own wrongdoing. Through this experience, she learned she was not crazy or irrational. She deserved to be in a relationship where she was valued and respected.
5. Gaslighting Example: Minimizing
Your partner downplays your feelings or experiences, making you feel like they are not important or valid. Your partner may tell you that you are overreacting or being too sensitive when you express your feelings.
Ava loved Jack deeply and thought he felt the same way about her. But, as time went on, she started to notice Jack would often downplay her feelings or experiences. Whenever Ava tried to express her emotions, Jack would tell her she was overreacting or being too sensitive. He would make her feel like her feelings were not important or valid and she was making a big deal out of nothing.
At first, Ava tried to brush off Jack’s behavior, thinking maybe he just didn’t understand her. But as time went on, Jack’s minimizing became more frequent and intense. He would be dismissive of both her feelings and experiences. Ava felt like she was walking on eggshells around Jack. She started to doubt her own emotions and wondered if she was being irrational.
Through therapy and support from her family, Ava learned her feelings were valid and important. She deserved to be in a relationship where she was valued and respected.
Trusting Your Perspective
Recognizing gaslighting can be a difficult and confusing experience. Trusting your instincts is the first step in protecting yourself from this harmful behavior. If you feel like you are being gaslit, know you are not alone and help is available. Seeking support from a mental health professional can help you develop coping strategies to deal with the effects of gaslighting and rebuild your self-esteem and confidence.
It’s important to set boundaries with your partner and communicate your needs clearly. Remember you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. If your partner is unwilling to change their behavior or seek help, it may be necessary to end the relationship. This can be a difficult decision to make, but prioritizing your mental health and well-being is crucial.
Reclaiming your truth and breaking free from the mind games may feel overwhelming, but working with a therapist or counselor can provide a supportive and empathetic space for healing. With time and support, you can overcome gaslighting and regain your confidence.
Reclaim your truth and break free from the mind games – work with Dr. Guess to overcome gaslighting and regain your confidence.
I’ve had more than a couple clients roll their eyes at me at the very mention of the “inner-child”. I’ve even had a few head roll back, eyes closed, and deep sighs of annoyance even saying that “inner-child work” is a thing. So, let’s call this self-reparenting.
Self-reparenting is the work of being there for yourself. Being present while you work through childhood situations when you didn’t get what you needed. As a kid, you are completely dependent on the adults in your life for your needs. if you are now an adult, the vital needs were apparently met.
More than just the basics.
What most of this work is about is not so much the “food, clothing, shelter” needs, but rather the emotional needs that are often neglected. They may not be met because there was a tragic loss in your family and everyone was grieving around you. They may not be met because your mother had to work two jobs and your dad was no where to be seen. They may not be met because you had a couple narcissists at the realm of your home. Or, maybe, it was simply a day to day feeling that something was missing.
Sitting with yourself, returning as an adult to difficult moments, and then seeing through your inner-child’s (there’s that word) eyes can be life-changing. This process will look different for each of us. There is no “one size fits all” approach.
Even if you are a functioning adult, there may be parts of you that haven’t had the opportunity to fully develop. For example, if you grew up in an overly restrictive environment, your independence may need some nurturing. On the other hand, if you grew up in an overly permissive environment, you may feel like you lack a safety net to take chances.
What is Self-Reparenting?
Self-reparenting is work. The work is to provide yourself with the emotional support and guidance you may have missed out on during childhood. The work is to acknowledge and validate these historical, and often buried, feelings and needs. The work is to sit with yourself without distraction as you grieve and heal from your past wounds.
Without a prompt, at least half of my clients say something like this at their first session, “I had a great childhood. We don’t need to go there.” They generally get my side-eye and I tap out a little something in my notes.
But, I want to make clear the process of self-reparenting is not about an attack on your parents. Self-reparenting is simply a way to nurture parts of ourselves that are begging for much needed attention. No matter how hard your parents tried and succeeded in providing for you, there will always be areas that could use a little (or a lot) more nurturing and healing.
Self-reparenting is there to help you identify and express your emotions, set healthy boundaries, and improve your overall well-being.
Self-Reparenting Through the Generations
Many of us grew up in homes where emotions were not always acknowledged or validated. I’m a Gen-X’er and believe within my generation and older, the societal norm was to bury those emotions as deep as possible. We did not chit-chat openly about our feelings or about what we talked about in therapy.
I was shocked at how things had changed when I first started my internship hours at a college around 2010. Not only did students not ask for a back door to sneak out after a session, but they would hang out in the waiting room and chat with other students. They consistently gave referrals to each other to my office. They also had open conversations with their coaches about therapy – coaches were my biggest referral source. Things had definitely changed.
