Every person, without exception, has been touched by parenting. It is an unavoidable reality. We are birthed from the seed and egg of a mother and a father. These biological origins are fact, but parental structures and influences appear in diverse ways: some are born into a home with a mother and father and others have a single parent or caregiver. One might have two moms or two dads and another might be raised by grandparents or extended family. Some children are orphaned and become wards of the state and others are raised (or, not raised) by many different caregivers as they move through the flawed foster system. There are endless variations of how people are parented, and there’s a direct connection between how one is parented and how they will parent. This is not to say that we don’t have a shot at doing it better or differently than our own parents, but rather, we should embrace the fact that the raw material of our childhood will most definitely be triggered as we unearth conscious and unconscious memories, emotions, and learned behavior patterns when we ourselves become parents.
At ENDPAIN, we are committed to subverting constricting or normative ways of thinking about the things that cause us pain. In service to that mission, this March we are inviting dialogue around the theme of Parenting that quests beyond the inhibitions of archetypal roles and expectations. Rather than getting stuck in the past or entrenched in shame and blame when considering all of the ways our parents “damaged” us, what if we considered the idea that our child self lives within us presently and is observing our adult decisions? What if we decide to actively parent ourselves, and engage in a relationship with our inner child self? When we open to the possibility that our inner child may have unmet needs and feelings such as anger or resentment, we can start to observe the ways in which these unprocessed negative emotions might be expressed in destructive or uncomfortable ways. Realizing that the child inside all of us wants to be acknowledged in the context of our present day identity can be empowering and profoundly healing.
The process can be sticky, and there are varying degrees of trauma endured within the context of the parent/child relationship. Regardless of socioeconomic or cultural background, you can spend years suffering as a result of unprocessed emotions emerging from the feeling of rejection or a lack of love in childhood. These early onset traumas can penetrate the innate innocence of a child. Avoidant or repressive behavior patterns tend to be adopted when the pain is too great to endure and a safe space is not created for the healthy expression of emotion. This often causes cycles of pain to become perpetuated when adults with unprocessed childhood emotions become parents themselves. Connecting with one’s own inner child, identifying old wounds and unmet needs, and taking agency to begin parenting oneself can be instrumental in breaking cycles of trauma. Moving towards non-judgment and self-compassion in the establishment of a relationship with your child self can birth a feeling of liberation in which feelings about yourself are finally in your own hands. Wouldn’t it be amazing to raise kids with the tools to experience that liberation earlier in life?
The entrenchment of parental impact on identity, both tangible and intangible, often charts the course for some of the most challenging self-work an individual will engage in. Untangling what was projected and what was adopted through an act of conscious choice can be transformational. We extend an invitation to all of our readers to use the content being published this month as an invitation to create space for reflection around the ways in which you were parented or are choosing to parent your children. Are there areas that need a little extra space and room for deeper inquiry and healing? As always, we’d love to hear your reflections and stories by using the "Tell Us Your Story" portal on our website.