By Meggen Taylor
Let’s face it. Many of us had childhoods that weren’t ideal. The main reason being is that our parents themselves had unresolved emotional issues that they then passed along to us. Now that we are being forced to take a pause in life (whether we like it or not) with the pandemic, an opportunity presents itself to turn inwards to heal old wounds that to some degree we all carry and use this as a chance to grow personally.
I discovered Dr. Nicole LePera, also known as ‘The Holistic Psychologist’ on Instagram through a friend of mine. Her posts about ego, anxiety, codependency, and trauma resonated with me (and millions of others). As her tagline would suggest, LePera is a psychologist who acknowledges the mind and body connection. She blends her traditional training from Cornell University and The New School to offer insights that are relatable while teaching people that they can heal themselves.
“I do not work with clients,” LePera tells me. “I run a self-guided healing membership (the next one opens up May 1st) for people who want to go on their own healing journey. I teach people the tools that bring healing in many different ways, and encourage them to use the practices that they connect with the most. The core concepts I teach are: ego work, inner child work, re-parenting, and body (nervous system healing). It’s important for people to understand that we are all self-healers, and if we do the work, we can truly transform.”
For those unfamiliar with the concept of re-parenting, it is a technique used in psychotherapy where the therapist acts as a parent to the client so that they can heal from past attachment trauma.
“The way I teach re-parenting is being your own inner wise parent,” says LaPera. “That means beginning to speak to yourself in different ways, making different choices, and honoring your needs. As children, our core needs were to be seen and heard. Few of us truly had this experience, so re-parenting is the act of beginning to understand ourselves in a new way and beginning to meet our needs now that we have the awareness as adults to do so.”
LePera explains to me that this is applicable to just about everyone since our parents are human and have their own unresolved trauma. “Just like we inherit eye color and hair color, we inherit behaviors, patterns, and beliefs from our parents that don’t always serve us as adults. Re-parenting helps us to become aware of these things, and slowly with time and practice, release these patterns and become more physically and emotionally healthy,” continues LePera.
Since therapy is seen as somewhat of a luxury both in terms of time and cost, I really appreciate LePera’s candor that people can do the work themselves if they commit to it.
“Re-parenting can be done by ourselves every day,” states LePera. “We can also use re-parenting tools within therapy. If we are doing work with a professional, it’s important to also do this work daily in our own lives.” LePera views this work as a lifelong commitment that evolves as we evolve. “This doesn’t mean our life revolves around re-parenting. It just means that we are conscious of the choices and actions we make and check in with ourselves around our own needs, and patterns.”
Curious to know how ego plays a role in re-parenting LePera tells me, “Children by nature are ego-centric. This is an important stage of ego development. That means that they believe everything happens to them and because of them. So for example, let’s say that dad comes home stressed then he yells at us, we believe that we caused dad to yell at us—that there is something wrong with us. Children do not have the ego awareness to understand there are different things coming into play to cause dad to behave this way. Many of us don’t develop beyond this stage of ego development and continue to believe that everything is happening to us and because of us. This is nothing to be ashamed of, and is a sign that some re-parenting can be helpful.”
We are living in very strange times. “It’s a collective global pause on life as we know it.” Since most of us are stuck inside, we are forced to look inwards. “For some that might mean growth, others might connect more with family, others might feel anger or sadness. The real opportunity during the pandemic is to connect with what you’re actually feeling—to work on not judging your responses and to find ways to process it all that make sense for you,” explains LePera.
So what are some exercises people can do at home to practice self-love? “I am always teaching people the concept of keeping small promises to yourself,” states LePera. “So I teach people to make attainable promises like waking up 10 minutes early or going to bed 10 minutes early, drinking 1 glass of water every morning, meditating for 5 minutes, or journaling for 10 minutes. These small acts of self-care help to establish trust with yourself and build the foundation of self-trust. With commitment, these small acts bring so much transformation.”
One thing you will quickly learn about LePera is that she doesn’t talk about universal protocols and the same applies to self-care routines. “People are individuals and self-care means different things for different people,” she tells me. “With the pandemic some people are feeling devastated and scared. The first step is to identify those feelings and accept those emotions. So many of us have these rules about what we should feel and we cause ourselves a lot of additional suffering thinking this way. Some people feel lonely and they want to connect while other people may feel lonely and want to be left alone. There is no right or wrong way to feel”.
Once you accept your feelings LePera suggests that people find a way to care for themselves, balance the body and the mind, and care for our emotions. “We sometimes feel like we should know how to care for ourselves. But we weren’t taught a lot of these things so it takes experimenting. Does a walk make you feel better or perhaps does taking a bath provide a sense of comfort? I talk a lot about breathwork, which is incredibly important because it regulates the nervous system.”
On a global level, there is no doubt that the pandemic is bringing up old trauma for many people. “A lot of us are carrying childhood traumas. Our safety in the world is being threatened and it is emotionally activating. Many of us are living with a fight or flight response. These are governed by our nervous system, which is affected by our past experiences. The reaction in our body is very real. When we are challenged and not conscious to old patterns we resort to old coping tools and the spiral continues. This affects how we show up everyday for work and our relationships with others. Any issues will feel exasperated,” explains LePera.
There is so much that I love about LePera’s approach to self-love and self-healing. But, one of the qualities that I admire most and that I haven’t seen in my years of seeing therapists is her openness with her own struggles. Many therapists hold themselves up higher than their patients as if they have it all figured out when in fact most of them don’t. This is, in my opinion what makes her so relatable.
“Re-parenting and learning to love your self is a journey,” she tells me. “It’s not something that happens overnight, and it’s something that we must be an active participant in. An important part of re-parenting is being gentle and compassionate with yourself during the process, rather than judging where you are at with it.” LePera’s insight into the mind and body coupled with her tangible advice is invaluable for all of us navigating these incredibly challenging and triggering times. Her first book comes out next spring.