How Self-Reparenting is Vital
I have seen so much good work done in this area that has benefited clients personally and with their relationships. Often the idea of caring for yourself can seem like a foreign concept meant for other people. It is hard and sometimes not a ton of fun, but it can be meaningful for you.
Below are some of the benefits you can experience from taking the deep dive into this work.
You can learn to name and express your emotions with self-reparenting
Much of the work of self-reparenting is in identifying and expressing your emotions. For this Gen-X’er I do not like this idea at all … and yet, I am grateful for it every day.
One of the lessons that must take hold is that emotions are not good or bad, they just are. Taking away the judgment of emotions can allow you to start hearing the messages they are trying to convey. Perhaps feeling angry isn’t bad, but rather it is a signal that there is a threat to one of your boundaries. Listening to the message rather than judging the anger can allow you to set and communicate boundaries that are in line with your values.
It is not easy to stop reacting and to start listening to emotions. Those very reactions are what have kept you alive so far. The initial feeling and desire to react may always be there to some extent. But, your job now is to recognize the emotion before you shut it down. Ask yourself, “What is this emotion telling me?” You might get some answers that tell you a lot about your needs and boundaries that have been hiding for most of your life.
You can learn to create boundaries with self-reparenting
“Boundaries” is a tough word to use. What is your gut reaction if someone were to say they needed to set boundaries with you? Would you get defensive? Would you believe they don’t like you? Would you feel anger or shame?
The word boundary, in a therapeutic sense, is much more healthy and loving than it feels when it’s used in conversation. A boundary is not a 20 foot high brick wall with guards and a moat. But, it is a set line that if crossed may make you feel violated in some way. Letting someone you love know your boundaries, will only enhance the relationship.
Time is often a difficult boundary to discuss in relationships. For example, if you love your work and have periods of time when focus and concentration are necessary, you may not want interruption.
A “Whatcha doin?” text or a TikTok link pinging through your phone when the other person expects an instant response can be infuriating – even if you love them.
Here’s the rub: You do want to talk to them about your day and you do enjoy a cute “Remember the 90’s” TikTok, just not at 2:00 when you are in the zone.
Instead of getting more and more annoyed at the interruption and feeling resentful to your partner, let them know your situation. You can then schedule time together for meaningful connection.
Setting boundaries is an act of self-care, and it is necessary to prioritize your own needs. It is necessary to be firm, but it is also necessary to be respectful and empathetic. I am guessing your partner/family/friend also has boundaries that may help your relationship if they are clearly set. Important relationships in your life are worth having these hard conversations.
You can change how you view yourself with self-reparenting
When you grow up in an environment where your emotions and needs are not validated, it can be easy to internalize a negative self-image. All those messages you receive as a child about what you are good at doing or bad at doing combine to create your self-worth and identity.
Childhood messages may point at you specifically . But often, they point at your gender, race, height, weight, or thousands of other variables that could define your identity.
You may come to believe that your are not good enough before you even try. Self-reparenting is one way we can challenge these negative beliefs. We can adopt a more positive and compassionate view of not only ourselves, but also of others.
You can begin by acknowledging and validating your inner child’s emotions and needs. You may start to see where these beliefs began and to then start healing these past wounds.
You now have years of experience to question the messages you received during childhood. It’s your job now to view your self-worth and identity through the lens of experience. You may now be able to recognize your strengths and accomplishments, learn to be kind and forgiving with yourself, and see your behavior in a new light.
You can become a better parent with self-reparenting
By acknowledging and validating your own emotions and needs, you can become more attuned to the emotional needs of your children. You may find you are better able to communicate, set healthy boundaries, and provide the emotional support and guidance they long for.
Learning to validate your child’s emotions and needs can work magic in building their confidence in and out of the home.
When your child expresses their emotions:
Listen without instant judgment or criticism.
Acknowledge their feelings and let them know it’s okay to feel the way they do
This validation can help they feel heard and let them know that they are valued and do not have to work to earn your love and attention.
Parenting is a journey, and it’s okay to make mistakes or encounter setbacks along the way. With practice and self-reflection, you can build a stronger relationship with yourself and your child.
Learn to Self-Reparent
1. Acknowledge and connect with your younger self.
I get a lot of push back when I talk in therapy about connecting with your younger self. I believe the, “Are you serious?” question has come up at least a dozen times. And, yes I am serious.
Connecting with your younger self involves revisiting memories or experiences from your childhood, and viewing them through a new lens of empathy and understanding.
For this work, I sometimes ask my clients to find a picture of themselves from an age when many of their childhood memories begin. A picture that represents a time that was special to them or simply shows them as “the cutest thing ever.” I want them to see how young they were when they were doing the work to understand their world.
