The Essence of Self Healing
Updated: Oct 24
"Self healing" refers to the healing of your self, by yourself. This simple guide will explain the essence of the self healing process and show you a quick and easy way for getting your own self healing journey under way.
Healing, whether of the body, mind, or spirit, consists of restoring wholeness to that which is broken and eliminating toxins that make us sick. When it comes to the healing of "self," toxic judgments are a primary cause of inner division and dis-ease. The remedy is to use compassion to replace toxic judgmentalism with an inner voice that is more loving. This simple principle is already widely understood. The hard part has always been figuring out how to actually accomplish this. This guide will show you how to get directly to the heart of the matter in your subconscious mind and teach you how to make those changes for your self and by yourself. All you need to get started is a journal and some colored pens.
There’s a Family in Your Mind
Have you seen the wonderful Pixar movie “Inside Out?” If not, put it on your list. It’s an excellent portrayal of what happens inside the mind of an eleven year-old girl going through a mental health crisis. Though you may not be an eleven year-old girl yourself, what we all have in common with her is a subconscious family of characters in our minds that psychologists refer to as “subpersonalities.” There have been many versions of this “inner family” developed over the years, going all the way back to Freud’s id, ego, and superego more than a century ago and evolving up to today’s most popular version known as Internal Family Systems. The names of our subpersonalities differ between various models, but what they all have in common is the understanding that our subpersonalities must be comforted and unified in order to be healthy, the same way that actual families need be. The alternative is the division, conflict, dysfunction, and emotional distress that leaves us emotionally unwell.
For the sake of simplicity this guide will only focus on the three most important subpersonalities that influence your mental health, showing you how to communicate with them and how to bring them into a greater state of harmony and wholeness. Time for some introductions.
The Core of Your Inner Family
The easiest way to understand your core inner family is that it consists of two parents and a child. The labels I use for these subpersonalities are the Judge, the Nurturer, and the Inner Child.
Your Judge is the part of you responsible for self control. It is your inner authority that evaluates your behavior, motivates you to do those things you should be doing and stops you from doing those things you shouldn’t. Think of your Judge as the enforcer of your conscience. That’s your Judge.
Your Nurturer is the part of you responsible for self comfort. Like any good emotional nurturer, it uses the love of empathy, understanding, praise, reassurance, forgiveness, and compassion to ease the sufferings of a troubled heart. That’s your Nurturer.
Your Inner Child does not represent your childhood. It is the core of your emotional heart in the present. It is where the vulnerable emotions of sadness, despair, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, embarrassment, humiliation, and other forms of emotional pain are experienced. Your Inner Child needs to be loved and protected in order to feel harmonious and whole.
Imagine what it’s like for a child to have a controlling parent that is demanding, hypercritical, judgmental, blaming, never satisfied, and never praising. The child’s nurturing parent is absent, possibly taking care of other people’s needs instead. Even if both parents love their child, neither has learned how to express their love effectively, so their child is going to be emotionally miserable and suffer from poor self esteem. This is exactly what the experience is like in the inner family of many of our minds. It doesn’t matter how fortunate a person may appear to be on the outside, if their inner family is unloving they will be suffering.
As with a conventional family, the remedy for these internal parental imbalances requires teaching the Judge to drop its use of toxic negativity and teaching the Nurturer to direct its love toward the Inner Child. These are the two fundamental adjustments that therapists strive to teach their patients, and this is true whether working with individuals, couples, or families. And as you’ll soon discover, it’s entirely possible to do this for your inner family all by yourself.
Changing Your Mind
The secret to changing how your Judge and Nurturer speak to your Inner Child is by simply talking with them about it. All you need is a method for accessing your subconscious family and then have some “heart-to-heart” dialogues that will show them how to do it. This “internal family therapy,” with you as the therapist to your inner family, is easy to do with the right method and some basic scripts. Your inner parents already want what’s best for your Inner Child and they just need you to help them do their jobs better.
Alright, if you’ve been able to wrap your head around the idea of having an inner family, it’s now time to wrap your head around a most unusual method for communicating with them.
