Quick Tips #11: Inner Parenting When Triggered
Question: What can I do when I feel like my inner child has completely taken over and my inner parent seems unable to regain control and calm my inner child? I realise the purpose of this work is to strengthen the inner parent and teach the inner child that they are safe and loved so that this kind of thing doesn't happen very often. However, until that time when I feel more proficient with this work, I could really use some in-the-moment techniques to help get me back on track. For example, I've spent the last few days steeped in my 10-year-old's criticism, both directed outward at others and toward myself, and it's starting to feel suffocating. The inner parenting I've tried doesn't usually seem to get through to her, and even when it does, the effect doesn't last long and very soon I'm drowning in the criticism once more.
This is a great question and the simple answer to that question is - Learn to pattern interrupt.
So whether it’s your INFP 10 year old memory or your INFJ 10 year old accuracy, both can be very critical parts of you. For INFP types the criticism is about how things should be, usually first turned outwards then inwards. For INFJ types it’s all about facts and is usually first turned inwards and then outwards. Often we catch the 10 year old's being critical when they are interacting with other people.
When your inner parent is not particularly strong yet, it’s very hard to start parenting that 10 year old child criticising yourself or others. Instead of setting yourself up for a failure, let’s set you up for success and learn a couple of different ways of pattern interrupt.
The first steps towards pattern interrupt for both INFP and INFJ types:
#1 Press pause
When you catch yourself in that moment of criticism, get something that you can physiologically hold in your hand like a clicker, a remote control or your phone. Press a button and say: “I’m pressing pause”. This is a kind way of pausing your inner child ruling the situation. So we don’t slap them around, just press pause and then take a time out.
#2 Time Out
You might be familiar with the concept of time out. It’s not so much a punishment, as it is just pattern interrupting. You literally go and do something else other than what you were doing. You move yourself away from the place and thoughts.
For an introverted 10 year old process, which both INF types have, it’s essential that the extroverted inner parent process actually moves or removes you from that situation. In social situations for example, you can excuse yourself, go to the bathroom for a moment and just catch your breath again.
#3 Bring in inner parent’s voice
Have your inner parent tell your 10 year old inner child: “Sweetheart, what you believe is happening right now isn’t necessarily the whole story. How you are feeling right now, while it’s very strong and it’s completely valid, isn’t everything that is going on. There are things that we are not aware of, so let’s not drop ourselves into this story and run with it, because we don’t actually know what else might be going on.” So that’s the conversation the exploration inner parent has to have with the little INFP 10 year old.
Have your inner parent tell your 10 year old child: “Honey, you are making all these decisions right now, that actually are my decisions to make. So I’m going to just take all that pressure off of you and I’m going to make a few of those decisions. So in the meantime, tell me what is it that you are actually feeling right now. What are the emotions you are feeling right now. How are you feeling right now. Tell me.” So these are the first questions the harmony inner parent has to have with the little INFJ 10 year old.
The next step is to ask your inner child is, what is it that you need right now in order for you to feel safe. Whether it’s in a context with another person or a relationship, the harmony process parent can then go and ask for the inner child’s needs to be met in that situation, instead of the 10 year old trying to rule it.
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