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Understanding and taking care of your inner angry child

Updated: May 9

How Schema Therapy and Attachment Theory can help new mums.

Becoming a new mother can be incredibly challenging, both physically and emotionally.  From sleepless nights to endless nappy changes, taking care of a newborn is a full-time job that can leave you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and – all too often – incredibly angry. 

But why do so many new mums experience intense anger, frustration or irritability, even when they love their babies more than anything else?

By learning more about your inner angry child and the needs that underlie these emotions, you can develop greater self-awareness, feel less shame about your experience and foster a more positive relationship with your infant.

The role of early experiences in shaping our emotions

To understand why we may be experiencing feelings of anger as new mothers, it can be helpful to look back at our earlier experiences with attachment figures – usually our parents or primary caregivers. Attachment theory posits that these early relationships shape how we relate to others throughout our lives, including regulating our emotions and dealing with stress. If, for example, we had parents who were emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, or constantly critical, we may have developed a pattern of anxious attachment and a heightened sensitivity to feelings of rejection or abandonment. As new mums, we may unconsciously fear that we are repeating the same mistakes as our parents or carers, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and anger.  If we are sensitive to rejection and abandonment, we may feel angry towards our partners and loved ones who we perceive as neglecting to support us in the way we desire.

Understanding your inner angry child

Schema Therapy, a psychotherapy approach that incorporates aspects of cognitive-behavioural and psychodynamic therapy, highlights the role of deeply ingrained patterns or “schemas” that are formed in childhood and continue to influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours later in life. The concept of the inner child refers to the part of ourselves that holds the memories, emotions, and needs of our childhood self. When we experience feelings of anger as new mums, it may be that our inner angry child is re-emerging in response to an unmet need triggered by the stress and uncertainty of parenthood.  By tuning in, connecting and validating the needs of our inner child, we can learn to soothe ourselves, find self-compassion and manage our emotional responses more effectively. 

Identifying your emotional triggers

Another important aspect of Schema Therapy is learning to identify our emotional triggers – the situations or events that make us feel angry, anxious, or overwhelmed. As new mothers, it’s easy to get triggered by a host of common stressors, such as sleep deprivation, breastfeeding difficulties, or well-meaning but unsolicited advice from family and friends. Another common trigger in mothers is a sense of not being seen or understood by their partners.  Writing down what situations or contexts trigger your anger can be helpful.  By becoming more aware of our personal trigger points, we can take steps to reduce their impact or avoid them altogether. 

Cultivating self-compassion and self-care routines

When we become new mothers, our focus naturally shifts to meeting the needs of our babies, often at the expense of our own emotional and physical well-being. Yet without caring for ourselves, we may find it even harder to regulate our emotions and provide the best possible care for our infant.  Schema Therapy emphasises the importance of self-compassion and self-care as a key component of healing and growth. Setting aside time for activities that bring us joy or relaxation, seeking out social support, and practising self-compassion can all help us feel more centred, balanced, and emotionally regulated.

Seeking professional support

If you find that feelings of anger, frustration, or irritability persist or interfere with your ability to enjoy motherhood or connect with your baby, seeking professional support may be helpful. It’s also hard to develop self-compassion on your own when you’ve been so self-critical all your life.  As a therapist trained in Schema Therapy, I can work with you to identify your unique triggers, understand and meet the needs of your inner child, and develop practical strategies for managing your emotions and improving your overall well-being.

Do you have any questions regarding this topic?

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