The Amazing Power of Two-Handed Writing
Ever since Freud and his fellow psychoanalysts began recognizing the powerful influence of the subconscious mind back in the 1890s, psychologists have been developing different methods for accessing and changing what takes place there. Some are more effective than others, but they all require a trained therapist to reach and interact with the subconscious. That was until, in the late 1980s, an art therapist named Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D., developed a revolutionary method for communicating with the inner family and began teaching her patients and readers how to do this on their own.
Two-handed writing is a journaling technique that initially strikes everyone as a bit bizarre - until they try it. One way to understand its effectiveness is that by using both your left and right hands to communicate you simultaneously get the left and right hemispheres of your brain to communicate. These two sides of the brain process information differently, sort of like having one parent act as a “rational” authority figure while the other serves an “emotional” processor. If a child has two parents that don’t know how to communicate or work together, they need to be taught how to. Likewise, getting the left and right hemispheres of your brain communicating and working together is one of the most important secrets for having good mental health. You don’t need an analyst’s couch, hypnotic watch, or any therapist at all to do this - just your own two hands, a journal, and some colored pens.
Here are the basics of how two-handed writing works:
Your two hands will take turns having a written dialogue in the same way two people take turns having a spoken or written dialogue.
Your dominant hand will ask questions and offer guidance to your subconscious mind, and your non-dominant hand will respond on behalf of your subconscious. Your non-dominant handwriting will be slower and messier of course, but you’ll also get the hang of it.
Getting your subconscious to communicate with you works best when it is asked loving questions. It’s like if you want a sensitive child to share its thoughts and feelings with you, you ask gentle, inviting questions without any hint of judgment.
After asking your subconscious family members a question, you simply listen for the reply and allow your non-dominant hand to write it down.
That’s the amazing power of two-handed writing in a nutshell! Now that you have your method of accessing your subconscious family it’s time to start dialoguing with them.
Time For a Heart-To-Heart Talk
There’s nothing more comforting than a loving heart-to-heart talk, especially when one of those hearts is hurting and the other is understanding, empathic, and compassionate. That’s what you’re going to do now by having a heart-to-heart dialogue between your Nurturer and your Inner Child.
Before getting started, find a picture of yourself as a lovable child to look at. Look for a sweet photograph of yourself from your youth or just close your eyes for a moment until you can visualize one. Look for an image of your child-self in which the beauty of your heart is reflected in your eyes, face, or smile, even if you don’t look so happy. In this dialogue you’re not returning to your actual childhood, but rather connecting with the sensitive nature of your heart as it lives in the present.
Begin by letting your Inner Child choose a colored pen with your non-dominant hand, then have your Nurturer choose a pen with your dominant hand. Imagine that your Nurturer and Inner Child are sitting down together in a place that is peaceful and safe. Using your dominant hand, start the dialogue by writing down these words;
“I’d like to help you. Can we talk?”
Now patiently listen for your Inner Child to respond through your non-dominant hand. All you need is a “yes” or “okay” before continuing.
Next have your Nurturer (dominant hand) write this question;
How are you feeling?
Again, listen for your Inner Child to respond through your non-dominant hand. Whatever your Inner Child expresses, have your Nurturer respond to it by writing;
I hear you and I understand.
It’s always comforting for a distressed heart to hear that it is heard and understood. Your goal in this dialogue is not to solve any problem(s) your Inner Child might be having, but simply to build a loving connection with it. To do this, all your Nurturer needs to do is invite your Inner Child to share whatever it’s feeling, then respond with empathy and understanding. Let your Nurturer be guided by the spirit of compassionate curiosity and acceptance. Tell your Inner Child that you want to understand its feelings and needs better so that you can be more supportive. Below is a list of questions that will help your Inner Child open up to you. Let your Nurturer choose as many of these questions that seem meaningful. You can return to these questions in future dialogues whenever you need to.
How are you?
How is your life?
Is there anything you’re worried about?
Is there anything you’re sad about?
