Sunday, June 15, 2014


Pete Walker is a therapist in the San Francisco Bay Area who has worked extensively with clients suffering from Complex PTSD. Walker "gets it" because he's been there. He chronicles many of the insights that have aided his own recovery in his very accessible book Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.

I highly recommend the entire book, but this post will focus on one concept, perhaps the most helpful to me: the potential of "reparenting". Cptsd is often described as an attachment disorder, the result of a childhood that lacked "a safe adult to healthily bond with", leaving the individual feeling ill-equipped to function in a world believed to be a dangerous place. But now we are the adults. We have adult resources and skills and understanding. And it is possible for us to become our own champions.

Walker writes:
"An important, yin/yang dynamic of reparenting involves balancing self-mothering and self-fathering. When a child's mothering needs are adequately met, self-compassion is installed at the core of her being. When the same is true of her fathering needs, self-protection also becomes deeply imbedded.... Living in the world without access to these primal instincts of survival is truly terrifying." 
Self-compassion, as Walker describes it, is developing a sense that we are loved and deserve to be loved. It is a refusal to hate or abandon or punish ourselves (just as a devoted mother refuses to hate or abandon even a distressed infant). Self-mothering is "creating a safe place in your heart where your inner child and your present time self are always welcome".

Self-protection is coming to our own rescue. It is learning to stand up for our rights, defending ourselves against threatened exploitation, abuse, or neglect. Self-fathering is learning to assertively advocate for ourselves. As we learn self-protection and have more tools at our disposal, our scared, helpless feelings diminish and our inner self is able to grow "as he experiences his adult self consistently rising to his defense".

Whether you had one parent or two, or three or more, whether your parents were available, absent, or abusive, you can choose to be your own best parent now. I love the simplicity of this approach. It is easy enough to remember during flashbacks and rich enough to relate to numerous situations and relationships. It has also become a guide as I parent my own kids. Not only does it steer me toward patience and going to bat for my children, it also reminds me to encourage them to practice self-care and self-advocacy.

On this Father's Day, remember that you can champion and support YOU.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this resource. I grew up on the wrong side of the religious right, with parents obsessed with controlling an isolated worldview and emotional and intellectual deprivation. I work hard on recovery and will add this book to my reading list. Thank you.