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11 Steps To Heal The Past And Strengthen Bonds

Mark Guay is an Integral Certified Coach and IFS practitioner. He is the founder of Fathers Without Compromise, a group coaching program and community for business-owning dads to be great fathers and build a great business without compromising one or the other.

Executive Contributor Mark W. Guay

Becoming a father can stir up unsettling emotions, especially when it brings back memories of your childhood and your relationship with your dad. The Internal Family Systems (IFS) model helps us understand that these emotions often come from a younger part of us—a little boy who didn’t get his needs met or went through some serious trauma. Here are eleven actionable steps to help you connect with that inner child and start healing those old wounds. That way, you can show up to your own kids with a deeper presence and break generational patterning. Remember that what a father cannot access in himself, he cannot pass on to his children. So the more you do to heal your own inner world, the better father you’ll be able to be.

Man in leather jacket carrying boy on his shoulder

1. Recognize your trigger moments

Identify the situations that trigger strong emotional reactions related to your father. This could be during family gatherings during the holidays or when you have a strong emotional reaction to your own children. These moments can provide clues about the unresolved issues within you. Keep a journal to track these triggers and your responses to them. For example, if you’re finding yourself getting bothered by your kids wanting to stay outside and play instead of coming in for dinner, causing you to want to scream or your blood boil, chances are it’s because during your own childhood, your wildness was stifled by a parent. Reconigizing how your own story relates to the way you raise your kids is an extremely powerful step to breaking generational trauma and rewriting your family’s story.

2. Recognize and nurture your inner child for healing

Take a moment to acknowledge the young boy inside you who experienced pain and unmet needs. Simply recognizing his presence is the first step towards healing. Say, "I see you, and I know you're hurting."

3. Create a safe space for internal dialogue

Find a quiet, comfortable place to have uninterrupted time to connect with your inner child. This could be a room in your house, a peaceful spot in a park, or anywhere you feel safe and relaxed.

4. Start the conversation

Ask your inner child what he felt during those difficult times with your father. Listen to his responses without judgment. You might say, "What were you feeling when Dad did that?" or "What do you need to feel safe now?"

5. Practice self-compassion

Show compassion to your inner child. Remind him that his feelings are valid and that he is not alone. Use affirmations like, "It's okay to feel this way," and "You deserve love and understanding."

6. Engage in self-soothing activities

Find activities that soothe and comfort your inner child. This might include drawing, playing a favorite childhood game, or holding a comforting object. These activities can help calm your inner child and create a sense of safety.

7. Seek professional guidance

Consider working with a skilled IFS practitioner. They are trained specifically to help you gain further self-reliance, navigate complex emotions, and guide you through the process of unburdening your inner child.

8. Set clear boundaries

Establish and maintain boundaries with your father to protect your emotional well-being. Communicate your limits clearly and consistently. This might involve limiting contact or being specific about the interactions you are comfortable with. This exercise helps you set boundaries and commit to a clear and compelling “No”.

9. Practice mindfulness

Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine. Mindfulness can help you stay present and grounded, reducing the impact of emotional triggers. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and body scanning can be particularly effective. This meditation is helpful to strengthen your muscle of compassion.

10. Foster forgiveness

Work towards forgiving your father and yourself. Understand that forgiveness is a process that takes time. It doesn't mean excusing past behavior but rather releasing its hold on your emotions. Reflect on your father's own struggles and recognize that everyone is imperfect.

11. Build a support network

Surround yourself with supportive people who understand and respect your journey. Share your experiences with trusted friends, join a support group, or connect with others with similar experiences. A strong support network can provide encouragement and perspective. One such community is Fathers Without Compromise.

Healing from the emotional scars left by your relationship with your father means giving that young boy inside you the care and attention he never got. By committing to these steps, you can start to heal and create a healthier emotional future for yourself and your kids. It’s a courageous journey that many back away from. It can feel tough, especially when others around you may question it, but it’s worth it—not just for you but for the legacy you’ll pass on to the next generation.

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Read more from Mark W. Guay


Mark W. Guay, Men's Coach

Mark Guay is an Integral Certified Coach and IFS practitioner. He is the founder of Fathers Without Compromise, a group coaching program and community for business-owning dads to be great fathers and build a great business without compromising one or the other. As an adoptee and survivor of childhood domestic violence, he leads with this approach: To really change our lives, we must heal the past and embrace the unknown. To do this, we need self-accountability, the courage to take decisive action, a community of support, and trust that doors will appear, leading us on our path.



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