I want you to stop and imagine how a healthy, loving parent would care for a newborn baby who was crying.
Not a 5-year-old child. Not even a toddler. Imagine an infant who can’t walk or talk yet. How do you picture their parent caring for them in this scenario?
You likely see the parent holding the baby, speaking to it in a loving tone, soothing it into relaxation.
Now let me ask you: how much does that image differ from the way YOU currently deal with YOUR emotions?
Do you hold, comfort, and soothe yourself when you feel sad, angry, or afraid?
Or do you tell yourself to get over it? Try to overcome or transcend what you feel? Look for any way possible to make the feeling go away? Beat yourself up for feeling it? Try to talk yourself out of feeling it?
What if, instead of dancing around your feelings, pushing them away, or trying to talk or think your way out of feeling them, you treated each feeling as if it was an infant child?
What if, instead of trying to figure out how to make your feelings go away, you held and loved each feeling, no matter now “negative” it is, for as long as it wanted to be held?
The most self-loving way to process feelings, in truth, is to treat each feeling as if it’s a newborn baby. Why? Because feelings only come up so that they can ask for your loving attention.
So, how exactly do you nurture your feelings and, in turn, care for your tiniest inner child?
Get yourself comfortable, turn off the lights if you want, and settle in for what I call an “inner child visualization”. I’ve created and used this visualization for myself, and found deep comfort in it when I’m feeling through something difficult.
In this visualization, you’ll comfort your emotions as if they are a newborn baby. This allows each emotion to feel seen, heard, and loved. Whenever you’re ready, start here.
1. Find your inner parent
First, picture a compassionate person to serve as your inner parent. This first step is inspired by the idea of the “ideal compassionate image” from The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert– I highly recommend reading it if this blog post resonates with you!
I want you to picture the most compassionate person you can possibly imagine. This can be an actual parent, another family member, a friend, a leader, a teacher, a mentor, a spirit guide or angel, a goddess, a religious figure, a fictional character, someone you invent in your own mind, or it can even be yourself.
Pick a person whom you feel completely safe, held, and validated with.
You’ll know you have the right person if you’re able to completely relax when you think of them. If you have the right person, you will have no need to rationalize your feelings as “right” or “wrong” when you think of them.
However, if you already feel a need to justify your thoughts and feelings to this person as soon as you think of them, you have the wrong person.
Your ideal inner parent is ideally someone whom you can imagine loves and cares for you without any condition whatsoever. You’re going to imagine this person as your parent, of course, so pick a person you know would be able to love and care for a newborn baby without condition, without distraction, and without expectation of receiving anything in return. This person would ideally see their newborn baby as pure perfection in form, and nothing less.
Take a while to discover your inner parent. Then, you’ll dive into an inner child visualization.
2. Visualize your inner parent holding you
Once you have it, you’ll close your eyes and imagine that you are an infant again. Imagine you are the child of your inner parent, and imagine your inner parent cradling you in their arms. Imagine them gazing into your eyes with a gentle, loving smile.
Then, allow whatever emotion you’re feeling to fully arise, to scream its heart out like a crying baby. As you cry in your imagination, you may also cry literally, or you may not. Remember that anything that arises is okay and worthy of being held.
As you cry, your inner parent stays with you. They don’t get annoyed by your crying. They don’t put you down or walk away. Your inner parent does nothing but radiate love and compassion. Looking at you, smiling, stroking your hair, maybe talking to you in a soft voice or singing to you. Maybe they kiss your forehead or hold you close.
3. Stay with it
I want to encourage you to stay with this visualization for longer than you think you need to. You may feel a tendency to quickly stop the visualization the second it feels like it’s “working”. That’s fine if you have limited time; however, if you have plenty of time right now, stay in the visualization longer. Continue to hold yourself. This will begin to rewire your nervous system to the knowledge that you won’t abandon or leave yourself; that you’re here to comfort and hold yourself for the long run.
While you’re in the visualization, it may help to literally hold yourself. Wrap your arms around yourself like you’re giving yourself a hug, or maybe hold your own hand or even lay down in the fetal position.
If you can, try to stay here for at least 5 minutes, if not longer. You may even practice this while you’re in bed at night– it’s a great way to relax yourself into sleep.
If you don’t go to sleep after you finish the visualization, you may want to journal about your experience when you’re done, if you feel called.
Feel free to use any of the following journal prompts if they resonate with you:
- Did any mental resistance come up to letting your inner parent hold and care for you while you allowed your emotions to rage? What opposition did your mind have to allowing this to happen?
- How do your body and mind feel now in comparison to how they felt before the visualization?
- If you could talk to your inner parent, what would you say to them?
Be sure to express gratitude to yourself for showing up and taking care of yourself in this way. This is deep emotional work, and it’s not always easy– which makes you courageous for being willing to dive so deep. Congratulations– you are an amazing, brave soul.
Want to let me know how this felt for you or feel like you need more support? Please leave me a comment or send me an email!
Be on the lookout for part 2 of this blog series, coming in a couple of weeks, which will dive further into the concept of caring for your inner child’s emotions.
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