“We all have health inside of us somewhere, even if we do not believe we do.” – John & Linda Friel
The family system a child grows up in includes a repertoire of relational moves which he will believe are “normal.” The moves are sometimes referred to as a dance because once the first move is made, two people (emotional dance-partners) may continue making a series of moves which are repetitions of canned reactions.
The grown-up ready to find a partner is more likely to accept a companion who recognizes his dance moves and responds with similar moves to the ones he has memorized. Sometimes these moves include using hurtful words. The Gottman’s suggest that criticism is one of The Four Horsemen to stop in your relationship. I have learned that when a client is using criticism towards his partner, he is also self-critical.
In a counseling session, we can explore how much berating is happening towards a partner. I believe that verbalized criticism comes from years of practicing silent, internal condemnation, so I suggest the use of introspection. The client who is accused of being overly-critical is invited to report a best-guess ratio of inner to outer negativity. I have heard reports that the rate criticism is happening is at least 4 to 1 (some clients reported a 10:1 up to 50:1 ratio) where for every 1 negative thing the criticizer says to his partner he has thought/said at least four negative things about himself.
A personal repair technique, which has been made fun of on television, is using an affirmation. You may have seen Stuart Smalley on a popular late night comedy series using affirmations to make himself believe he is “Good enough and smart enough.” The audience laughs as he attempts to convince himself of things he obviously isn’t feeling are true. Maybe the disconnect is familiar to us, and so it is funny?
Affirmations have been used to bolster confidence, but confidence and self-esteem aren’t mutually inclusive. Pete Walker suggests, in his book on Complex PTSD, that self-esteem develops from the practice of accepting an emotion as real and valid. So, affirmations which keep us detached from our feelings, or move against our real feelings, may not help build our esteem. Using a positive phrase just because we like the way it sounds is akin to merely cheerleading our inner-child.
The right-for-you affirmative statement could champion your inner child with her own emotional reality as a solid storyline. An affirmation which attaches us to our truth, our life story, and feelings, may be helpful in building self-esteem.
When choosing an affirmation pick only the words which make sense to you. It is important to assess which phrases you wish you would have heard your parents use. You can also write down the negative phrases which your parents used and find an affirmation with the opposite (noncritical) language. If they said, “You always let me down.” The phrase you may have needed to hear is, “Mistakes happen and we learn from them.”
One Thing to Do: Use the list of Reparenting Affirmations, provided below, to pick out an affirmation which has a meaningful effect. If you needed to hear it when you were a child – your inner child still needs to hear it now. Write it down where you can see it and say it to yourself several times each day.
Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.
Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.
Reparenting Affirmations by Pete Walker
(Complex PTSD: Surviving to Thriving)
- I am so glad you were born.
- You are a good person.
- I love who you are and am doing my best to always be on your side.
- You can come to me whenever you’re feeling hurt or bad.
- You do not have to be perfect to get my love and protection.
- All of your feelings are okay with me.
- I am always glad to see you.
- It is okay for you to be angry and I won’t let you hurt yourself or others when you are.
- You can make mistakes – they are your teachers.
- You can know what you need and ask for help.
- You can have your own preferences and tastes.
- You are a delight to my eyes.
- You can choose your own values.
- You can pick your own friends, and you don’t have to like everyone.
- You can sometimes feel confused and ambivalent, and not know all the answers.
- I am very proud of you.