Healing our Own Personal History

Until our children’s hearts, brains, minds and bodies are fully
developed, it is we parents who primarily serve as the external
agents necessary to help grow those parts, especially in the early
years. (Later on, of course, by and large their peer group replaces
the parent’s function. Thus it becomes critical who our children
choose as their friends and end up spending most of their time
with).  I like to think of it as having a wireless connection with our
kids.  But not just any kind of wireless – one that operates primarily
right brain to right brain, through feelings, images, sensations and
intuitions.  This becomes the same kind of connection that will
operate in their future significant adult relationships.

Why is this significant?  For many reasons:  some of them we know
with great certainty; some we have yet to discover – just like much
that becomes stored and lives in the right brain without the benefit
of language.  Scientists call these memories The Unthought
Known.  Things we know, experiences we’ve had, things we
remember, things we’ve learned – all live in the right brain and they
often don’t have language associated with them.  But we do have
other ways of accessing them, for example through dreams and art
and music and dance, as well as other kinds of body activities like
yoga or martial arts.

Why is it important for parents to gain access to the contents of our
right brain and be able to construct what psychologists call “a
coherent narrative?” Again, for many reasons, both known and
unknown.  One significant reason is that it is primarily on the right
side of the brain that most overwhelming or traumatic memories
become stored – a vitally critical fact.  Those of us who may have
experienced unfortunate events that resulted in “speechless terror,”
have memories of the experience stored in the right brain.  Many of
those kinds of memories collectively make up much of what is
thought of as our “shadow” or unconscious.  These experiences are
not so much unconscious, as simply something that we are not
able to easily use words to talk about.  Such stored memories often
show up in our world as things we are strangely frightened about,
or in situations or opportunities we avoid, not only for ourselves, but
for our children as well.  It is through the unresolved memories
stored in the right brain that we unwittingly pass on the “sins of the
father … and mother.” This same mechanism causes us to one day
find ourselves saying or doing the same things to our own children
our parents did to us, those things that we swore we would never
ever do to our kids.  How many times have we had the experience
of words jumping out of our mouths that seem like we might be
channeling our parents?  Sound familiar?

In order to not pass on such “sins,” it becomes essential that as
parents we begin to do the  work of healing our own personal
history. What this primarily entails is something close to what
Sigmund Freud identified as central to optimal human functioning
nearly 100 years ago:  doing the work of “making the unconscious
conscious.” How modern neuroscientists might say the same thing
is: doing the work of opening and restoring neuron clusters
(engrams) to full functionality across both hemispheres of the

This Third Primary Parenting Practice is not easy work.  
Nevertheless, it is important work best done in the company of
compassionate, skillful, ethical, knowledgeable others who have
already managed to do a lot of healing themselves.  We all need
mentors and teachers with each new job or life experience we
undertake.  Parenting is such a job.  Parents need mentors.

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