It may also help to go to the places or do the activities from your childhood. Nothing like a random drive past your old home or high school to bring up some of those dormant memories. You could also fill the room with the music or television of your childhood as you color, dance, or play with your child’s legos. Recreate the environment and see where your memories take you.
As you reflect on these images and memories, try to approach yourself with a sense of curiosity and empathy. Self-reparenting is not about blaming yourself or others for past experiences, but rather about nurturing and healing parts of yourself that may need attention.
2. Determine the unmet needs of your inner child.
Look at that picture you found and imagine yourself as a child. Think about what you needed at that time. Were their emotions or needs that went unacknowledged or unmet? What messages did you receive from others about your worth and value?
Exploring your unmet needs can be a challenging and emotional process. But, this exploration is an essential step towards healing past wounds and building a stronger, more fulfilling relationship with yourself.
Questions to ask:
Were you ever made to feel ashamed or guilty for expressing your emotions?
Did you ever feel like your needs weren’t important?
Did you ever believe that your thoughts and emotions were somehow wrong?
Be gentle with yourself. The goals of self-reparenting is to nurture and heal parts of yourself. By identifying your unmet needs, you provide yourself with the emotional support and guidance you may have missed during childhood.
Determining your unmet needs is a process, not a destination. As you go through this journey, you may uncover new emotions and needs that surface. When you create a safe environment, your inner-child may really start to share.
3. Allow yourself to feel any emotions that arise.
I don’t know about you, but allowing myself to feel emotions comes about as naturally as learning advanced calculus is to my pet fish. It can be challenging to confront difficult emotions if you grew up in an environment where emotions were not always acknowledged or validated.
However, there is hope. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions is the gateway to understanding the messages they are trying to convey.
If you find yourself struggling with difficult emotions, try to approach yourself with the same kindness and compassion you would offer your child or your friend. This is the time to use curiosity and empathy rather than the knee-jerk judgment and criticism we normally use to meet strong feelings and emotion.
It’s okay if you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable … mostly because there is no way around it – it is the way.
4. Release any shame or guilt you may feel.
Most of us carry around feelings of shame or guilt from past experiences we had little control over. These feelings can hold us back from fully embracing our true selves. These feelings are a natural part of the human experience, and you are not alone in experiencing them.
To release shame and guilt, start by acknowledging these feelings and exploring their origin. This may involve revisiting past experiences or memories, and allowing yourself to feel the emotions that arise.
Self-reparenting is about nurturing and healing neglected parts of yourself. This process may include learning to forgive yourself for past missteps.
Releasing shame and guilt requires self-forgiveness. One way you can move toward releasing shame or guilt is by writing yourself a letter of self-forgiveness. For example, you might say, “I forgive myself for past mistakes, and I choose to focus on the present and the future.”
5. Practice self-care.
Self-care involves taking the time to prioritize your own needs and engage in activities that promote your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Start by identifying solo activities that bring you joy and relaxation. It could be doing yoga, reading a book, going on a hike, or sitting in the sun. Approach these activities with a sense of openness and curiosity. Allow yourself to experience them without judgment or criticism. Prioritize your own needs during these activities and resist the urge to put yourself last.
Self-care involves treating yourself with the same kindness and empathy you would offer someone you love who is going through a difficult time. Approach yourself with a sense of patience and self-compassion. You can build a more fulfilling relationship with yourself and enjoy a greater sense of life satisfaction.
Who Can Benefit From Self-Reparenting
Self-Reparenting can benefit anyone who feels they missed out on certain aspects of emotional development during childhood. This could be due to a variety of factors such as growing up in a household where emotions were not acknowledged or validated, experiencing trauma or abuse, or simply not having access to the emotional support and guidance you needed at any particular time.
Self-reparenting may help:
If you who struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues you can benefit from self-reparenting. By learning to provide yourself with the emotional support and guidance you may have missed out on during childhood, you can heal past wounds and develop a stronger, more resilient sense of self.
If you struggle with setting boundaries or communicating your needs effectively, you may find self-reparenting to be helpful. By learning to identify and expression your emotions, set boundaries, and validate your own needs, you can build healthier relationships with yourself and others.
If you are interested in exploring your past and building a stronger, more fulfilling relationship with yourself, you can benefit from self-reparenting.
With practice and intention, you can begin to heal past wounds and build a more resilient sense of self that will serve you well.
I encourage anyone who feels they may have missed out on aspects of emotional development during childhood to explore the process of self-reparenting. If you are interested in exploring self-reparenting and how it can benefit you, please consider reaching out. Therapy is a form of self-care and can help you heal past wounds and build a stronger, more resilient sense of self.