Parent Models

Today we begin a new series on images of a healthy mother and father, or parent models. It’s no real stretch to suggest that parental styles influence who we become. From Freud to now, psychology has been dominated in large part by the reconciliation of childhood experiences with presenting problems in adult life. After all, is it not the inner child we hail supreme in psychotherapy? And why? Of course these formative years mold the ego through modeling of the environment. Naturally mother and father provide our first real images of how one engaged with emotion, relationships, responsibilities, beliefs, and life itself. To one degree or another, our work at Barn Life is about bringing out these models. We explore how we have taken them into adult life: what worked, what didn’t, what motivates, and what destroys.

Our Best Efforts and Worst Limitations

From wounding to winning, the parent models we had present to us our best efforts and our worst limitation. If, for example, we rely too heavily on our strengths, we may never know the meaning of failure. As Winnicott once wrote, “We would be best set up for a healthy individual life with a good enough mother and a good enough father… too good and we never find our interiority; too bad and we find only the survivalist within. Adopted in childhood, these external figures formed how we find motivation, nurture, and relationships to our own goals, both as the clinician and the client. The resources we acquire to substantiate our best selves, as we will explore, rely heavily on the images we hold of how to self-parent.

A Better Understanding of Our Own Unique Experiences

There is a problem with simply processing what was formative from our parents. That is, we may never reconcile these images to the whole. Without corrective experiences of a healthier nature, we are destined to battle out the inadequacies of our ancestors. This series will explore universal images of masculinity and femininity in order to examine the inner parent model. We will explore the missing links between aspects of the psyche both in what may be underdeveloped and what may be over-relied upon. In an effort to bring us closer to the organizing principles of mothering and fathering, we will be spending the next several weeks exploring archetypal images of masculine and feminine figures in myth and fairytale. These figures help us to better understand the nature of our own unique experiences of our mothers and fathers as well as new and improved voices of motivation, nurture, acceptance, and effort.

A Deeper World of Exploration

For our first week, I am encouraging the staff to draw special attention to the way our clients ( and even ourselves) draw on our learned models. How do we confront obstacles? Conflict? Inadequacy? Failure? Stress? What beliefs do we hold about what we deserve? As we will see in the coming weeks, these structures resemble the personified images of mythic and fairytale figures. Indeed, these learned models are doorways into a deeper world of exploration. With the intention of an expanding imaginal life, we will work to make more conscious who is among us as the voice of father and mother inside and out. Furthermore, who might we be longing to meet in the pantheon?