The Inner Mother and Inner Father Process

One of the most powerful and life-changing processes I have experienced in my eleven years working with my inner child (Little John) and all my other inner selves actually happened this year. I am still adjusting to the changes which, though very positive for me, have altered so much of the way I look at the world and others around me. (Warning: If you are a person who does not accept that within each of us there is a very real part called the ‘inner child’ these notes may have no value for you, since most of what follows is about the deepest needs of our inner children and how these can be achieved.)

Many of you will be familiar with Hal and Sidra Stone’s process for ‘growing’ or inducting a new self (one that has never been present in that person) as distinct from the more usual re-connecting to a disowned self (one that was present earlier in life but has been pushed into the background). Many other voice dialogue practitioners have been working on developing ways of inducting two totally new selves, for example an Inner or ideal Mother and an Inner or ideal Father. When I say that they are totally new, I mean that these new selves carry strong and very positive characteristics that we certainly did not learn from our real mother or father. In many ways they may be complete opposites.

It’s hard to describe the incredible joy and the sense of protection that Little John is feeling inside me with his new inner Mum. She is so aware, so caring, and so non-controlling, unlike my real mother. Often when he is overly concerned about something, she just tells him "John, It doesn’t matter." (What I would have given, as a child, just to have heard that once from my real parents!)

My new inner Dad is also very different from my actual father. My inner dad has a deep spiritual strength, he is open-minded, fair and firm but non-judgmental. He is very aware and says things to me and Little John like, "We could be right or wrong about that, we can’t be sure, let’s have another look at it." and "You can choose." (Again, words I never heard as a child but desperately wanted to, living as I was forced to do, in my raging addict father’s extremely polarised, north or south, good or bad world.)

NOTE: Those of you who have read my book "Growing Awareness" (or browsed through my website) will be familiar with a term I often use namely the "aware adult" which I identified there as being different from the aware ego and also different from ordinary inner selves. I can now see that what I described as the ‘aware adult state’ is almost identical to the energy I feel coming from my two new Inner parents. And, yes, they do have a great deal of awareness and lots of adult energy. "We can’t be sure about the aware adult either, let’s have another look at it." I hear my inner Dad telling me and that feels so calming.

My new inner Dad and Mum are often at their strongest when they are protecting little John from inner selves like the knower and judge, the inner critic, inner matriarch and patriarch, whether they are in me and in others. And since the they were the same selves who got me into most of the strife in my life, it’s wonderful having some protection from them at last.

For example, my own inner matriarch has a nasty habit of taking a critical remark or judgement by someone else, amplifying it, then telling little John, "They’re right you know, you deserved that criticism!" Can you imagine after all these years, now having two more aware and much stronger selves who, today, tell her, "Back off and leave the kid alone while we deal with the reality!" Maybe I did make a mistake, but I’ll fix it faster and better with my new inner parents beside me instead of my inner critic and my matriarch (who I notice both happen to sound very much like my original internalised mum and dad).

The way a classic voice dialogue facilitator helps induct each new inner mother or father is very individual. If I tell you about my own experience it will give you some idea. I can’t tell you about the way I have facilitated other people’s new parent selves because that would breach confidentiality. But I can tell you that the results for others have been positive and powerful in every case. I have been inducting new inner mothers and fathers with great success for the past six months, even over the phone and with clients in the USA and UK (on one occasion by cellular phone). I can also tell you that the process is not particularly hard to learn provided you have had some training as a classic voice dialogue facilitator and I would be happy to discuss it with any facilitator who is interested in learning more about it.

One point I will stress, however, is that it is essential to do separate inductions, one each for the Inner Mother and Inner Father. For many years I had been inducting a self I called the ‘Aware Inner Parent". It was a useful self but it never really seemed to get fully energised. Then I tried inducting the ‘Aware Adult’. It still didn’t seem to make much of a change.

Now I understand why. The energy of the new inner mother self is totally different to that of the inner father self. The way they work is very different. They can cooperate as a two-self team to counteract negative core beliefs, but only because each one has different skills that compliment the other’s.

