These Two Characters are at the Heart of Reparenting

by | Oct 6, 2019 | Anxiety, Highly Sensitive Person, Trust Yourself | 19 comments

Reparenting is the process of healing through which we access and grow a loving inner parent that can repair the wounds that were left from being raised by caregivers who were incapable of teaching us the fundamental skills and habits necessary for well-being: how to care lovingly for our physical bodies, how to respond to our thoughts with discernment, how to tend to our emotional lives with both tenderness and discipline, and how to nurture our innate spark so that we can follow the clues of yes that fill the well of self. When we engage daily with these reparative processes, reparenting then becomes repairenting. (Clever, eh? :)).

To fully explain what it means to reparent extends beyond the scope of a single blog post (please read my book, The Wisdom of Anxiety, for more comprehensive tools and guidance), but for today I’d like to breakdown one of the clarifying components of the reparenting process, which is to discern between the loving inner mother and the loving inner father.

We all have a loving inner mother and father, and let me first start by saying that inner “mother” and “father” have nothing to do with gender; rather, like the terms feminine and masculine, these are archetypal qualities or energy fields that stream through all human beings.

Qualities of the Loving Inner Mother:

  • Compassionate: When feelings arise, the inner mother says, “I’m here. I understand. It’s okay. It will pass through you.”
  • Empathic: “I’ve felt that way before and it makes so much sense that you feel that way.”
  • Holding: “I’m here. I’ve got you. Come sit with me.”
  • Tending: “I’ll be here as long as you need me.”
  • Being: “We don’t have to say anything at all. We can just be together in silence.” Recognizes that sometimes the most loving response to difficult feelings is tender silence and that words are often overrated.
  • Creating: Making time to turn inward and allow creative expressions to emerge.

Qualities of the Loving Inner Father:

  • Disciplined: Can follow-through on tasks; keeps commitments and promises.
  • Discerning: Can discern between thoughts that need attention and thoughts that can be brushed aside. Can discern between honoring and pushing with emotions and physical sensations. For example, there are times when you need to rest and times when you need to exercise. The  inner father listens and discerns between the two.
  • Firm, especially with emotions: It’s the loving inner mother that brings tenderness and compassion to our emotions, but it’s the loving inner father who knows when we’re starting to drown in the feelings and says, “That’s enough for now. It’s time to get up and move the body.”
  • Clear-Thinking: The Inner Father knows who you are and doesn’t become muddied by other people’s perceptions or projections.
  • Doing: It’s the feminine that creates the art but it’s the masculine that brings it out into the world. It’s the feminine that dreams and it’s the masculine that manifests.
  • Protective: The Inner Father protects your inner world by setting appropriate and loving boundaries and speaking up in the face of injustice.

Notice that the first two words in the above list share a common root of discipulus, which is Latin for pupil. When we’re connected to our loving inner father, we’re accessing the left hemisphere that is guided by the light of clarity and learning. In other words, you’re in the thinking realm: firm, clear, and devoted to the values and principles that inform your life. The etymology of the word disciple is “someone who is a student.” The word has taken on religious connotations, but I understand it as being a disciple of your own inner path and creative expressions; a disciple of soul or Self. When you are in service to Self, you gather the runes of your wisdom and expressions and find the discipline and courage to bring them out into the world.

Let me make it clear here that these are qualities that we’re all learning to access; they enter in and they fall away in concentric layers and spirals of learning and growing. If your perfectionist jumps onto the scene and wants to castigate you by jumping into a story that says, “I don’t have an inner loving father at all – I never finish courses – I have terrible follow-through”…  I encourage you to pause, name that story, breathe into it, and ask, “What are some ways that I do show up for myself with my loving inner father?” Perhaps you have a hard time finishing courses but you’re skilled at cleaning or paying your bills. Maybe you struggle with householder tasks but you’re faithful to your dream life. I’ve never met someone who didn’t have some qualities of the inner loving father, and I have no doubt that the same is true for you.

Also, there’s usually one inner parent that’s more developed and one that’s underdeveloped. You may excel in completing tasks and bringing yourself into the work world, but struggle to tend to your emotional life with kindness. That’s okay! The work is to name it so you can notice it, then bring the light of your curiosity to the places that need more attention.

Which of these parts is more developed for you? Which needs more attention? I’d love to hear below.


If you’re new to my site, welcome! I’m so glad you’re here and I welcome your comments that are directly related to each week’s post. If you’re struggling with relationship anxiety, I encourage you to consider my course, Break Free From Relationship Anxiety, where you will find comprehensive tools, information, and 24/7 forum support to help you open your heart and find clarity. 



  1. Wow, Sheryl. This game at the right time!

    The loving inner father is a part I have been missing and the way you explained it made so much sense just now! My inner child feels relief knowing there is a balance system and she can have the loving inner mother and loving inner father to help her also take responsibility and actions.

    Thank you!!! The way you teach, speak, is my learning style and I get so much clarity of your writing.

    • I’m so glad the article was helpful and that you’re growing from my writing ;).

  2. This was beautiful and helpful, Sheryl! Thank you for putting both roles into words. When those roles weren’t seen growing up it’s hard to know what they look like practically. Appreciate your work as always 🙂

    • Always good to hear from you, Sara!

      • You too! Also, I shared these concepts in group therapy today with some patients and they LOVED it. We use the CBT model all the time and many of them said this helped them learn how to approach their thoughts instead of just changing them.

