Week One / Day Six – A child’s Survival Mind


Click here for the audio version of the lesson

So far we have learnt a lot about how you have generally come to do postnatal depression.  You may notice that I keep saying ‘do’ PND.  This is because you don’t have PND, it’s something that you do. You can’t catch depression.  It is something that you do because of how you think.

This thinking is what we are going to correct.

Today and tomorrow I’m going to help you to gain a little more insight into how your specific self-worth issues were set up.

From the moment we are born we are taught the whole pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain concept.  Even as a baby when you smiled, you were met with smiles from others and this made you feel good.

As a toddler you were taught ‘right’ from ‘wrong.’  Getting things right means approval and acceptance.  Get it wrong and this can be met with criticism, possibly anger or punishment of some sort.  We start to form a perception of how worthy we are when we get things wrong and compare it to how worthy we feel when we get it right.

Very, very quickly we learn as children how to rate ourselves and create our self-image.  We learn what it is we need to do to feel loved, accepted within our family and our friends, approved of and what expectations we must live up to in order to prove ourselves as worthy to the world and be safe in the world.

We learnt all of this through the experiences in our lives, primarily between the ages of zero and seven.

Following I have created some specific examples of how incorrect beliefs about our self-worth can be set up and how these beliefs can be triggered when you become a parent, resulting in your PND.

“You’re a bad boy/girl”

Repetitively hearing that you are a bad person for behaviour translates to a child that they are bad whenever they do something wrong.  Rather than just the behaviour needing correcting, a child starts to believe there is something wrong with them as a whole.

How this can translate into parenthood

If I happen to make a mistake or do something wrongly, I habitually believe that I’m a bad person because of it – meaning I’m a bad parent because of this challenge (eg not getting the skill of breastfeeding).

Good boy/good girl”

Conversely, you learn as a child that doing things correctly makes you a good person, rather than just the behaviour being good. This inadvertently reinforces that only when I get life right can I be a good person.

Your parent’s comments like “Mummy loves you so much for cleaning up your room”. “You have made mummy so happy by doing [this behaviour]”.  This translates as I am only loved and worthy when I’m doing good things.

I personally make a point to say to my children “good job”, “good work” or “well done” etc instead of good boy, so they know that the behaviour was acknowledged rather than his worth.

How this can translate into motherhood:

  • Only when I do everything right, am I a good parent.
  • Only when my baby is happy am I doing a good job, which therefore means I’m a good parent.
  • Good parents always know what they are doing.

Always getting in trouble as a child

If you were continually being told of all the naughty, bad and wrong things that you were doing as a child with very little praise, you are taught only to see all your wrong doings in life.  This makes it very difficult to acknowledge any progress or wins you have had because you have been trained to only look for your shortcomings.

How this can translate into parenthood:

  • You only see the mistakes you make, not the progress you’ve made and the learning you are receiving.
  • You fail to see the challenges you have overcome, you only see what’s wrong with situations.
  • You see life as the glass half empty

Being labelled and criticized

Being called names like:  stupid, idiot, pain in the bum, useless, hopeless, dumb, “not good enough”, clumsy, liar, fatty etc all translates into serious self-worth statements you make about yourself generally.  You go through life believing that this is who you are, so your experiences match this belief because you only see evidence of this belief being true.

How this can translate into parenthood

Depending on the label, you will view your attempts to try something new through this lens that was repeated to you as a child. Even though you want to be a good, capable parent, your habitual beliefs will want kick in to remind you of why you are not.  This is only because you have neural connections that have grown in your brain (the superhighway of thinking) that states that you are useless, hopeless etc.  You have been trained to see yourself that way, so that is exactly what you see.  This is not the truth, however, and you will come to learn otherwise.

Getting everything done for you

Perhaps you had a parent or parents who would always do everything for you and didn’t let you try things for yourself.  “You’re too little”.  “You’ll just mess it up.”  “Mummy will do it quicker.”  “You don’t know how”.  “When you’re older…”. This can translate to a child that they are incapable of learning something new or that they are incapable full stop.  It tells them that it’s hard to do something that they’ve never done before and that someone else could probably do it better.

