Listen to this part two of my conversation with Catherine Andrews. In this part, we discuss inner child reparenting.
Regardless of your childhood, you can reparent yourself. Give yourself what you need and build your emotional maturity.
We recorded this episode in May 2023.
We all have distinct and multiple parts within our psyches that need tending to. – Catherine AndrewsTweet
Timeline of the Chat
[00:50] What is Inner Child Reparenting
[08:13] Why it’s important to manage your emotions
[13:19] Crying to completion
[17:36] How to support others do inner work
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I simply understand that people wanna be witnessed and validated and honored in whatever their emotion is. – Catherine AndrewsTweet
- 90 Seconds to a Life You Love: How to Turn Difficult Feelings into Rock-Solid Confidence, Joan Rosenberg
- Healing Your Lost Inner Child: How to Stop Impulsive Reactions, Set Healthy Boundaries and Embrace an Authentic Life (Robert Jackman’s Practical Wisdom Healing Series Book 1), Robert Jackman
- No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model, Ph.D. Schwartz, Richard
Transcript of the Episode
[00:50] What is Inner Child Reparenting
[00:50] Damianne President: I am fascinated by the idea of inner child reparenting. It was only after I started doing this podcast, and I was interviewing a coach called Nisha Mody and she talked about reparenting and I was like, oh, never heard about that before. I’ve since learned a bit.
I looked up the definition. I was like, I could just make it up, but let’s see what the Googles say. And Very Well Mind said, “reparenting allows adult clients the opportunity to give themselves what they didn’t have growing up”. Is there anything you wanna add to that definition?
[01:24] Catherine Andrews: I think that pretty much nails it. When I think about reparenting and inner child work, it’s the acknowledgement that there is young parts inside of us that still need care and attention and validation. And we can do that by getting in touch with them emotionally through journaling or meditation. We can do that by taking good care of them, putting ourselves to bed at a proper time, you know, not eating a bag of gummy bears immediately before bed when we know it’s not good for our health or our sleep quality, setting boundaries against people that, you know, aren’t helpful to our lives, all the things that we would want to do for a real life child in our lives, whether it’s a niece or a nephew, or your own daughter or son, or just a child you care about, all the ways in which we would want to treat them with respect and care, doing that for ourselves. So I think that definition pretty much nails it.
[02:12] Damianne President: Do you think that everybody, that each one of us can benefit from inner child reparenting?
[02:19] Catherine Andrews: America, at least, seriously needs some reparenting stuff. I’m in Iceland, Washington, DC for most of my life, right? And so I think reparenting is actually like a national crisis because we see non reparented adults who are acting as children are leading our political systems in a lot of ways.
So, that was like a big answer to a small question. But yes, I think it’s urgent that most people explore the concept of inner child work. I absolutely think everybody can benefit from it because we live in an imperfect human world. At best, if you were lucky, you had a relatively stable and loving childhood, but most of us, even those of us who had materially stable childhoods, often didn’t have emotionally stable childhoods.
Or you might have grown up in a home where you knew you were loved, but your emotions were not validated or you were taught to repress your emotions. And reparenting and inner child work helps get back in touch with the experience of that child who was taught that they weren’t allowed to be angry or that, you know, I work with highly sensitive people, they were told they were too sensitive or they were too much.
You get back in touch with that part of yourself, that young part that had been shamed or not served in some way. And you begin to validate their experience and give them emotionally what they need. And, and yes, I think everybody can benefit from it.
[03:44] Damianne President: I’m thinking that when parents were good parents, it’s very unlikely that there’s going to be a perfect match between what the parent perceives as being appropriate for the child and what the child actually needs. Like I don’t think anybody can know anybody else to the degree of perfection that would be required for them to be able to give you exactly what you need. And as children, we need our parents to provide those things for us, like we’re unable to provide a lot of things for ourselves. But as we become adults, as we grow up, then there’s that concept of emotional maturity, which means we realize that we can provide the things that we need for ourselves. But many of us are still looking to other people to provide that because of the story we tell about our past, about our relationship with our parents and everything else.
And so that’s why the idea of inner child reparenting is very interesting to me. And I think something that would be interesting to listeners because we all have those places where we’re looking to somebody else to provide things for us when really we can be providing those for ourselves.
[04:59] Catherine Andrews: I totally love your exploration of that. And I think it’s very true. Again, I work with people who often identify as empaths or highly sensitive people. And sometimes you’re right that there is just a mismatch in the energy and the emotional world of the parent and the child.
And the parent can love the child so much and the child can know that they’re loved. And yet there can still be the parent being like, oh my God, why do they cry so much? You shouldn’t cry so much. Or, why are your emotions so big? Like, why are you so sad about this thing? You shouldn’t be that sad.
