“Becoming Your Own Loving Parent:” Easier Said Than Done For ACAs

(This is the original article that ignited the "inner child movement" in the late 80's. Every "recovery therapist" in California became aware of the Inner Child through this article and my book. During this time I was an active ACA member and witnessed many self-parenting miracles of recovery.)

Once you become aware of your suffering as the child of dysfunctional parenting, you begin to wonder how to begin positive Self-Parenting with only negative role models to follow. This problem has caused many in our ranks to despair and has frequently blocked our recovery via “The Solution.”

Positive Self-Parenting techniques can now be learned by anyone willing to devote thirty minutes a day to loving, supporting, and nurturing his or her Inner Child. After many years of practical investigation and testing, I have developed a method for practicing Self-Parenting that is as direct and easy to learn as possible.

This process, which I call the Self-Parenting Program, resulted from the exploration of my own ACA issues. Although the ACA symptoms were not yet recognized in the early seventies, I certainly qualified as having the condition.

My original investigations began with what I called my “Inner Conversations.” My thoughts and feelings would pull me in completely opposite directions. Sometimes I would agonize for weeks over a problem or decision and later think to myself, “Why did I waste so much time on that?”

I could not understand why I was having only temporary or partial success eliminating unproductive habit patterns when I was trying so hard. Indecision and inner conflicts could immobilize me mentally and emotionally, especially concerning relationships.

Why this was happening and, more importantly, how I reversed these negative emotional problems, is introduced in my book, SELF- PARENTING: The Complete Guide To Your Inner Conversations.

My Personal Discovery of Self-Parenting

Many people have asked me how I discovered Self-Parenting. The start of Self-Parenting awareness began for me with an investigation into the Huna religion as researched and discovered by Max Freedom Long.

In his book The Secret Science At Work, Max revealed the secret verbal code of the Kahunas, the master priests of Hawaii’s pre-Christian religion. Two selves he described as being important to the Kahunas were the Middle Self and the Low Self.

It seemed to me that this middle self was very similar to a regular outer parent while the low self had all the characteristics of a typical child. I reasoned that if I could study outer parenting methods I might be able to internalize them and use them in the conversations between my middle self and low self. And thus, “Self-Parenting” was born.

In 1975 I began my first true Self-Parenting sessions. Thank goodness for Thomas Gordon, who wrote the extremely lucid and well thought out book, Parent Effectiveness Training. Using his outer parenting methods, I simply sat down and began talking to what I began calling my “Inner Child.”

I practiced both passive and active listening as well as problem-solving techniques within my Inner Conversations. Eventually I incorporated other meditation and new age methods to love, support, and nurture myself. By 1980 I had built a solid program of personal Self-Parenting and I was feeling pretty good.

Inner Conversations: Who Are the Participants?

For there to be a conversation inside my mind, I reasoned it must be occurring between two points of view. When we are young we are biologically programmed to model and mimic our parents as part of growing up. As a result, we unconsciously absorb our parents’ ideas, viewpoints, and mannerisms. These attitudes and opinions become the voice for one side of our Inner Conversations: the INNER PARENT.

As children we also had our own pint-sized egos and outlooks on life. We formed opinions and reactions to our parents and the world around us. We made decisions about the way things were in the world (right or wrong). Today that voice still reacts within each of us the same way it did when we were young – even though childhood might have been twenty, forty, or sixty years ago. I call this voice the INNER CHILD.

Your Inner Conversations are the dialogues between these two distinct and separate voices. The Inner Parent offers mental opinion, intellectual advice, and rational reasoning. The Inner Child contributes emotional feelings, irrational reactions, and subjective responses.

I discovered in those early days (and am still discovering) that I self-parent my Inner Child with exactly the same style of parenting I received as a child. The incredible revelation was that I, as the Inner Parent, was unconsciously parenting myself, as the Inner Child, within my Inner Conversations.

You may not be aware of it, but you are doing the same. If your outer parenting as a child was ideal, then your Self-Parenting will be very positive. If your outer parenting was negative or less than ideal, then you have a job ahead of you; to change your Self-Parenting style and improve the way you think and feel. If you are the child of dual dysfunctional parents, this project of developing a positive Inner Parent is a formidable one.

The destructive effects of a dysfunctional family environment are well documented. The patterns of centricity, denial, inconsistency, anger, and guilt along with the physical, emotional, mental, and social problems of dysfunctional family interactions create a parenting environment equivalent to a prison or concentration camp!