How this can translate into parenthood

  • Parenting is new and I am incapable of learning new things.
  • It’s too hard, someone else can clearly do it better (possibly my partner).
  • I’m incapable of being a good parent.
  • Nothing I ever do is good enough.

Modelling a low self-image

Your parents may have had a low self-image that they have passed onto you.  Perhaps you saw and heard them continually beat themselves up over making mistakes.  Maybe you heard them say limiting things like “I can’t do that”, “I’m hopeless”, “I’ve never been good at anything. You’re just like me”.  “Nothing good ever happens to me.”

Any observations you made of your parents viewing themselves as being worth-less contributes to how you learn to view yourself.

How this can translate into parenthood

  • You see yourself in this same way, so you don’t feel worthy enough to be a good parent.
  • Perhaps you don’t feel worthy enough of being a parent at all (eg I don’t deserve to have anything this good happen to me).
  • Everything you do as a parent reminds you of how worth-less you are because this is how you’ve been taught to think.

Lack of touching, kissing, hugging and I love you’s

Not feeling affection and touch from your parents can cause you to question your lovability or cause you to struggle showing love.

How this can translate into parenthood:

Your beliefs about love can become very confronting when you have a child.  There are two ways you could go if you have experienced lack of love and affection as a child yourself.

a) You may feel as if you don’t deserve to have this child in your life.  You don’t know how to receive the unconditional love a child has for his/her parent because you didn’t receive it yourself.  It becomes unchartered territory to be loved for no reason and it can feel like your child is a threat to the safety of what you know and what you are comfortable with.

This may seem odd that it is hard to receive the love of your child, but if you have not received much love from your own childhood, it can be so unfamiliar to you, that your brain starts to see this experience as unsafe. “I don’t know how to deal with this”. So you may reject your child, back away from their affections and try to retreat back to the safety of what you know.

Even though logically you may want to love your child and receive love from your child, your non-conscious mind is thinking “danger, danger, danger…unknown territory”, so you habitually retreat from the situation.

If this is you, we are going to help you to change this, so keep going.  There is hope for a loving relationship with your child.

b) The second path that you may take if you’ve experienced a lack of love or touch in your childhood, is that you may think you don’t know how to love your child or you may think that you are not loving your child enough.

Because you have no reference point on how to model love and affection for your child, you may think that you are incapable of giving this child the love he/she needs.  This can be painful and confronting because through this lens you start to believe that your child deserves to have a different parent, a more capable, more loving parent than you.

Please know that this is not true and this program is going to help you work through that too.  In the meantime, try to surround yourself with parents who are naturally loving to their children and learn off them.

For men, seek out men who are comfortable showing physical affection in a manly way so you can learn how to do it with your children too. Sometimes for dads affection doesn’t come easy and is something that needs to be learnt. It doesn’t mean anything about your self-worth. It doesn’t mean that you are any less of a father. It just means you are needing to learn a new skill that you’ve never had to learn before.

You can see that I’ve left this one until last because these are extremely powerful and painful beliefs that can be reflected in parenthood as a result of experiencing a lack of love and touch in your own childhood.  Particularly if you combine a lack of love with constant criticism and if you felt like you were always doing everything wrong in childhood, this can magnify what a bad job you feel like you’re doing as a parent.  “Not only am I not loving my child enough, I am hopeless in everything I do because it’s never good enough.  I am the epitome of a bad parent.”

These beliefs can cause the most painful and more serious cases of PND, so if this is you, take heart that you have found the solutions to stopping these feelings.  Know for now though, that these beliefs have simply been incorrectly conditioned in you and they do not represent the truth.  We’re going to teach you a new way to view your life.

Above are just a few examples that may help you to start to understand how your thinking about life and self-worth has been set up.

As we continue onto day seven of our week’s lesson, you will get the opportunity to learn more specifically the thinking that lies behind your self-worth issues.