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Loving Parent

by Amber Tolbert

Until my early adult years, the fact that I couldn’t recognize my own self-worth and struggled with close relationships seemed to be the way things were. People would often joke that I couldn’t remember a thing they said to me. Sometimes, I honestly couldn’t. To compensate, I would make fun of myself before others would, just to prevent them from getting the dig. On the outside, I smiled and laughed at myself. But inside, I carried a lot of shame. I had this unsettled feeling that something wasn’t right, that wires within my brain were somehow disconnected…or missing.

During my clinical training, I realized my “bad memory” was so much more. It wasn’t that I was incapable of remembering. It wasn’t that I wasn’t listening. And it wasn’t that I had early-onset dementia. I had “trauma brain.” Events in my past affected how I thought, acted, processed information, and, most significantly, viewed myself.

Trauma isn’t just the experience but also the response of others to that experience. The impact that causes the most sustainable damage, in fact, is the lack of response from an authority figure. As I was growing up, I longed for an authority figure who would both acknowledge and validate my experiences. More often than not, I never found that person. The result is I hardened myself, pushed others away, and built walls to protect my inner child from further harm.

Children look to their parents for guidance, comfort, support, and love. When that authority figure is absent, what are you supposed to do?

That’s where reparenting comes in. The concept of reparenting is giving yourself the support, love, and attention you didn’t receive as a child. For me, the only way to move beyond my trauma was to seek the authority figure that had been missing before. It just so happens that that authority figure was me. Now, when I am triggered, I use tools to provide love, support, and boundaries for my inner child so she receives the message of comfort and safety she needs. I often wonder what I would have been like had I not gone through trauma. As I continue my recovery and love myself through reparenting, that person is coming through. She’s tentative. She’s a little shy. But I’m starting to see her…and I like who I see.

The same can be possible for you. If you’ve lived through trauma and are struggling with finding balance and contentment, both with yourself and with others, consider the upcoming “Loving Parent” group! In this eight-session group that meets every other week, starting November 10th, Amanda Enlow and I will go deeper into right-sizing, self-loving, and reparenting. We will address semantics and self-talk, parenting paradigms, and the question of what reparenting is and looks like. Click the link below for more details and to register!

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