And even in the good families where there’s an attempt to comfort the child, sometimes there’s an invalidation of the emotional world of the child. And then, you know, that can lead to all sorts of ramifications for all of us. I actually think inner child re-parenting and intuition are super connected in a lot of ways if we wanna kind of bring the two parts of this conversation together because there can be so much invalidation of your emotional experiences when you’re a child by well-meaning adults, even the most, well-meaning adults. And that can erode your self-trust and intuition too.
So, a lot of what it is then is just saying, you know, inner child work is important and it can be complex, but it’s tenets, I think, are really simple, which is like, you literally begin to talk to yourself as if you were a seven year old, right? Most of us have not been able to cultivate that sort of self-talk with ourselves.
So let’s say that I made a mistake. Maybe I made a typo. By the way, I make typos all the time. But like, say I made a typo in one of my essays or something and I wanna berate myself, God, you should have like rechecked that. You’re so stupid. Why aren’t you focused more on removing typos.
A reparenting inner child thing would be like, okay, Catherine. Like, oh well you know, you made a typo and that’s okay. I know you wanna catch it next time, cuz it makes you feel not great when you make mistakes in your work. But, you know, probably nobody noticed. And I think your essay was so good and I’m so proud of you for writing the essay and having the courage to put it out in the first place. So that kind of distinction between those ways of talking to ourselves, that can be a really great start for inner child work.
[07:06] Damianne President: Are you familiar with Internal Family Systems by Richard Schwartz?
[07:11] Catherine Andrews: Absolutely. So important. Such good work.
[07:15] Damianne President: Yeah, so if people are interested in learning a bit more about how you could talk to your younger self and how you approach inner child reparenting, he has some good resources that people can access in terms of like, meditating, going back and visiting your past self at ages when you really needed the comfort, and being able to provide that comfort for yourself.
[07:38] Catherine Andrews: Yeah. Yeah. I love Internal Family Systems, because the idea of Internal Family Systems is the same as inner child work, that we all have distinct and multiple parts within our psyches that need tending to, and need our awareness and need our love and compassion. And I think his most recent book is called No Bad Parts. I highly recommend it to anybody interested in Inner Child Work or Internal Family Systems or this kind of parts work where you get a more complex and nuanced understanding of yourself, of your behaviors that might be self sabotaging. And you begin to have compassion towards your whole self.
[08:13] Why it’s important to manage your emotions
[08:13] Damianne President: What we were just talking about was making me think back to when we talked about fear earlier. I was thinking that whenever we have big emotions, whatever they might be, it could be fear or it could be excitement. Both of those, people in our lives may try to dampen. They might be like, oh, why are you shouting? Like, why are you behaving that way over whatever it is you’re excited about, settle down. Or it could be, oh, why are you crying? It’s only a movie. Like, make it smaller. So it’s not only in the “negative emotions”, but in all sorts of emotions, people may have this idea of how we should demonstrate, how we should process those emotions. And I think many of us don’t learn at all actually how to just sit with emotion.
And so when I think about inner child reparenting, I think that managing emotions, processing emotions is a big part of that. Is that something that comes up often in your work?
[09:10] Catherine Andrews: Oh yeah. I mean, nobody wants to feel their emotions. And I get it, especially for highly sensitive people or sensitive folks or empaths, emotionally in tune folks, we really feel our emotions in our body. We feel them really strong and they can be really uncomfortable.
Learning to simply acknowledge an emotion is happening, you know, say it is envy or anger, you know, an emotion that historically we may have been told was a bad or negative emotion that we shouldn’t feel, a lot of us will want to numb out that emotion right away. So we may turn to our phone or a substance or shopping or something like that.
But if you can just simply name an emotion. So I’m experiencing anger right now. And notice where it is in your body. Sometimes I just even set a timer for like 60 seconds or three minutes, and I’m like, I’m just going to sit with this feeling in my body. Like, I’m not gonna try to suppress it, but I’m gonna pay attention to it.
I’m gonna notice how the anger wants to like flood my chest with heat. I feel maybe there’s red or heat coming at my neck, into my face. It’s making me think thoughts, think you know, mean things, I wanna say. And then you just observe the emotion as an event that is occurring in your body. It has meaning, it has data, it has information for you, but it’s not inherently bad. Then hopefully learn emotional regulation techniques, ways to express your emotions. But I do think learning your emotions, learning to not fear them and not suppress them is a big part of inner child work.
**Cuz most of us, I mean, I learned how to say the alphabet, you know, and do my multiplication tables, but nobody taught me about my emotional world when I was in elementary school. And I could have used that more frankly.
