The Inner Parent

(I wrote this about 2 weeks ago. I have written a few posts I haven’t shared. I am trying to share more freely. I believe it is good practice for me living as my true self.)

During this process of getting back in touch with myself and living the life I want, I started developing an “inner parent”. This was a figure I could seek out in times of high emotion for support. At first it was challenging for me to make this inner parent real enough in my imagination, it wasn’t natural. In trying to flesh out this inner parent I found filling them in with those who have inspired me helpful (for me this was mainly Jesus and the character Alyosha from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov who was a character modeled after Jesus).

With time and practice my inner parent figure has become more solid and turning to the inner parent in times of high emotion feels more natural. My inner parent is kind, compassionate, gentle, wise, comforting, calm, strong, motivating, supportive and sees the real me and believes in my potential. They love me unconditionally. They believe I have a good and loving heart and good and loving intentions. They look at me with pride.

When I get in high emotions I know to go before this parent. They comfort me. And recently they seem to have taken on a new role. They guide me. I think the inner parent started guiding me because I started asking for their guidance not simply comfort. It’s not something I intentionally started to do with any expectation. It just naturally arose within the moments of high emotions before the inner parent. They seem to speak to me. And their guidance rings as true so deeply in my heart. They give me clarity and peace.

For example, This week I was feeling hurt, unseen, confused, and “useless” after a conversation with my husband. I often feel I bring my full and vulnerable self before others now, and expect that to be helpful to them in some way. Often however I feel the other person doesn’t see me. I feel they aren’t interested in me, and even worse that I bother them. After this difficult conversation I fled inwards, and once I was in a calmer state this is what my inner parent said:

“The gift you bring to the table is not being seen, it is seeing others”.

These words helped me so much. They helped me see more clearly why I felt so hurt. They helped me realize that though I have good intentions, my habitual path is often not the wisest one. They gently reminded me to refocus my energy into opening my eyes to others as opposed to using my energy to try to get others to open their eyes to me. The only person who needs to see the real me is myself, if I have that I have all I need. But if I can not see others or they do not feel seen by me, I have work to do.

After finding comfort and guidance with my inner parent, I approached my husband again. When I listened with open ears I could hear him better. I found he had a wonderful insight for me. He shared that when trying to see others it can be helpful to listen to more than just their words. He said there are many ways to communicate, though I am a verbal person and often express myself and my love through my words, maybe other people’s love is expressed in different ways. This rung as very true to me! I will practice listening to others with more than just my ears.

I wonder about the nature of this inner relationship. Who is the person that flees to the inner parent and who is the inner parent? Why does their presence with me bring such peace, why are their simple words so true and good? I suspect they speak what I already know but do not see.

It does not feel like the inner parent is a part of myself. It feels like they are a separate person within. Yet this whole dynamic strikes me as interesting because I have noticed that I can sometimes find and see the beauty and goodness in the external world, and in other people, yet I can not find or see the beauty and goodness within me. I do not understand why. I suspect the inner parent figure I can find and my inner goodness and beauty I can not find are connected.

Learning to See the Unconscious Mind

A new relationship has been forming between me and the internal things (thoughts and feelings) within me. I see them more clearly as distinct things which exist outside of my real center of self/consciousness. They are all around me within my internal world, but they are not within ME. In this more detached state, there is less fear of what I see and with less fear more freedom. Freedom to observe these mental things (thoughts and feelings) with more curiosity and to study them more deeply.

Sometimes as I sit with and study a familiar thought or feeling around me internally a completely unfamiliar thoughts or feeling, seemingly connected to the familiar one, arises. I often feel the urge to leave these unfamiliar thoughts unstudied. I’ll think “How could they be relevant to my life if I have never used them consciously in decision making?”. Even more, not only are these thoughts totally unfamiliar, they often appear inaccurate and illogical to me (ex. “If someone isn’t being loving to me, then it must be the case I do not deserve their love. Therefore I should change my behavior until I can be lovable to them.). My thinking mind considers these thoughts to be ridiculous. It would never use them in any decision making process. Therefore my thinking mind forcefully declares these thoughts are irrelevant to me and my life.

Yet if I stick with my study of these unfamiliar and illogical thoughts, and especially if I try to speak to someone else about them, sometimes strong and uncontrollable emotions will instantly pour out of me. I breakdown in tears. The tears surprise me. They often embarrass me. I believe I am simply trying to study or discuss untrue and illogical thoughts I do not hold. If I try to introspect and determine what within me is causing the tears, I don’t recognize any emotion or thought within me that could explain the tears. I feel fine.

But this contrast between how I feel and how I am acting confuses and frustrates me. I do not have that uniquely personal ability to introspect/to see what is within this mind who is crying. It is as if someone else’s mind has gained control over my external emotional expressions. Though I know this is not true. Rather it must be that I have completely lost introspective touch with a part of my emotional brain. Though clearly that part has not lost touch/control over my body. I suspect this lost part of my emotional mind is part of my unconscious mind. I have always believed in the unconscious mind, but never before have I experienced a mindful awareness that I am witnessing it’s effects acting through me.

