Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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It's Never Too Late to Have a Happy Childhood!

                                     It’s Never Too Late to Have a Happy Childhood!

 

The title of this article may be puzzling to you.  You probably consider your childhood as over and done with.  If you had a happy childhood: Great! Go back to your life and don’t bother reading this article.  If you’re not sure whether your childhood was as happy as it could be, keep reading. If you know for sure that you had an unhappy and troubled childhood, this article is definitely for you.  The psychological technique I’m referring to is called Reparenting or Self Reparenting.  A therapist is usually important and helpful to the process, but the process can be done by oneself and then is usually called Self Reparenting.

 

Experts tell us that our character, our values and our happiness were developed during our childhood and carried along within us throughout our entire lives. Actually we don’t really need experts to tell us that important fact.  Most of us have a good idea about what happened during our childhood, and our recollections are key to our feelings of life satisfaction or unhappiness.  There is another option which is usually quite problematic, when people blank out and have very few memories of their childhood. Usually this occurs when children experienced trauma that is too painful to remember. In this quite difficult situation, I recommend working with an experienced therapist and not trying Reparenting by yourself.

 

The concept of Reparenting can be particularly helpful when we recognize we are struggling with issues from our childhood that negatively influence our lives today.  Most of us have felt fatalistic about this problem, thinking that the childhood issues are over and our personality problems are permanent.  But let’s think again.  We are now intelligent adults who exercise discretion in choices in our daily lives.  We can actually spend time analyzing and understanding our childhood, categorize the issues that shaped our personalities in an undesirable manner, then develop a plan to restructure that part of our personality.  What many of us have done is blame our parents for these issues and then feel fatalistic or resentful or both about these unhappy parts of our personality. Furthermore, too often we found ourselves treating our children in the same undesirable manner as happened to us. We can use Reparenting in a novel manner to reshape our personalities as well as our own parenting styles.

 

To Reparent  we use our minds and our hearts to analyze the problems we experienced during our childhood and then develop an internal coach to guide our adult selves into the changes we wished we had experienced as children.  You can start with one characteristic at a time or you can spend some time with child development or reparenting books to more fully analyze and reconceptualize the process.  Let’s look at a problem many of us experience, a lack of self-love along with an excess of self-criticism.  The common reactions most of us experience might be anger at our parents and/or anxiety and depression in our daily lives.  This technique would help us develop an internal parent coach, a new, supportive and encouraging internal voice which would lovingly guide us through the challenges of life.  Once we grasp this concept, we can give ourselves positive affirmations, using self talk to encourage ourselves like a good mentor or coach. Up to now you may have fallen into a pattern of discouragement and disillusion when you encounter a problem. Instead you can give yourself a pep talk as would a loving parent and feel the self-love radiate throughout your heart in a meaningful manner. If this sounds silly or simplistic, don’t give up. The process definitely does work although it takes time and energy. Wouldn’t you like to be happy?  You just need to work with one issue at a time until you have made meaningful changes in your life.  Each of us does develop our own life script, although much of it is choreographed by parents and others. As adults, we can change our own lives!

 

When our parents have disappointed us, sometimes significantly, and interfered or continue to interfere with our life purpose and happiness, we find ourselves resentful or angry about this problem.  But these feelings will not help our adjustment and in fact will continue to interfere with our life satisfaction.  There are many choices that you can make in dealing with this unfortunate situation, including separating yourselves from your parents influence if that is possible or remaining angry and resentful.  There are versions of “forgiveness” therapy that can help you discharge your angry feelings without remaining stuck in patterns of negative influence. In this situation please consider developing your internal Reparenting coach to help you care for yourself and right whatever wrongs were done to you.

 

If you want to read further about this issue, consider the book “It’s Never To Late to Be Happy! Reparenting Yourself for Happiness,” by Muriel James, Quill Driver Books, 2002. You can use the book in a very specific way, following the guideposts and instructions, or you can simply use it for inspiration.   A therapist could also be very helpful to your Reparenting since she or he is trained in helping people achieve positive changes in their lives.  It’s not easy to find happiness within ourselves, but there is nowhere else to find it!