[10:56] Damianne President: Yeah, there is an author Joan Rosenberg* I believe, has this program and book on processing emotions. I could just be making this up, but I’m pretty sure that one of the things she says is that most people can’t even sit with their emotions for 10 seconds. And that if you could just learn to be with your emotions for 30 to 45 seconds, and that’s very hard for a lot of people, but you can actually build a competency of being able to sit with your emotions 10 seconds at a time, 15 seconds at a time.
What you practice improves. And so if listeners are interested, that could be an invitation. Like next time noticing an emotion and you wanna distract yourself, you wanna resist it, avoid it, consider sitting with it for 10 seconds, 15 seconds and see how it helps you realize like, oh, I actually can deal with emotions like I’m not gonna die. It might feel bad, but that’s okay. It’s a sensation in my body.
[11:56] Catherine Andrews: Yeah, I love that. And something that makes me think of is like the struggles that many of my clients have with crying. So if you’re a sensitive child, crying was probably a response that you had. I mean, I was like a big crier. I was a very sensitive little kid.
But I picked up pretty quickly that my parents were not a fan of me crying as much as I did. And so you learn to repress it pretty early on. There’s a period in my life where I just don’t think I cried for like 10 years. And then getting back in touch with that ability to cry can make folks feel nervous because it may feel like an ocean that’s going to take you under because we’ve never learned to cry to completion.
We’ve never had an adult, a loving adult sit with us and let us like sob as we needed to instead of being like, oh, stop crying, it’s okay. Well-meaning adults too. And so now I find a lot of my adult clients struggle with crying because they think it’s going to last forever and it’s going to suck them under.
And I remind themselves that we’re grownups now. We won’t cry forever. It does feel hard to cry. You know, it is painful. I completely understand that. And it’s so cleansing and cathartic and so you can anchor yourself or find a good mentor or loving friend who maybe can hold space for you while you do that, you know, processing your emotions or crying and then you learn to understand, just like you said, you don’t die. It does pass eventually. It does feel sometimes really uncomfortable and awful, but it never lasts forever.
[13:19] Crying to completion
[13:19] Damianne President: You just talked about crying to completion. What does that mean?
[13:25] Catherine Andrews: Well, have you ever just like had a sob session that was like two hours long? I have but I didn’t for a long time. And it does end. So, when I say crying to completion, I mean like crying out every single last tear that your body has to give over a particular topic.
First off, we just have shame about crying. We were probably shamed about it as kids, like generally the messaging around crying is not positive. Rarely do we have the space for crying, the literal time in our schedules. Like, what am I gonna put in my Google calendar for Sunday afternoon to cry for two hours? It’s just not something that most of us have the ability or time to do. But crying to completion is allowing grief to spark. Because the other thing I’ll say about emotions, especially emotions like anger or fear, underneath most of them is grief.
I find unresolved grief maybe that we didn’t even know we were feeling. And it’s simply allowing that time, whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour, to just let our bodies do what they need to do when it comes to crying. It’s tricky because it feels bad, you’re exhausted afterwards, but it is one of the most like cleansing and cathartic things that you can do.
If you have a really tenuous relationship with crying, I wouldn’t like go listen to this podcast and be like, oh my God, great, I’m gonna go cry for three hours, because It can be hard and scary too. And so this may be something you wanna talk about with a therapist or a trusted counselor or mentor, about this process of like, what is your relationship with crying?
And so you may wanna start with, can you let yourself cry for five minutes and then next time maybe it’s 10 minutes, and then you’re kind of playing around with like the length and intensity of it. Does that make a little bit of sense?
[15:10] Damianne President: I think crying is interesting too because yes, all feelings are sensations in the body, but with crying there is like a physical,
[15:20] Catherine Andrews: Yeah.
[15:21] Damianne President: Like it shows up in a physical way much more than perhaps in other emotions. I guess crying could be related to many different emotions.
So it could be sadness or grief or fear, like I guess any really. But then there is that mental pain from that emotion and then the physical pain of crying. So it’s kind of interesting to think about when crying is involved, maybe there’s more pain than other ways of processing emotions.
Does that make sense?
[15:52] Catherine Andrews: Yeah. And I think absolutely that’s one of our hesitations to do it cuz it’s an incredibly physical experience when you’re really in those, like heaving, racking sobs that can come up when you’re like really crying. And that certainly is a reason that we avoid it and I totally get it. It’s a depleting process too, you know, literally you are losing water from your body through your tears. And it can be a full body experience too. So there’s lots of reasons why crying overall is scary for us. And we don’t have to dive in. And I certainly don’t mean to say that everybody should just go cry for three hours right after this podcast.
If you haven’t cried for a while or crying is hard for you, like, with everything, you kind of wanna just baby step your way into relationship with it. You don’t have to a hundred percent dive in because sometimes our nervous systems are not equipped to handle it. And so it is about, just like you said, hold and process an emotion or be with an emotion for 10 seconds. Like, that is actually really powerful and can be transformative.