Is there anything upsetting you?
How are you feeling about yourself?
Is there something you’re needing?
Has anyone hurt you?
Are you mad about something or at someone?
Are you feeling embarrassed or humiliated about anything?
Are you feeling guilty or ashamed about anything?
What can I do to help you?
Are you feeling judged?
How can I earn your trust?
What do you need me to understand?
These heart-opening questions can be very revealing and comforting to respond to. Some questions might be scary to ask because the answers will bring emotional pain to the surface. So it’s important to remember this: It’s an act of love to invite a heart to share its pain. You’re giving your heart the invitation it needs to open and reveal its pain, and this opening gives you the chance to direct your compassion to exactly where it’s needed. You don’t need to know all the answers because knowing is less important than caring. Practice asking questions with compassionate curiosity and responding to your heart’s answers with understanding, empathy, and compassion that is free from judgment. Be patient and gentle in order to earn your Inner Child’s trust. Invite, encourage, and reassure your heart without pressure or expectation. This is how you get a vulnerable heart to open and trust you.
When you sense that your heart-to-heart dialogue is complete, finish by having your Nurturer offer some reassuring words. Here’s an example of what you can say to your Inner Child:
Thank you for talking with me and giving me a chance to help you. I hear and understand what you’re going through better now and I’m going to do whatever I can to help you get through it. I don’t have all the answers or solutions right now but I’m going to stay in touch with you. You deserve to be loved and protected, and that is what I intend to do for you. We will have more of these chats whenever you need them. How does that sound?
Let your Inner Child receive your reassuring message, then listen while it responds with its own closing words.
Congratulations to you for this meaningful act of self love! You’ve just taken the biggest and most important step on your journey of self healing. You might feel vulnerable, sad, happy, tired, and/or relieved after doing this. Find something comforting to do, or just go to sleep if you’re spent. If you’re unsure what to do, consider asking your Inner Child what it would like to do.
Enlighten Your Judge
Enlightening your Judge merely means helping it see a better way to perform its job. Your Judge is your inner authority and is responsible for keeping you under control. Think of it as your conscience’s enforcer, pressuring you to do the things you’re expected to do and stopping you from doing those things you shouldn’t. It’s an important job that isn’t easy (ask any parent). And unless your Judge is enlightened, its methods may rely too much on harsh judgment, criticism, or even hate. As you can imagine, this inner voice takes an enormous toll on the heart of your Inner Child. Toxic levels of depression, anxiety, insecurity, anger, despair, guilt, shame, and low self esteem make us emotionally ill, and these are the unfortunate consequences of having an unenlightened Judge badgering you day in and day out.
Take a moment to think of an authority figure in your past or present life - a parent, teacher, coach, or religious authority, whose methods of trying to help you were (are) also hurtful. Now think of an authority figure whose influence was (is) expressed with kindness, respect, and compassion (my favorite example from popular culture is the beloved soccer coach, Ted Lasso). The aim of your next dialogue will be to help your Judge become more like the second authority figure than the first.
Grab your journal and pens, then let your Judge choose a color with your non-dominant hand and have your Nurturer pick a color with your dominant hand. This will be another heart-to-heart dialogue, only now it will be between the two inner parents of your mind.
With your dominant hand, have your Nurturer start by writing down this question;
Hello Judge, can we talk about your style of controlling us?
Once your Judge’s acknowledges you through your non-dominant hand, proceed with this message using your dominant hand:
I understand how important and challenging your job is to maintain control and motivate us to meet your standards and expectations. I understand that when we screw up or disappoint you that you get worried, embarrassed, and frustrated, then use anger, guilt, and shame to try to get us to do better. I know you want the best for us and you have been helpful to us in many ways, but can you also understand my concern with how your harshness is unhealthy for the heart, mood, spirit, and self-esteem of our Inner Child?
Wait for your Judge to acknowledge your concerns before proceeding with the following message:
Do you share my interest for the welfare and happiness of our Inner Child?
