The “Inner Parent”

Today I curled up by a cozy fire in a local coffee shop and took out a new leather bound journal that my sister gave me for Christmas. And as I put my trusty pen to paper, I was bombarded by an assortment of thoughts. Scrolling through my mind were phrases like “Don’t write on this — the lines are too small!”, “How can you possibly fit your words between those lines?!” and “You don’t even know what you want to say!!!” I felt like someone had let all of the animals out of the zoo, and I was frozen in the middle of the stampede. So what did I do? I paused for what seemed like an epoch, and then I just started writing! As the first few paragraphs scrawled across the lined pages of the journal, the cacophony of roaring thoughts muffled to mild purrs. And by the time I got to the third page, I was engulfed in a peaceful quiet  — I was “in the zone”. After an hour, multiple pages were filled with thoughts and I was struck by the irony of the whole experience. Clearly, the lines weren’t too small, and I had many different things to say! But if I had listened to the original thoughts, closed my journal and found another way to pass the time, I never would’ve seen the flip side to the coin.

I’m constantly intrigued by who is speaking the thoughts that come in to my mind. The phrase “Don’t write on this” implies that there is a “You” that shouldn’t write. And if there is a “You” then there must be an “I”. But that implies two people . And how in the hell can there be multiple people inside of me?!?!? 🙂 In short, we all have conversations with ourselves. We think phrases such as “don’t forget to put the laundry in the dryer”, “remember to call Ricky” and “it’s time to go to the bathroom”. These thoughts suggest that there at least two people in the communication — a speaker and a listener. I think we identify ourselves as the “listener” in the situation, whether we choose to actually listen to the thoughts or not. So then who is this proverbial “speaker”? In a nutshell, I call this “speaker” the “Inner Parent”.

What is the “Inner Parent”? It’s the part of you that cares for you like a parent. Deep down it wants you to succeed and thrive. It’s worried that you might fall on your face, and it wants you to run with the gazelles. Whenever it feels that you could be in danger it starts speaking. And sometimes it just keeps on speakin’! It finds all the potential reasons why you shouldn’t do what you’re about to do and why you shouldn’t have done what you just did. In essence, it is our “Inner Critic”. But if you look through all the worries, accusations and fears, you will see that the “Inner Parent” has deep love for you. And it just wants to make sure you’re safe and set up for success.

So how can you get out from underneath your “Inner Parent” and find your own wings to soar through the skies? You can start by identifying what it’s saying, recognizing how it’s committed to your success and then thanking it. For example, when my “Inner Parent” said, “Don’t write on this — the lines are too small!” there was a hidden subtext that was attempting to be conveyed. (Basically, the subtext is the implicit communication that is trying to be expressed through the actual words that are being used.)  I started wondering why my ‘Inner Parent” was concerned about the size of the lines. And then I realized that the subtext underneath the phrase was “I want you to be free to write whatever you want, and I don’t want you to be confined and limited!” Once I realized this, I was struck by how much my “Inner Parent” was trying to keep me from falling. This led me to say (partially out loud), “Thank you for being committed to my success and wanting me to achieve great things. I am grateful for your love and support!” And at that moment, my mind became calm and I felt a surge of creativity and love coursing through me.

When your “Inner Parent” feels heard, it gets out of your way. When you appreciate it, it calms down. But when you try to ignore it, it gets fiesty like a parent dealing with an unruly teenager. To find peace, let it be heard. The next time you hear it nagging at you, stop. Identify what it’s really trying to commuincate, which is almost always how it’s committed to your ultimate success. And then find the gratitude and appreciation for the love and support it constantly tries to give you. And if it dares to say, “I told you so!” Just say, ‘I know. Thank you!”

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