Parenting Your Inner Child

Parental Ambivalence

  1. Parents that exist in a state of conflict between fulfilling themselves as unique individuals on the one hand, and limiting their lives on the other.

am·biv·a·lence/amˈbivələns/Learn to pronounce noun

  1. the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone.”the law’s ambivalence about the importance of a victim’s identity”

Its so easy to respond like how we’ve always been treated

Its like an automatic thought. If you find yourself struggling with your responses, reactions and emotions let’s take the time to look at why.

  • Why do you grit your teeth when your toddler is crying again?
  • Why do you want to yell when your child is begging for your attention?
  • Why are you ready to snap when you’ve told your toddler or child ‘no’ 3 times already?
  • Is it lack of understanding of a child’s brain development or is something unresolved internally?

Let’s remember that frustration in general is a totally normal part of the human body and mental circuit system. It is a form of anger which arrives when our goals, desires and needs are blocked, postponed, or in conflict with each other. It is okay and normal to feel frustration, especially during parenthood. However, one must be aware of how frequently they feel frustrated and for what reason, and handle the emotion appropriately.

Lets start with looking at the way your memory functions and the unresolved issues you can hold inside of you. I will be citing sections from Dr. Siegel’s Parenting From The Inside Out for a better understanding of both the book, and yourself. The sections in which I will cite belong to Dr. Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell. I do not claim ownership of this information.

Understanding your unresolved issues is more than just that. To handle them and process them, we must learn how the brain processes events along our developmental timelines. Depending on our age, our brains process memories differently. Lets take a look at how Dr. Siegel and Dr. Hartzell describe it.

Memory is the way the brain responds to experience and creates new brain connections. The two major connections are made are from two forms of the memory. Implicit and explicit memory results in the creation of the particular circuits of the brain that are responsible for generating emotions, behavioral responses, perception, and probably the encoding of bodily sensations. Implicit memory is a form of early non-verbal memory that is present at birth and continues throughout the lifespan.

Our attachment relationships affect how we see others and how we see ourselves. Through repeated experiences with our attachment figures, our mind creates models that affect our view of both ourselves and others. These models create a filter that patterns the way we Channel our perceptions and construct our responses to the world. Through these filtering models we develop characteristic ways of seeing and being. After the first birthday the brain begins to develop the necessary circuits to form explicit memory; Which also has two components: factual and autobiographical. Autobiographical doesn’t fully develop usually until the second birthday.

Parenting From The Inside Out, Pages 11-16

Reader’s Translation:

We have two major types of memory function – implicit and explicit – and from there it’s like a tree or pyramid. Implicit memory can be thought of like muscle memory. Well, because it is also in control of muscle memory, and other functions alike. With implicit memory you don’t have to be mentally aware or even alert. Like how someone with dementia can still the play the piano.

Explicit memory is like reading someones autobiography. It requires self-and-environment-awareness. You can physically mentally recall events and situations in your mind. If something scary or happy happened, you can think about it intentionally afterwards.

So now that we have a basic understanding of this, we can take a further look into understanding the brain during parenthood.

Parental ambivalence comes in many forms which all are usually unresolved issues. Parents find themselves filled with conflicting feelings which compromise their ability to be open and loving to their children. They have defenses rigidly constructed from their own childhood and beyond and become frozen to adapt to new life roles.

When parents dont take responsibility for their own unfinished business, they miss an opportunity to not only become better parents, but to also continue their own development. They end up completely unaware of the parental ambivalence they create.

Life is full of times when we must adapt quickly and do the best we can in difficult situations. Which creates leftover unresolved issues ready to challenge us on a daily basis. These issues can make parents quite inflexible with their children and unable to choose responses that would be helpful to their development.

If we just pay attention to our own internal experiences we when we are feeling upset by our children’s behavior, we can begin to learn how our actions interfere with the loving relationship we want to have with our children. We can then integrate the memories into our life stories instead of being something we are frozen in so we can make sense of our experiences and support healthy development for our children and ourselves.

Parenting From The Inside Out, Pages 17-18

Reader’s Translation:

When we don’t manage our past in an effective manner, it can trap us inside of it even when we think we are moving forward. We can choose to suppress our explicit memories that make us uncomfortable, but there will always be the implicit copy of that memory active, running in the back ground and affecting our thoughts and decisions without us even realizing. When we have unrecognized memories running in the background, parts of your mental wiring are constantly responding to those background files while trying to respond to the current situations you are in. Signals get crossed, and words and actions in situations you are experiencing with your children trigger responses from your brain that should have been only applicable to your past memories.

For more information about Dr. Siegel, his books and more, click here.

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