Our brains want to hear 10 seconds can’t possibly make a difference, but have you ever tried to sit and just feel an emotion for 10 seconds? It’ll shift things for you. And then with crying, you don’t have to go do a three hour cry, but if tears are there, can you see what it’s like to just cry for three minutes and see how that is and come into a relationship around those emotions too.
[17:08] Damianne President: And when you talk about how difficult it could be for people, I think also, especially when you are used to doing something else, right? Like, I feel sad, I’m gonna pull up Instagram. I’m angry, I’m gonna play Candy Crush, whatever the case may be. So I think one of the most difficult things is actually catching yourself and stopping that automatic response that you would typically have and sitting with that emotion for however long
[17:35] Catherine Andrews: absolutely.
[17:36] How to support others do inner work
[17:36] Damianne President: You talked about how you may need some support in processing your emotions. And so one of the ways that you could get that support is from a trusted friend. And so I’m wondering if people wanna be that for someone else, what does that look like? What does it look like in terms of holding space for somebody else who’s working on inner child reparenting, in whatever way that might look?
[17:58] Catherine Andrews: Well first, I wanna say sometimes you don’t have that person in your life. And that can be hard. And this is gonna sound like a very silly recommendation. And then I’ll talk about how we can be that person for somebody else, but is to get a pillow or like a stuffed animal. Like I have a squishmallow, if you know what those are. I only know them cuz I have nieces and nephews and they’re like these big stuffed animals that are popular here in the US and they can be pillow sized. And so if you’re with emotions or feeling like crying, you can hold a pillow or the stuffed animal to your chest. That can be like the physical comfort if there’s not anybody around for you. So I just wanna recommend that as a tactic.
Stuffed animals can be surprisingly therapeutic. I should probably write something in the Sunday Soother about that. You know, I went into life coaching because I had a lot of good advice. And I really started out as a life coach, like telling people to do this, to do that, try this, try that. And the more and more I go into my practice, I simply understand that people wanna be witnessed and validated and honored in whatever their emotion is.
There’s discernment that happens here because we all have that friend who goes into like the victim narrative story over and over again, and may be abusing our relationship as like a dumping ground. But if there’s a friend who, and you have to set boundaries that are appropriate for you in those circumstances, but the friend who’s truly in pain, what you can do is just simply, I mean, listening is an absolutely underrated skill and full body listening. And if painful emotions come up for them, if they need to cry, you know, what would a child have needed? Somebody to just hold them or just put their hand on their back and say like, I’m here. I’m here.
And so holding that space, that’s a skill for sure. Some of us innately have it, A lot of us can learn it. But like active listening, embodied presence, and simply not immediately throwing advice at people, which is what I used to do. And I found over time that people more just wanted the presence and the nonjudgmental presence of my active listening and my compassion.
[20:00] Damianne President: Yeah, and I think the other thing that I’ve learned in coaching too, is that people have a lot more answers than they think. And that connects back to our conversation about intuition too, right, where people have the answers, and sometimes all they need is somebody to listen to them,
[20:17] Catherine Andrews: Exactly yeah. It’s really underrated like space holding where you are there physically as a presence. But it’s more about the quality of your presence rather than like anything you could say or do that actually can be very transformative and healing for some people.
[20:33] Damianne President: I’m just watching the time. And so is there anything that I did not ask you that I should have? Anything else that you wanted to make sure listeners take away from our conversation?
[20:44] Catherine Andrews: No, that hour flew by. I have delighted in this conversation in the wide range of everything, from intuition to inner child. I mean, this is like my dream podcast. So just really grateful to be here and I had a really good time.
[20:55] Damianne President: Thank you. And in terms of resources for Inner Child Work, we already talked about Richard Schwartz and you shared his book; I’ll add that to the show notes. Is there anything else that you would like to point listeners to?
[21:08] Catherine Andrews: Yes. I love the book, Healing Your Lost Inner Child by Robert Jackman. It’s a workbook, and he has just, even through just his words, I’ve never met the man, but he has a quality of presence and compassion that leads you so gently through the reparenting exercises. I just think it’s a beautiful book. So again, it’s called Healing Your Lost Inner Child by Robert Jackman.
* The book by Joan Rosenberg is called 90 Seconds To A Life You Love. And so, big reveal as the name tells you, Joan actually recommends that you sit with emotions for 90 seconds. That doesn’t invalidate any of the rest of the conversation that I’ve had with Catherine and our recommendations. Because if you can’t sit with an emotion for 90 seconds, then start wherever you are, whether that’s 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 45 seconds, wherever you are. Because, you know, here at Changes, Big and Small, the tagline is change begins with one small step. And what that means is that you start where you are, and you build your capacity. You get better at it with practice, over time.
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