Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reparenting Yourself: a healing strategy

As you all know by now, I was a severely abused child. I know many of you who read Sublime Mercies were also abused in childhood. Like me, many of you grew up without love and all those little things that love brings. I bet someone, somewhere along the line suggest that you "reparenting" yourself. But what is that? 

It's a fancy name for a very simple concept really: Do things for your traumatized child self that no-one did for you when you were little. I find it really does help.

Reparenting is different for every suvivor. For me, it involves things like reading children's books and watching children's movies that I liked, or would have liked, when I was a child, or having a teddy bear even though I'm over forty, or sometimes having pancakes for dinner. 

You'd be amazed at how healing these little things can be. Whether you have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) alone, or also have DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), the principle can work pretty much the same: give yourself, or your "littles", the the childhood comforts and joys that you/they deserved but never got. 

As some of you who read my blog know, I've been having a tough time adjusting to living with my partner. I'm part of a "family" now and the idea of "family" is quite triggering for me. It is bringing old traumas to the fore, and I feel more like my child self these days than I'd like. 

I didn't draw this myself but I love whatever little kid saw fit to draw it. It brightened my day.
In other words, reparenting myself is important for me right now. Incidentally, it's also important for those around me; the more at peace I am, the more peaceful it is to live with me.

One way I reparent myself is to sometimes let my child self have a hand in picking my outfits. Think about it. What's in your closet that you would have loved when you were a kid? Why not wear it today? 

Sparkly pink is almost always a winner, right? 

Add a glittery sweater, an almost lacy shirt, a skirt with flowers and a pink ribbon on it, and a 3-D flower bracelet and, well, you have one giddy, happy inner child.

How often were you happy as a child? Don't you deserve that feeling now?

T-shirt: Reitmans; Shoes: Ecco; Skirt and sweater: thrift; Handbag, bangle, earrings, and Sherman brooch: vintage; Hair clip: Stylize
And you don't have to look like a freak doing it. It's true that I do have to reign it in a bit. If you have children in your life, or remember your own childhood, you can imagine how I might look if I hadn't let my adult self have some say in this ensemble. Bows in my hair? Every single bangle I own up my arms? Sparkly wings? It could have happened. Even inner children need some adult guidance.

But you can go pretty wild without drawing too much unpleasant attention to yourself. This hairstyle isn't all that conventional but it's also not too kooky for public viewing, at least not in my neighbourhood.

Besides, what else could I do with my hair at this point? What with the stress of our move, I hadn't cut my hair for ages and it was completely out of control.

That halo of fire in the sun, though? That's not about my hair being out of control. That's about being Jewish. I've had that halo all my life. Some call it a Jewfro. I suppose I could straighten it all sleek and smooth, but why bother? I like it like this -- mostly, sometimes, depending on my mood, the level of frizz, and the weather.

But I digress. We're talking about reparenting the inner child and what she wanted me to wear that day.

When I was a child, I was always enchanted by little details that took on magical qualities to me. In a way, I guess I still am. This bracelet's "3-D" quality is mysterious to me even now. I think it was achieved by carving out the flowers from the back. Do you know the technique? I'd love to know more. 

I got these earrings in a grab bag at Value Village and knew right away that they would match my hair. Plus, I'm a total sucker for old-fashioned mill-graining in jewelry. That's those little dots or "blobs" of metal that give the earring a lacy effect. 

Mill-graining has definitely found its way onto the engagement ring that Beau and I are designing for me. (He doesn't want any on his. Fair enough.)

And what little kid hasn't gone through a period of loving to carry around little handbags? There may be some but, boy or girl, I'll bet most of you reading this did it at least for a while as a child, or wanted to anyway.

This one probably dates to the 1930s. Note the Art Deco geometry in its texture.

But the most important detail was this Sherman brooch. I actually bought it specifically for the little girl I once was. It's a bit too pink for the adult me, but the child me? Well, it's perfect, obviously. Duh!

In fact, the whole outfit was built around this brooch.

Children like pink. 

I'm not talking about that noxious pepto-bismal pink that's being forced upon all girls and denied to all boys these days. 

I'm talking about that soft, gentle pink that just naturally puts children at ease. It's pretty

There was no shortage of pink on my walk on this day.

And the particular angle of the late March, spring light made everything that much prettier. Things were positively luminous. 

Even a cement wall had a certain warmth and glow ...

... let alone things that seem to be meant to glow, like yellow walls ...

... and flowers ...

... and little ol' me?

Almost anything is beautiful in light like this.

If you live in a place full of natural beauty, all the better!

It made the squinting worth it ...

... if we got to see things like this.

It even made a little sunburn on my bare legs worth it. 

