So, the question is, if you didn’t have good parents, how do you re-parent yourself?
Most people innately know how to care for young ones. If you can see past your own filters, it’s basic human instinct. What gets in the way is the reverberating experiences of how WE were treated. But when those are turned off for a minute, most people know what to do.
To start with, pretend you are a baby. What would you need?
You’d need to feel safe, first and foremost. Do whatever you need to do in order to create an environment – and a life – where you feel safe.
On an adult level, that may mean working on (or deciding to distance from) certain relationships that consistently dishonor or devalue who you are as a person. It may mean making adjustments in your home environment (e.g. installing an extra lock), or changing your routine. Think about areas where you do not feel safe. Fix them.
After you’ve created more safety for yourself, start with the basics. Babies need to be fed, kept clean, and they need to be put to bed when they’re tired.
This may sound patronizing but trauma survivors have a remarkably hard time doing these things (myself included). And the spirit in which you do it matters. It’s not enough to just check a box. Do these things out of love for yourself. If you don’t love yourself yet, that’s okay, but do it in the spirit of exploring what it would be like to love yourself. Care for yourself as if you did. Feed yourself whatever you’d consider appropriate to feed a beloved guest staying in your home. Care for your body the same way. If you are hurt, pretend a small baby is hurt and respond appropriately. If you are sick, give yourself what you need in order to feel better.
As babies grow, they need emotional validation as they find their voice.
It needs to be okay to cry, be angry, disagree, say NO, to protest, to have needs, to ask for something or ask for more of something or ask for less of something or to refuse. Their hearts need to be prioritized over and above their behavior. They need to be forgiven when they’re not perfect and loved just for being themselves. They need encouragement to keep discovering and revealing their genuine self.
Start here. If you get really good at doing these things, what you need to do next will be intuitive. You’ll know when the time comes. If you don’t know, just keep doing these things. If it all sounds too overwhelming, just pick one thing and get really good at that first. Then add something else.
It’s not as hard as it sounds.