Let your Judge respond once again through your non-dominant hand. Then have your Nurturer write:
Thank you for understanding. I know this will take some getting used to because it's unfamiliar. Would you be willing to practice speaking to us more like how (insert your preferred role model here) does?
Pause, listen, and allow your Judge to respond through your non-dominant hand. Then continue:
Thank you for your willingness to be more careful and caring with our heart’s needs. I don’t expect perfection, and as long as you’re trying out these kinder methods your mistakes will be forgiven. Do you have any worries about how this will change things for us?
Pause, listen, and allow your Judge to respond to your words. Be prepared to understand any worries your Judge may have. Then continue with;
I’ll listen to any concerns you might have as we try this kinder approach. I’m grateful for your willingness to be more considerate of our Inner Child’s welfare. When you slip up and get harsh, I’ll give you a friendly reminder to ease up. How does that sound?
Give your Judge a chance to absorb your message and then respond to it with its own closing words through your non-dominant hand.
Alright, you’ve just planted some healthy new seeds to sprout and grow in the garden of your mind! These more enlightened seeds of understanding love will require some time before blossoming into a healthy and robust garden of positive mental health. You can tend this garden with reminders, gratitude, praise, and heart-to-heart dialogues to keep the new growth fertilized. Over time it will become natural and effortless. Your Judge’s willingness to curtail its negativity will be one of the most valuable game-changers in your life.
Congratulations. If you made it through these initial steps you have successfully begun your self healing journey. Teaching your subconscious how to be “less judgy, more lovey,” is the key to changing your mind in ways that will change your life and your relationships for the better. Once your Judge becomes more enlightened and tones down the negativity, you’re halfway there. That part of the job may take hold quickly and not require much additional effort. The self nurturing part will require ongoing dialogues whenever your Inner Child is sad, depressed, anxious, scared, guilty, ashamed, lost, or despairing. So hang onto your journal and keep having these loving heart-to-heart dialogues with your Inner Child whenever you sense the need. Not only will these dialogues teach you how to be more self loving, they will teach you how to be more loving toward others, and this will inspire others to be more loving toward you.
More on Self Healing
Some people will get all the help they need just from having the essential dialogues described above. For others these dialogues will be a good start but not enough to complete the healing and growth they seek. Below is a list of additional materials about the self healing experience.
For book-length guides to self healing, here are three you can check out:
Whole Mind Healing (Kandle, 2000)
The Power of Your Other Hand (Capacchione, revised, 2000)
Recovery of Your Inner Child (Capacchione, 1991)
The links below are to shorter posts on more specific topics related to self healing.
Meet Your Inner Family - for an introduction to the whole gang.
Free Angelic Love - for a boost of divine compassion.
A Healing Meditation - a visual guide for self healing.
The Shame of Sexual Shame - for those healing from the trauma of sexual assault.
Vice Advice - for regulating those guilty pleasures.
Saved by Reflection - a counterbalance to the seduction of our screens.
The Amazing Benefits of Two-Handed Writing - there's more to it than you can imagine.
Selfish or Self Caring? - because it's important not to confuse the two.
The Best Way to Motivate - because escapism is so much easier than taking initiative.
A Better Way to Tame Your Inner Judge - in case yours won’t lay off.
Soul Yoga - a deeper dive into self-nurturance.
All Aboard the Emotional Express - for managing PTSD emotions.
Tap Your Inner Wisdom - learn to tap into your own.
Taming Your Ego - to serve you without offending others.
The Secret to Good Mental Health - a summary of what it’s all about.
This self healing guide is devoted to the loving memory of Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D. (1937-2022). Lucia’s groundbreaking books on self healing, The Power of Your Other Hand (1988), and Recovery of Your Inner Child (1991), planted seeds in the garden of my mind that ultimately came to fruition in the form of my book, Whole Mind Healing (2020). Not only did Lucia develop the two-handed writing method for accessing the subconscious mind, she taught her readers, students, and clients how to use it to heal themselves. For these reasons I have long regarded Lucia Capacchione as the Queen of self healing.
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