Anat Peri, join us to delve into the importance of nurturing your inner child, cultivating self love, and staying grounded in your body.
How do you become connected to yourself?
I’m 43 and it’s been quite a journey. It’s not an overnight thing. I’ve been in the self development space for 18 years, and I’m still working on it. It’s like a garden; you get the right tools and clear out the weeds, then there is room for new seeds. But even when you plant those new seeds, you change. The things that are important to you change so you might want to plant something different. It’s like learning a new way of being. Learning how to tend to the new behavior and having to continue to attend to it, and like a garden, it always needs tending to. So first and foremost, understanding that it’s a devotion to ourselves and a constant willingness to meet your discomforts. And also remember the challenging times are where the most growth occurs. Self love and the tools are so crucial for all moments, but especially the challenging moments.
What is self love?
Self love is learning to embrace and love all parts of you, as you are in the moments that those parts arise, and with nothing to change, nothing to fix. Instead bringing compassion and curiosity and presence to those parts.
How do you start identifying the parts of you?
I like to call my parts of me, my inner child. I imagine that any emotion or any sensation that arises is my inner child, and I imagine that child walking into my bedroom and expressing that emotion? So I ask myself, What does that little child need in that moment? What I am avoiding is asking, Why do I feel this way or telling myself to stop feeling this way. I’m not trying to fix it, just be aware and acknowledge the emotion. Show love to that inner child. Picture yourself picking up that child and giving her a hug, and just letting her feel and express exactly what’s there. Nothing to fix, nothing to change.
I’m an inner child expert, and a lot of my work is focused on re-parenting that inner child and looking at what it is that you did learn from mom and dad in the formative seven years of your life. We learn by copying, by rebelling, or surviving. There’s a process and what I say a lot in my work is, it’s not who you are; it’s what you learn. And if you’ve learned it, you can unlearn it. And it’s not that we’re here to unlearn these parts, it’s more that we’re here to remember who we are.
What do you recommend for exploring the parts of ourselves and being present with our body?
First and foremost, most people don’t feel like their body is the safe place to occupy. And so creating that level of safety where you ask yourself, Do I feel safe right now? Or what do I need to feel safe right now?
Then asking yourself, Where in your body do you feel it? Then try describing the sensations you’re feeling. How does that feel? Does it have a size? Does it have a shape? Does it have a texture to it? If you can do that, then there’s a level of safety that you already have. If you can’t tap into that, you can start with tapping or massaging the left side of your body, let’s say your arm, and then pause after about a minute. And then start to feel what it’s like when your body comes online because there’s gonna be some sensation there. Then do the same on the other side and notice the difference. Then do the same thing with your leg. Notice the sensations that come up. Now start to name those sensations in as many ways as you can. Does it have a color, a shape, a size, a texture, a temperature? Just get curious about it as if you’re watching and observing it with a loving presence, compassion, and curiosity. You’ll be amazed at how the nervous system starts to unwind by just giving it that attention. The body starts to process that stuck energy.
How does this level of connection with yourself impact your relationships with others, especially romantic relationships?
My husband and I have been together for five and a half years. When we first started dating, there were things that even though I’d been doing this work for 13 years or so at that point, not everything came to the surface at once.
His tendency, when he is overwhelmed, is to be more rigid or aggressive, and I become more of a people pleaser where I want to make everything good and nice. I’m not gonna rock the boat, or speak up, and I just can’t so I leave.
These terms are from the book, The Five Personality Patterns. The leading pattern for me is not leaving the relationship; it’s more like there’s so much energy coming out from the other person that I can’t hold it, and I have to leave the room. I never experienced that until I met my husband. I didn’t even know that my capacity to be with big energy was so small. And reflecting back on being a child, I had parents that both would raise their voice and show aggression. My brother copied, I rebelled. He can express anger, no problem. Me, I have to be really pissed off to express that. It was an emotion that I didn’t allow myself to explore until sometime in the past 10 years.
And so intentionally practice feeling those emotions that we may shy from. So I developed the ability to, in the moment, nurture myself in the moments of chaos, where before chaos was too much for me, and something that I avoided. Then I would hold that little girl, hold myself and remind myself that it’s okay, I know who I am and I’m safe. You’re being your biggest cheerleader in moments like that.
To hear Anat talk more about nurturing your inner child, and supporting men doing the work, listen to episode 175: Nurturing Your Inner Child with Anat Peri, on the Vaginas, Vulvas, and Vibrators podcast.
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