Relationships are a vital source of connection, support and growth. They inform us, consciously and subconsciously, about the internal experience we are having with ourselves too; our relationship to self. Relationships begin within and although this develops early on during our primary developmental years where we initially form relationships, it continues throughout our lives and is ever changing.
Relationships are dynamic, experienced as interactions and foundationally with our ability to relate to ourselves and others. What we experience through relationships develop into patterns of behaviour, between two or more people that affect our interactions, how we communicate and relate to one another. These elements form relationship dynamics and the experience we have in relationships are a result of these patterns playing out.
In the context of personal growth and development, modalities such as Internal Family Systems (IFS), Inner Child Work, Transactional Analysis and Family Constellation are examples of relational therapies that aim to explore, understand and empower individuals and couples of relationship dynamics. As relationship dynamics are complex, they exist in a spectrum of variance; some are healthy, others less so and some are destructive and detrimental to well-being.
The significance that relationships have in our lives markedly reflects the quality of our day to day experience, therefore learning tools and techniques that foster understanding and provide a basis to work from is invaluable. One such technique that is gaining wider use in therapy based settings is reparenting; learning to parent oneself to fulfil the needs that were lacking in the early stages of development.
Through this lens of understanding, one can rebuild an inner world that is loving, confident and trusting. This article provides a deeper understanding of this modality and demonstrates the benefits of using the approach of reparenting to enable healing, growth and transformation in relationships.
Relationship dynamics in brief
Relationship dynamics form as a result of two or more people interacting, communicating and relating to one another. In settings such as within the family, there are numerous relationship dynamics that form over time. They begin forming in childhood as many of our adult relationships are due to early experiences we have within a family environment that influence and shape the way we relate to one another.
As they unfold, relationship dynamics occur mostly on a subconscious level and the resulting behaviours and patterns that are visible in our displays of communication and relating reflect the underlying dynamic. The following are examples of factors that may influence and contribute to the formation of family dynamics:
- The presence and number of siblings in your family
- The relationship you have with one and/or both primary caretakers
- Your experience of being raised by one or both primary caretakers and the methods of parenting employed
- If one or both primary caretakers were absent over extended or short periods of your life, and/or may have been completely absent your whole life
- Family patterns inherited from ancestry and generational lines
- The presence of extended family living with you or who were very present in your household growing up
- The level of awareness around physical, emotional, mental and spiritual components of your upbringing
- The extent to which your needs as a child were met by your primary caretakers
- The individual personas, or personalities that developed in the household
- Significant life stressors that occurred whilst growing up such as a death in the family, unemployment, financial stress, emotional stress, chronic illness in your primary caretakers and/or with yourself or any siblings
Whilst the list is not exhaustive, it provides an outline to the complex layers and nuances that exist within the scope of family dynamics.
Reparenting, a supportive tool and guide
Reparenting is a modality that provides a practical, tangible approach to personal growth, development and healing. Becoming a parent to yourself provides a framework to be able to meet the needs that are lacking in your life and build a strong foundation based on a secure attachment with yourself, rather than an external one. In modern day society our experience of parenting comes from an external source, which is key to our survival as children and our upbringing.
However, as we transition from child to adult our needs no longer need to be fully met by someone else as our own individual self knows best our needs and how they can be met. The attachments we form as children are usually to our primary caretaker and attachment theory has shown the significant influence this holds in our resulting ability to form secure attachments in relationships in later life. With the approach of reparenting, the external model of parenting is internalised, reflected inwards so you become a parent to yourself.
The role of the parent is to meet the needs of the child, building a trust relationship. By focusing your awareness of your inner world, you begin to observe what your needs are and form a relationship with yourself and your inner child. As the parent, you fulfil your own needs and thus form a more secure inner attachment.
Reparenting can be framed through a lens of empowerment by supporting yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. There is support available to teach the techniques of how this looks in daily life, which are fundamental to the practice. Through raising awareness mindfully to the nature of your thoughts, feelings, emotions and observable behaviours you gain a deeper understanding of the relationship dynamics around you that you are engaged and participating in.
Breaking through relationship dynamics with reparenting
As your awareness increases and deepens through focused attention and mindful observation through the techniques available in a reparenting approach, so too does the understanding of relationship dynamics within your significant relationships such as the family, marriage and partnerships. By connecting to yourself and asking, with gentle inquiry, what am I contributing to this? A new perspective is opened up.
A key focus of examining relationship dynamics is to consider what you are giving and what you are receiving in relationships with others. Do they feel balanced? Aligned? Fulfilling? Or perhaps they may feel obligatory, draining and one-sided. It is normal and natural that relationship dynamics exist and therefore accepting where you are and what your role in certain dynamics are wholly important in the path to making adjustments.
The model of reparenting provides the foundation to begin noticing your own internal relationship dynamics and they become clearer in external relationships too. Through mindful awareness you begin to understand deeper the connections and feelings, often from the past, that are playing out in relationships. For example, noticing what others bring up within you is information that provides insight into why you might be involved in a particular dynamic.
By bringing this into your conscious awareness, a new perspective and understanding opens up. What remained buried in the subconscious is now available to you. It may be that a particular relationship is heavily dependent on the other person’s approval. This can be discrete in many ways, yet as you give yourself love, acceptance and compassion through inner child work and reparenting, you may witness that gaining someone else’s approval that was important to you before becomes less so.
Reparenting thus provides greater insight and awareness to consider relationship dynamics that are not serving you in a healthy, harmonious way.
The onwards journey with reparenting
Reparenting is a supportive tool for greater communication, deeper, more harmonious relationships that are grounded in love, compassion, understanding, acceptance and forgiveness. A renewed sense of self, greater self esteem, confidence and trust flourishes within you and around you which greatly improves your relationships. Furthermore, once relationship dynamics that aren’t serving you are identified you can take appropriate action and inner work to restore balance with and around you.
The journey with reparenting is a commitment to yourself, your well-being and a key part of personal development and healing. It provides a tangible tool to understand yourself on a deeper level and bring insight into the quality of relationships in your life. The steps to rebalancing these relationships is in your hands; there is great support available from well-being practitioners and those working in relational therapy based roles.
A takeaway is an invitation to consider if you feel harmonious within yourself and the closest relationships that exist in your life. On a human and a soul level we need connection, we are all interconnected and the relationships we have with ourselves and others are a vital source of joy, fulfilment and a space to share and be ourselves in love. If you’d like to learn the next steps for reparenting and to find out more about the reparenting model, you can find out more here.