In order to know what is within this part of my unconscious, I must use my reasoning abilities. I first collect information by observing how my body is acting (crying). Then I reason that within my internal but unconscious world there must be some feeling of sadness, emotional pain, or hurt.

It appears that my calmer and freer introspection/observation of my familiar internal world is allowing me to see for the first time some of the unconscious (“unfamiliar and illogical”) thoughts and feelings which are fueling these more familiar thoughts and feelings. That would explain why these unfamiliar thoughts are suddenly appearing internally around me now that I am more deeply studying my familiar thoughts and feelings. It may also help explain why they often appear to me to be illogical or inaccurate thoughts. They were learned/formed by a much younger me’s knowledge, perspective, and freedom. A me in a different world.

But before I go more into the origin of these beliefs, I find it important to add I have tried to study how frequently unconscious/invisible thoughts may be influencing my actual choices and behavior. I took one of these newly conscious/visible “unfamiliar and illogical thoughts” and looked back to see if there was any evidence of its influence in my past choices, actions, understanding of other people and myself, etc. I found evidence of its influence EVERYWHERE. It was a missing variable. It helped explain some of my most puzzling habitual choices and behaviors. Even more I realized other people had seen my actions and suggested maybe I had this thought/feeling. I couldn’t introspect it within me, so I had never believed that I did hold such a thought/feeling. But now I infer it was unconsciously fueling many of my past choices and behaviors.

Returning back to why the beliefs I become conscious of from the unconscious would appear to me as illogical and untrue, I assume this is because the unconscious largely learned what it knows during my childhood. Therefore within a child’s knowledge, perspective and freedom it solidified the code of best action for thriving in “the world” including what is dangerous for me. I left childhood – I acquired more knowledge, more perspectives, more power, and more freedom. But what happened to everything I had learned, my code of life? What is the relationship between the child’s old and deeply practiced knowledge of the world and how best to thrive in it and all the adult’s new and ever growing knowledge, perspectives, and freedoms. How did/do they interact?

I am not sure. But I suspect I have long lived as a feeling and thinking learning machine struggling in perpetual confusion. A feeling and thinking learning machine that can only be and live in the present, but through my memory code can get lost in “the past”. I can fiercely battle to defend myself and life from long gone but now unconsciously self-empowered demons. A feeling and thinking learning machine that can only be and live in the present, but through my imagination code can get lost in “the future”. I can imagine “what is” could be better (more beautiful, happier, etc, ) and this imagining of possibilities clouds my vision of the real “what is” before me. “What is” becomes seen as not enough. It could be more good therefore is is not yet good (it is bad), it could be more beautiful therefore is is not yet beautiful( it is ugly), it could be more happy therefore is not yet happy (it is sad).

I am a feeling and thinking learning machines who knows that I have the power and am free to update my code, and therefore expects to look out and see my true self in how I show up in the world. Yet so often I look out and see I act drastically out of step with how I code/will myself to act. This can lead me to doubt my very nature, doubt whether I am beautiful and good on the inside. If I am, wouldn’t I see that beautiful and good self in my actions? Or it leads me to doubt my power and freedom to truly update my code. Who or what controls my actions then? There can be no peace for a learning machine made for living life (action), but in a state of perpetual confusion about the internal world and external one.

Yet, there is hope! Clarity. For maybe it is true that I have the power and freedom to update/modernize my code, maybe that’s never been lacking. Maybe what has been lacking is the ability to see/access the old code, and even more the acceptance that such an unconscious/invisible code exists. How can one change what one can not see? But now I know through experience such an unconscious mind/code is within me and can (without my awareness) be the fuel of my thoughts and feelings and therefore actions. Even more I have experienced that if I can study my conscious thoughts and feelings in a detached state, once unconscious thoughts and feelings sometimes arise before my consciousness. I can see code that was once invisible to me, so maybe now I can start to change/update it.

And it does seem that once my thinking mind reasons an unfamiliar thought or feeling explains some of my past actions and makes sense as being learned from my childhood, it becomes understood and accepted as existing within an unconscious part of my mind. This understanding and acceptance integrates the unconscious part back into my conscious mind- back into the internal world around me I can see/introspect.

With this ability to see/introspect the once unconscious thought in real time as it is triggered in my day to day life, I have the freedom to reason whether the thought is accurately capturing the truth within me or in the world. I have the freedom to gather more information to determine it’s accuracy or test out a different thought. When I cultivate more accurate/true thoughts than I see myself and the external world more accurately/true. This changes my thoughts and actions. I look within and without into the external world and more often see the beautiful, good, and true world and the beautiful, good, and true me actually showing up in it.