Parts of a Mother

My kids have been wanting to paint the walls. And not just figuratively, which they surely have been doing during this pandemic. They have been admiring the graffiti and street art in our city, and need to look no further than our own alleyway. Some artwork merits a smile and blush, others are thought-provoking, and some are eye-rolling.

We had the opportunity to fulfill this summer bucket wish last week. Our neighbour wanted to put her own tag on the wall and cover up some questionable artwork. So, luckily i was able to share with her that my daughter’s wish all summer was to use spray paint. What a good mom i am, right?

We were at the right place at the right time – paint in hand and ready to be accomplices, or rather apprentices, depending on your stance on graffiti art. I supervised the endeavour. I was happy to oblige my kids and a part of me was excited about the opportunity. And then i noticed the various parts of me that showed up alongside this joyful moment. Some were invited like the Good Mom. Others were a surprise like the Enforcer. And one happy surprise was the Inner Child who happily and tentatively held a bottle and made her mark.

After a while of being sous chefs, the kids were allowed to go wild and paint to their hearts content. They wrote lovely mantras like “love yourself” and “Me cool, you cool, we cool.” They were silly and they were in the moment. They were happy. And yet, i was surprised to notice my own voice barking at them, instructing them to not take up too much space. To not hog the space or take over. To not waste the paint. To not make a mess. I was able to notice it, and i apologized to the other adults whose project it was originally, to only notice later that who i needed to say sorry to was the kids because THEY weren’t doing anything wrong (and yes i know that graffiti is technically illegal). I felt guilty for them taking up too much space on the wall; i was directive and bossy and deferred to my neighbour as a way to people please – that other Part of me that gets exiled because i want to be assertive and confident, and yet she visits because i want to be liked and included. And like most of us, i have stories to tell from my youth of not fitting in and being bullied, and being afraid of conflict. I’m a work in progress too, and it’s taken years to notice that I withdraw from conflict and fawn to that person who is holding the reigns: It’s a safety survival reflex.

Internal Family System is a therapy modality that uses our parts of our Self that have become embedded in who we are. They are formed over our years of living our life, as tools to help us during a hard or scary moment. Typically, we have Manager, Fire Fighter and Exiled parts. We then have wounded parts that have become exiled and only show up when we are being triggered or if that part thinks we need their help. As a Feminist Therapist, i like to look at all these parts of my Self as my Archetypes – the Inner Goddess, Child, Warrior, Wise Woman, Apprentice, etc. Each of these has a role to play and our hope is that they get integrated into our true full Self, the person we are becoming and is our authentic wholeness. Think of your Inner Critic voice – from what Part do you think that comes from?

Our Parts are a bit different from the roles we play – i am a woman, partner, therapist, parent. I am also embodying all of these roles in my own unique way. For instance, let me take being a parent as a reference. In a given moment, my Perfectionist, the Inner Fraud, the Nurse, or maybe the Researcher or Governess shows up. Preparing my kids for school during a pandemic is definitely activating a few Parts so my Researcher hat is helping guide me. When i feel overwhelmed by my daughter’s messy room, my Perfectionist Part is kicked in gear. She’s there to try to help make sense of things and calm my nerves that get triggered by mess. It takes some time to notice what presents for you, and it can be helpful as it gives a way in to see what may need to change. When we notice the parts of us that show up in a harder moment, we get to engage in our own infrastructure. We also get to Reparent what is needed now, as well as what i needed back then.

Re-parenting my Self is a practice of self-compassion. And it’s indulgent because it is a way of building a secure attachment for the first time. We are working on meeting our need for nurturance and attention, sometimes for the first time. When we take time to learn how this looks for us, we are able to practice meeting our needs and getting to a place of a fuller, more happy life.

What are some parts you notice in you? What are some that you intentionally bring up to support you? Do you have an angry part that helps you when you need to address someone who’s being an asshole. Do you have an artsy side that helps you when you are stuck on something to wear? Name them – give them a voice so you can also talk back to them. These parts may need the same compassion your friends need. Thank them for trying to help you, remind them that you want to do try first and you well reach out to them if you need them. Send them a Dear John letter!

My journey to inner work is both one for myself as well as for the people i support. I’ve found such insight in books so i wanted to share some resources with you that may be helpful if you also want to learn more about Inner Parts work:
Recovery of Your Inner Child by Lucia Capachhione, a renowned art therapist
– Parts Work: An Illustrated Guide to Your Inner life by Tom Holmes
– books by Richard Schwartz, Frank Anderson, or Bonnie J Weiss
– this lovely deck of cards that i use in sessions and for myself; sometimes i pull a card to help me reflect on how to channel or nurture that Part, or sometimes it’s a way for me to guide my day with intention.

