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Life by Design


Reparenting Yourself

Posted by Carren |

This is probably one of the most serious topics I've dealth with to-date, but it was also something that had to be tackled. This workshop was an outgrowth of an earlier workshop I had attended, Jim Paredes' Tapping the Creative Universe (TCU)--an amazing few days, might I add. As I showed up on each session of the TCU class, I came to realize more and more that the Self is really something deeper (and greater) than we think.

Text by: Carren Jao
Published in edited form: MEGA February 2009

EVERY person is a product of his experiences. Strengths, habits, level of self-esteem, and even problems are in large part due to their development as a child. At each stage of life—from infancy to adolescence—people are presented with many challenges. If their caregivers were able to help them traverse these challenges in a healthy way, they would most likely end up to be well balanced, confident individuals.

Sadly, counselors at Reintegration for Care and Wholeness Foundation, Inc. (RCWFI) say that many people don’t receive the care they need at young ages; they go through painful experiences, which they are still unconsciously dealing with all throughout their adulthood. This results in an endless cycle of self-sabotaging scripts such as anger, criticalness, and people pleasing. It also manifests itself in addictions—to things like coffee, cigarettes, gambling, or alcohol.

Gaining power
What can one do to move away from this unconscious baggage? RCWFI counselors suggest a process of reintegration—regaining personal power via awareness and responsibility. Seeing many people blindly dealing with their own past traumas, Sr. Harriet, RCWFI founder, formulated a two and a half day workshop called Reparenting the Child Within (RCW1). Though attendance in the workshop fast tracks catharsis, Sr. Harriet does note that it is possible to overcome internal issues on one’s own, “if they’re prayerful people; they read up; and they listen to themselves.”

Personal power is the ability to get into the driver’s seat of life. It manifests when people are able to take care of themselves and stop relying on others to fill in the empty spaces in their psyche. Susan Geronimo, a counselor at RCWFI expounds, “Personal power is the power to create ourselves…it is not power as force over other people. It is a quiet, assertive, inner power.” She continues with a warning, “…but many of us give away our power when we don’t stand up for what’s good for us.”

Facing ghosts
RCWFI counselors cite from experience that many people are often unaware of their wounding. Sr. Harriet Hormillosa, founder of RCWFI, notes, “Normally, [people] are only aware of the result.” While people often relate the word “abuse” to violent acts of fury or lasciviousness inflicted on others, there are also other kinds of abuse that stem from neglect or omission. Edith “Ducky” Villanueva, another RCWFI counselor adds, “Abuse is not only physical abuse…one of the worst abuses we can experience is not even knowing we have been abused.”

As the children grow up, they block these painful experiences from their minds and let themselves believe they have had a happy childhood to avoid dealing with their past. Sr. Harriet explains, “Parang, it’s also conditioning. Can you imagine if you go through life not believing you’ve had a happy childhood? [Believing] is a part of our defense mechanism against unhappiness.” Counselor Rebecca “Bicbic” Medez advises, “Most of what we experience in our past is already a part of our history…let your history be a source of growth for you.”

RCWFI counselors encourage acknowledging one’s feelings—a feat more difficult than it sounds. Most people go into an automatic mode or find themselves piggybacking on the emotions of those around them. What is asked is to honestly own up to one’s feelings. They caution against using generic words like “okay”, “good”, or “fine” that mask the true emotions within.

Baptism by fire
Dan Caballes, a previous RCW1 participant and now RCWFI counselor, seems like a Santa Claus of a man—quick to laugh and full of compassion. His aura now belies the battle he wages constantly. While it may not be evident to others, he knew that inside he was emotionally trying to keep a pot from boiling over. “There was a lot of anger. I was really suppressing [it and] trying to control it [while] not understanding where that came from.”

Attending RCW1, he recalled that as young child little more than a year old he was severely scalded by a pot of boiling water and could not leave the house for a long period of time. He could not even wear clothing on the burned, upper portion of his body. He now openly explains, “A toddler needs to explore the world that was opening up around him. [Being scalded], my parents had me stay at home and not be the toddler that I needed to be.” He shares that he was in constant pain, while at the same time not being able to express it at such a young age. It was this frustration that gave way to his anger during the later years.

Like a slippery slope, this one incident consequently piled on self-esteem issues. “My parents became really overprotective of me. I was labeled ‘accident-prone.’ [I translated] being accident-prone into being not worth as much.”

While it was a difficult experience for Dan, he is also points out that no blame should be laid on anyone’s feet. “It was a situation where [my parents] had no choice and no awareness that it would be wounding on my part.”

When people identify their hurtful experiences, they are now able to come to grips with it. As adults they can give expression to those painful feelings by allowing physical or emotional release. In the process, they allow themselves to feel the hurt and move past it.

Recovering the Self
As Dan came to terms with his past, he found that he was able to better control his feelings of anger and low self-esteem. “I’ve gotten feedback from my colleagues that I’ve become a gentler person…I know [the anger] is still inside of me. It’s part of me, [but] it’s like taming a wild animal; [you] make friends with it so it doesn’t need to vent or act out.”

Dan also found he didn’t need to put on a mask in the face of others. “Before RCW1, I was comfortable speaking to a large group. But my realization was that before, I was putting on a mask because I valued myself lowly. The Dan that I am showing is a masterful Dan, an intelligent person. I knew I was not that person talking in front…After, I realized I love myself; I don’t have to put on a mask anymore. [Nowadays], people really give me feedback and say, ‘That really touched me.’ I suppose being true to myself—that comes across.”

By increasing awareness of their inner life, people can now pinpoint their needs and give it to themselves, integrating themselves. Being able to identify their particular need, people are now able to do personalized self-care treatments, enhancing their quality of life.

Sr. Harriet clarifies, “Being integrated doesn’t mean not making any mistakes. The real test is how they can be more honest with themselves.” While couples definitely benefit from this workshop, she also points out, “If you want to make your relationship with others work, the first relationship you have to work is [with] yourself…nobody deserves to be unhappy. Give yourself permission to let go of what’s holding you back.”
RCW1 is a monthly course offered by RCWFI. For further details, log onto or call them at (632) 436-0710. RCWFI is located at 59 C. Salvador Street, Varsity Hills Subdivision, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.


Jen Laceda | Milk Guides said...

Hi Carren,
I work in the hospital at the Psychological Trauma Program / Work, Stress and Health Program. Everyday, we deal with people afflicted with posttraumatic stress, anxiety, social phobia, and adjustment problems. We use CBT, or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which is essentially a strategy to delve deeper into yourself and tap into your core beliefs to facilitate a healing of the mind. Change of Heart = Change of Mind.

Carren said...

Hi Jen,

Yes, there's actually so much of ourselves that we forget we have. The seminar was actually just a taste of all that we have inside ourselves. It was very enlightening :)

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