How can I become more aware of anti-rational parts in my mind?

“If anti-rational memes are hiding in our unconscious mind, how can we be consciously aware of them? How can I become more aware of anti-rational memes in my mind?”

Your desire to discover and drop them is admirable. However, be aware that quite a number of parents taking their children seriously have become discouraged when spending a lot of time thinking about such matters. In some cases, people have mistakenly concluded that anti-rational memes are immutable, and that therefore, taking children seriously is impossible, and they have felt like giving up. In other cases, the parents have started objectifying themselves as parents, scrutinising their every move, looking for the smoking gun of anti-rational memes, and have thereby thrown a spanner in the works of their creativity, resulting in the creation of a vicious circle of coercion instead of a virtuous circle of real solutions.

Turning how you treat your children into an object of scrutiny – a performance that is being graded and judged (even just by you yourself) – pretty much guarantees disaster. Like coercive education in school, it systematically interferes with the knowledge-creating processes that would otherwise be going on. If you are often feeling guilty, the chances are there is this kind of interference happening. Drop the second guessing and scrutinising and judging. It is as toxic for us as that kind of thing is for our children. If you are not feeling free – free to think, free to be and free to act in accordance with your own ideas, your thinking flying free as a bird – it might be that you are seizing up your thinking with scrutiny and judgement, objectifying yourself as a parent. I understand that you want to correct all the mistakes you may be making. However, when we are doing all this guilt-inducing self-coercive scrutinising and judging, we are precisely interfering with our natural ability to correct our errors.

That said, if you are still wondering how to become more aware of anti-rational parts of your mind, perhaps start by noticing where you feel compelled or unfree, such as where you feel fear, anxiety, unease, shame, guilt, or where you feel sure something is essential but you are wishing it were not; where you feel compelled to force an outcome; or when you feel angry; and also notice where you are manipulating, compelling or coercing your children, particularly if you are subjecting your children to the same coercion your parents subjected you to. Notice when you feel compelled to teach or guide or advise your children despite the fact that your children are not responding actively positively.

Then mentally go inside your mind and have an IFS-style chat with the parts of your mind that are coming up. Really listen to and hear what those parts of your mind need you to know. What is their purpose from their own point of view? They are each trying to protect the system that is you, even though you do not need their protection. What do they fear would happen if they were not doing what they are doing? Why do they think you need protecting? How old do they think you are? How does what they are doing protect you? If it were possible for everything to be ok without them doing the difficult stressful job they are doing in your system, would they like that? What might they like to do if it were not necessary for them to do the job they are doing? And so on.

For more details about what I mean by this, and how to do it, see: How can I drop the anti-rational part of my mind that interferes with me taking my children seriously?

If you find this kind of thing easier to grasp if you see it in action in real IFS sessions, the clearest possible demonstrations I have found of IFS are those of its creator, Dr Richard Schwartz. I found the first demonstration in this course – Dick Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems Master Class: Experience IFS in Action with Complex Trauma and PTSD – particularly illuminating. Unfortunately, it is not free, but it is often much cheaper than the standard price. [Currently huge discount on psychotherapy]

See also:

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, Taking Children Seriously FAQ: ‘How can I become more aware of anti-rational parts in my mind?’,

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