  3. I love this! Thinking about these energies/qualities in terms of a mother and father is helpful. I’ve always aligned strongly with the feminine, so feeling my feelings, being compassionate, etc comes naturally. But it was when I cultivated my inner father that I finally began to transform and heal my anxiety. Discipline, firmness, not drowning in emotion, and importantly… DOING. Not only taking in information, but practicing it and applying it every day. Saying “I know you probably don’t want to, but you’re doing it anyway!” ?

  4. This is awesome! I have just started really working to develop my inner father the past few weeks and it is making a world of difference in my clarity of mind! I have given him the job of keeping me in a disciplined yet gentle routine of self care, working toward loving goals, and keeping me committed to my values.

  5. I love your work and have been reading your blog for a long time! This framing of different parts of our inner selves is so useful. I have been wondering though, about the mother and father archetypes/energies. If they are not actually related to gender but rather to aspects of being and doing that everyone contains, why do we have to assign gendered names to them? Could it ultimately be more freeing and clarifying to come up with different labels, such as inner “holding” parent vs. inner “firm” parent (or something like that ?) that aren’t gendered? Or even yin and yang? It feels to me that we should all be encouraged to develop both these forces to their fullest within us, and giving them gendered names, even when we know they are short hand, could hold us back on some level and keep us associating more with one than the other, or placing value judgements on them. Just my thoughts, and I am very open/curious to hear about why you (or other blog readers!!) think that the words mother and father should still be used!

    Thank you so much for the amazing service you provide to the world in writing this weekly blog ❤

    • A very interesting and astute thought, Molly! The way I think of it is that rather than using this terms as a way to box us in, they could actually liberate us to access our less developed self. Let’s take an actual father, for example, who is highly attuned to his emotional side and brings this loving tending to his children (like my husband does). This type of man has very mothering energy, but I don’t think of it in a gendered way. Does that make sense? Likewise, likely because of my Jungian training, I don’t think of masculine and feminine as connected to gender. So I think that expanding these terms beyond gender paradoxically releases them from gender-associations. But that might just be me!

      • Hmm yes! I imagine that years of jungian training/perspective have helped seeing mother and father as unattached to gender to become second nature to you. It feels a little strange to me still, but I can see how that may be the way to go! I have to think about this 🙂

        • Molly I have been pondering different labels for these myself – I have quite a triggered response to the thought of “mother” being within me, especially while I’m still fighting to untangle myself from what I learnt was a mother’s love. “father” can also be tinged with a primal guarded reaction. The closest I’ve come to a new name that really supports reparenting work and doesn’t scare my wounded parts is the single term “mummydaddy” – I am my inner child’s “mummydaddy” and both feminine and masculine energies are balanced in that duo.

  6. Hi Sheryl,

    This is so powerful! I love how you empower us to nurture our inner world, and remind us that we are complete and whole in our capacity to heal. I have a question about this point:

    “Firm, especially with emotions: It’s the loving inner mother that brings tenderness and compassion to our emotions, but it’s the loving inner father who knows when we’re starting to drown in the feelings and says, “That’s enough for now. It’s time to get up and move the body.”

    I read both A Beautiful Cry and Intrusive Pain, and still need more clarity. I know we are to feel our feelings, so can you give another example as to how to determine when the inner father steps in? Thanks, Sheryl.

  7. This was great. I’m all about balance and that helped me to differentiate the two types of energy. I also balked a bit at using gender names though. I prefer something like “nurturing energy” and “productive energy.” Thanks!

  8. A fantastic description of the healing path. I have loved accessing my inner father who has been largely missing in my life. My therapist has pointed me along this same way even if not the same words are used. I have understood that combining feeling and thinking is very fruitful. It is asking “at what point today did I actually start to feel bad? What was the exact words? Why did that situation feel so alarming?” rather than the ruminating “why am I not feeling better, why can’t I deal with life, I don’t belong”, etc. There is another word for this that I have come across: “mentalization”. But I prefer your terms. Thanks.

  9. This is so enlightening to read, but also a stark reminder at how underdeveloped my inner father is. I’m almost 34 years old and have always been a procrastinator, even with things I claim I want to do, especially creative or enjoyable or activities. I’m so inactive in this regard, and I’ve never been able to get in touch with the why. I’ve been hoping to stumble across some secret, but I stay stuck. Stuck from exploring other career options or getting back into painting or writing or photography. I get so lost in the fantasy of what could be if I only did these things, but I never start. My therapist and I have touched a bit on it, but inaction is still a very real roadblock for me.

    Just before I got pregnant a couple years ago I was working my way through The Artist’s Way, but it’s just another thing I picked up but haven’t finished.

  10. Wow this could not have come in a better moment. I have always struggled to trust myself to follow through commitments. I finish them, but it takes a lot of time and a lot od self doubt. My father was an alcoholic and I have had a very traumatic childhood. I have struggled with anxiety and ptsd symptoms and I have done a lot of work with my therapist, and thanks to him I have learned a lot of techniques in order to face and release my biggest fears. But it is only after reading your text that I realize very important insights about my habits, inner struggle and how and why I overcome it. My mother is very loving, steady, calm, strong and believes in herself. Although my father overcame his addiction, it is my mother who is still the example of strength and overcoming difficult situations.


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