When you are confronted with different choices and ways to handle your life experiences, you unconsciously repeat the same poor skills and unhealthy behaviors you learned from your parents.

Your life is a series of decisions that reflect the way your Inner Parent and Inner Child interact within your environment. The Self-Parenting Style you inherited from your dysfunctional parents becomes an unconscious element of your thoughts and feelings. Now, without realizing it, you are continuing this process through negative Self-Parenting.

By becoming more aware of your Self-Parenting style, you can start to make conscious choices in your life rather than acting on past patterns. Many people reading SELF-PARENTING report breakthroughs in their Self-Parenting style simply from reading the book, mostly because they become aware of this interaction for the first time.

Inner Conflicts

Sometimes your Inner Parent and Inner Child co-exist in harmony; other times they disagree. These confrontations, called Inner Conflicts, take the form of classic outer parent/outer child arguments.

The Inner Conflicts you have today were first encountered as outer conflicts with your parents when you were growing up. Outer conflicts you’ve had with “significant others” such as your parents, grandparents, or other role models can also become internalized versions of Inner Conflicts.

Inner Conflicts result from the conflict of needs between your Inner Parent and Inner Child within your Inner Conversations. Since they are two separate and distinct personalities, many times the Inner Parent and Inner Child have different desires.

The Inner Child wants chocolate ice cream because it tastes good; the Inner Parent wants to eat vanilla yogurt for health reasons. Or, your Inner Child wants to sleep in because you are tired while your Inner Parent says you must go to work so you won’t get fired.

Inner Conflicts can be devastating. Since they are “in your mind,” they confuse your ability to think clearly. Inner Conflicts create indecision and cause a physical and mental paralysis that can overwhelm your ability to produce, perform, or simply enjoy life as a human being.

You know you are in an Inner Conflict whenever you start experiencing emotional frustration, insomnia due to racing thoughts, or physical symptoms due to stress. Once an Inner Conflict starts affecting your body it has become a major problem in your life. The Self-Parenting issues behind an emotional Inner Conflict can last a lifetime if they are not recognized and handled properly.

The worst aspect about Inner Conflicts is that they are entirely self-inflicted. You are doing the damage to yourself, all by yourself, within your Inner Conversations. Until you do the work to pull yourself out, you will remain stuck in an Inner Conflict – despite the help and best intentions of your family, friends, or even professional intervention.

Inner Conflicts must be resolved with special awareness and techniques! Your Inner Voices are in a relationship together and both Inner Selves have needs that must be met! Until both Selves are satisfied, neither the Inner Parent nor the Inner Child will be able to function effectively.

If one Inner Self wins over the needs of the other, there will be a backlash from the other Self, which will be harmful and damaging to the long-term relationship. Resolving Inner Conflicts establishes the true boundary between function and dysfunction in your life.

The “Self-Parenting” Exercises

If you want to begin positive Self-Parenting, you, as the Inner Parent, must study how and then practice. The Inner Parent is responsible for correcting its part of the Inner Conversations first. You must unlearn the bad habits that you perpetuate from your parents as well as learn and practice the new methods of positive Self-Parenting.

By practicing a daily half-hour format called the Self-Parenting Exercises, you can become deeply sensitive to and aware of your Inner Conversations.

You learn to recognize the voices of your Inner Parent and Inner Child when they are fighting. You will also practice methods for recording your Inner Conversations so you may study and improve them. These daily half-hour sessions represent a long-term commitment between your Inner Parent and your Inner Child so they may get to know each other better.

The initial Self-Parenting exercises involve two weeks worth of sessions with you, as the Inner Parent, simply asking your Inner Child questions and writing down what it says. The third week of sessions outlines several ways to continue nurturing your Inner Child in a loving, positive way. After the first three weeks of positive Self-Parenting, most people report more happiness and internal fulfillment than they’ve experienced since childhood.

Practicing the Self-Parenting Exercises creates deeper levels of self-caring and allows you to build and maintain higher levels of self-esteem. Sharing a half hour per day with your Inner Child gives rise to far-reaching changes in the way you think and feel. More positive side effects include the ability to eliminate indecision and to bring success and happiness into your life.

As an ACA, positive Self-Parenting can become the foundation for new self-confidence and self-management. This excitement creates an emotional feeling your Inner Child remembers, but your Inner Parent has forgotten, or simply never had. Don’t just take my word for it, experience this for yourself.

The parenting issues that were once a part of your past, can now be left in the past where they belong. Your future can now include the love, support, and nurturing you give to your Inner Child each day through positive Self-Parenting.