For example (and remember that in each person these characteristics may differ, so try not to generalise) the inner mother’s energy is often softer, kinder, and warmer. My inner Mum is extremely unconditional. She gives Little John messages about being special, lovable, good enough and worthwhile, regardless of what he does. She is always ready to nurture and support Little John when he is feeling vulnerable but she asks nothing in return.

My inner father, on the other hand is fair, but firm, he sets limits (using boundaries and moderation) about the things that Little John should or should not do to avoid impacting others. He encourages experimenting and exploring, yet he is conditional (even judgemental) when it comes to saying "No" to others about what they do that could affect Little John’s vulnerability. Even then he tries to avoid intensity.

Attempting to combine those very different energies into one ‘inner parent’ or ‘aware adult’, as I used to do, neutralises their effect. The Mum side finds difficult to be unconditional enough in her loving, the Dad side can’t set strong enough boundaries and limits.

The other thing I suggest to my clients is that they notice the significant differences between ordinary selves and the more grown-up nature of the inner parent selves. For a while I thought these new inner parents might be something else, not even ‘selves’ as we know them, but inner Dad suggested we have another look at it.

Here is what I have come up with, that seems to distinguish inner parent selves energetically from the ordinary kind of selves.

  1. Speed of intensity
  2. Ordinary inner selves tend to get energised very rapidly, you can often feel them ‘rev their motor like a racing car’ when they are needed. (See ‘Cannons, crucifixes, concrete and character’ for more of an explanation about this). Inner parents can be very powerful too, but they build up their energy more slowly like a diesel truck.

  3. Getting other people to ‘do’ things - outer or inner focus
  4. Both kinds of selves are concerned about our un-parented vulnerability. Ordinary selves usually have goals or ‘intentions’ when they help you communicate with other people. They tell us to do whatever it takes to get more approval or more nurturing for our inner child, from others. Inner parents, however, nurture and love our inner children directly, they are much less concerned with getting anyone else to do anything about it, in fact they try to avoid getting others involved because of the risks. They may, of course, set limits about what others must not do around our inner child. Even then, they are far less concerned with controlling how others interact, just making sure the end result is OK for you.

  5. Awareness of options and opportunities
  6. Inner parents are like a kind of short cut to your aware ego. Even if you are new to inner self work and classic voice dialogue, you can get your aware inner parents up and running much earlier than your aware ego (which usually takes a while to grow). Like the aware ego, when faced with a problem, inner parents especially inner Dad, can help you ‘stand between opposites’ and as you do this, to become aware of options and opportunities. These are those third, fourth and fifth possibilities that you didn’t notice while your selves kept you stuck in polarised thinking. There is more joy and a growing sense of freedom in being able to choose from a range of options.

  7. Flexible problem solving
  8. Inner selves usually take a polarised ‘either... or....’ approach to problems. Inner parents are more flexible, they wonder ‘How close can we get to what we would like?’ or ‘What can we do to get nearer to what we need?’ When you are wanting an important decision from another person, inner parents have a similarly open attitude. For example rather than ‘Do you agree or don’t you?’ your inner father might ask another person ‘What are you comfortable with. What needs to be changed?’ What other options are there? Inner parents also help you recognise which inner selves tell you there are only two possibilities.

  9. Connecting, linking and communicating

With two inner parents in place, you find it easier to share all this new understanding and awareness with other people (provided they are trustworthy). With only your inner selves looking after your un-parented vulnerability it’s hard to share deep experiences without feeling you are more at risk. The less the selves are involved in your linkage with others, the more you can talk openly about your inner child, your vulnerability and whatever else you are now aware of and how all this affects you and your feelings. You are more connected yet also more protected.


For a record of the actual step by step induction of my own new inner father click here



Copyright John Nutting 1996- - 2004  and     GROWING AWARENESS   All rights reserved World Wide   LAST UPDATE  Wednesday, 23 January 2008 00:39

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