How do you say hello to the possibly long forgotten Inner Child Part? Do you notice any glee or happy shriek in your body as you skip with a skipping rope, or catch bubbles, or play with clay? Taking a ride on “Party Island” at the cottage has always been a happy place for me, as it gets me back in tune with my Inner Pre-teen Surfer wanna-be.

During this pandemic, I’ve been intentionally saying hello to my own Inner Child. I had one mantra that guided me: Get outside, laugh and move my body every day. It has helped me get through the harder days. I’ve been doing crafts I love like macrame and drawing, dancing on my own, eating comfort food, napping, playing in water. Earlier on, we had sleepovers as a family and watched a lot of classic movie marathons. These moments are not to escape this reality but rather finding a way to slow down and notice what my body is needing to balance this scary time. It’s also a way to capture what supported me as a child when times were hard: Life goes on.

New Moon Self-Care Series – Inner Child Letter

This month brings darkness mixed with celebration. It then doesn’t come as a surprise that this feelings get internalized in us. It’s a perfect time to turn inward intentionally and take care of the shadows and darkness that lingers in you.

As this is the final Fall New Moon Self-Care Series month, i wanted to give you a gift to yourself that is all about connecting to this new moon and planting a seed of future wisdom and self-compassion. This is a time to set an intention of a new path and time to get closure from last month.

This New Moon falls in a busy week – December 6 is the Montreal Massacre, December 7 is National Letter Writing Day and the New Moon in December. In a few weeks, we celebrate the Winter Solstice which is the longest night of the year. With this in mind, I’m hoping you can spend a few minutes this week in a letter you write to yourself.

As this month seems to be catered to the young and young at heart, it brings up hard feelings for us as adults, especially for those of us that have childhood traumas or more recent traumatic experiences in our life. The holiday season definitely comes with some hard/mixed feelings for a lot of us. Mothers especially need to balance their own needs while nurturing all the wishes and hopes of their wee ones.

So, this month, I’m encouraging you to write a letter to that Inner Child – that version of you that you want to recall or create. Whether they exist only in a memory or a hope, write a letter to that young version of yourself and what you hope for them to receive this month. Think about ideas that allow space for joy, happiness, surprise, eager excitement. You may not have these memories stored as real ones, and that’S okay. This is a time to recreate the memory you wished you had as well.

Steps to Intentional Journal Writing

1) Get into a cozy spot that allows you to writing uninterrupted for a about 10-20 minutes. Light a candle or incense for some mindful soothing smells. It’s now time to slow down a bit. Sit comfortably and chose a writing medium that shakes to you – it can be a journal or piece of paper and good writing pen.

One thing that may help you get in the best writing zone is to listen to a guided meditation on Inner Child work. I like this one a lot – thought it is longer and not just on Inner Child, she calls upon our inner council.

2) Take some deep cleansing breaths and then visualize yourself at a door. The door has some festive greenery and smells like a Pine forest. Knock on the door and see a young child answer. This is the young you. She is excited to see you and grabs your hand, pulling you inside. Once on the other side, you notice the room is covered in silks, trees and the space feels more like an enchanted forest than a room. Everything about it feels right and that it is where you belong.

Your Inner Child gives you a tour and asks you to sit and join her. She is ready for play and to celebrate this time of year with you. What is it that you are doing? What is it that she is excited to show you? Listen without judgement, vulnerability and shyness. You are eager to participate. Finish the visualization by thanking your Inner Child when it is time to leave. Give her a hug and walk back through the threshold.

3) Immediately after this, write a letter to this version of you. Thank her for the visit and time together. Think of words that are an extension of what you just did with her. Recount what she told you, and how you felt as you played with her. What is it that brought you joy, happiness and a youthful spirit? Do not stop to question it rationally or with a logical brain. Stay in the flow of emotional free writing. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling mistakes. Feel free to sketch or draw what you saw. It may be a fun further challenge to write this letter with your non-dominant hand. There is something cathartic about doing the exercise this way.

4) Finish the letter by signing it, and enclosing it in an envelope. Place it somewhere it can be seen by you so that you can give yourself the first gift of Winter – a moment to play and be joyfully present.

I believe that journaling can be a very therapeutic tool and a lot of struggle with it. This exercise is just a suggestion – if you don’t feel safe or ready to meet your Inner Child, feel free to journal about what you hope to do this winter. It is a great tool to plant seeds like this on a New Moon – especially as Winter begins later this month.