I'm crazy white and, yes, I can burn in March -- or even January if given about fifteen minutes of sunshine.

But wasn't it glorious not to have to wear tights? Air on my legs? What a lovely sensation. 

Did you have shoes like this when you were little? I always insisted on Mary-Janes for years. No ugly runners for me! (That's "trainers" to you Brits, and "sneakers" to you Americans.) No way!

The trick is to find the magic and wonder in everyday, prosaic things and events.

Wouldn't the light through this crystal, glass, and water have fascinated you when you were a child? Let it fascinate you now.

Reparent yourself.

Start with something small that both you and your child self love.

Do this even on a sad day.

It will help.  Maybe not a lot, but a little, and isn't any balm better than nothing?

It might even help you notice still more things that help you feel a bit better.

Do you like this little spot? Want to see more of it? Check out this post, about fairy tales, and Art Nouveau:
Or even a lot better.

Like sunshine itself.

It's all in how you see it.

Now it's over to you. Tell me how you reparent yourself. If you have DID, feel free to use plural pronouns, call yourself "we," use the names of your inner children and call them "she" or "he". It's all fine by me. I'd just love to hear how you help yourself (or yourselves) heal.

Maybe it will give me some ideas.

(I'm linking this up to Visible Mondays at Not Dead Yet, to Second Hand First at Citizen Rosebud, and to Shoe Shine over at Ephemera.) 


  1. This is interesting. My ex therapist told me months ago to reparent myself which I felt was odd to do because isn't it a parents' job to parent you? I have been doing stuff that my mom didn't teach me and been getting better at it my own way. However, I still live at home with the abuse and hoping I can get away since I have a job now.

    1. Yes, it is the parents' job but abusive parents don't do their job. You shouldn't have to do it for yourself. It's not fair. But, doing it will help.

      First, though, you have to get out of that home. Are you old enough to live on your own? If you're not, you can get yourself into foster care. As an adult, even without a job or money, there are services to help you escape. That's step #1. I left "home" at 17, without a job or a home, and just hoped for the best. I wish I had left earlier but I felt I had no-where to go. I did manage to finish high school by staying. I left five days after I graduated.

  2. I hug my doggies and spoil them rotten. Christmas decor at my house is very Charlie-Brown-centric as well. Of course, you already know I play dress-up on a regular basis ;-)


  3. Mary Janes are a classic that always work for many looks. Visiting from Shoe & Tell. Have a great day.

  4. Your blog is always such a visual treat, no matter the subject. Pink is so good on you! Pretty "inner-child" outfit. My wish for you is that your clear self-awarenss takes you through your adjustment into a family setting and family membership. As a very young woman suddenly married, I panicked when I suddenly "belonged" to a new family. I felt my individuality was threatened. And it was! So much depends on the family your find yourself within! Beau and kids seem like a good fit, and I'm happy for you.

    Even at my age, when I have trouble sleeping, I tuck my inner-little-girl in and tell her a good story. And sometimes, I twirl. (Shhhh... don't tell anyone I still twirl!)

  5. Love the beaded sweater. And the "found" rainbow :)

    When I was a kid, I was essentially the parent to my two highly disfunctional parents----consequently, I grew up both being childish (because I never got to really be one) and overly responsible in a caretaker sort of way. Reparenting myself has been a confusing process, but I have slowly been seeing the rewards. I allow myself to talk to squirrels in the park, have tea parties with my cats, re-read the YA and children's books I loved and took refuge in as a child. I also allow myself to not do things---the dishes don't have to be done right this minute. I don't have to get back to people right away if I don't feel like it. And because I am allowing myself to really do (or not do) those things, I have been feeling a creative flowering lately where I once thought was only a dead zone. Its probably a lifelong journey but its certainly a journey worth taking and the healing is definitely in the journeying.
    All the best dear lady, keep on sparkling!

    1. Love to hear all the things that you do to reparent yourself. I can really relate to feeling like the only responsible one, even though I was the youngest. It sounds like you and I do similar things to help ourselves. In my case, I was rendered disabled by the abuse so I HAVE to leave things undone or I have relapses, like the one I had last week that made it almost impossible to walk.

      I talk to squirrels... and crows... and cats... and any little bird I come across, and I come across a lot because I feed them on my balcony

  6. The rainbow chalk sidewalk drawing is lovely! I snap photos of these types of expression around my neighborhood. Gotta support the arts! The reparenting idea is a good one- never thought of it before but I imagine much healing can be gained by feeding the starved child inside us. I hope you finally get your fill of the love that surrounds you, that you so deserved. Here's to the chance to start anew in a loving and nourishing environment that you are empowered to create for yourself! Here's to love!