Our past experiences shape our present behaviors and patterns, but by working toward healing our inner child, we can make meaningful shifts!

Jennifer Nurick joins me to discuss a profound way to approach healing by integrating many treatment approaches, including attachment theory, Internal Family Systems, EMDR, somatic psychotherapy, and more.

In this episode, we explore practical strategies for healing past traumas and nurturing inner and outer secure attachments through “parts work.” Plus, Jennifer shares poignant examples of how this work translates into real-life interactions, especially in the realm of parenting, where attunement and repair are crucial for overall mental health and well-being.

Jennifer (00:00):

A great question I used a lot was my kids were growing up and from quite a young age was when they were distressed or had finished. Being distressed was, what do you need? Maybe they’ve been crying because they haven’t had the amount of chocolate cake that they wanted and they think that they need the cake. But then actually when they sat and what do you need? Sometimes it would just be, I need a hug or I need Teddy. I found that question really helpful at different points.

Dr. Sarah (00:35):

Our past experiences make us who we are and influence our perception of our reality, but that isn’t where it ends. Through inner child work, we have the ability to go backwards to retroactively heal old wounds and lay the groundwork for attachment security within ourselves and in our relationships with others. Joining me on the podcast this week to discuss this idea is Jennifer Nurick. Jennifer is a licensed clinical psychotherapist, counselor and energetic healer who specializes in healing anxious attachment, attachment injuries and childhood trauma. Her new book, Heal Your Anxious Attachment is an amazing read you are going to want to add to your library. I had such an incredible conversation with Jennifer and I love how she integrates psychological and spiritual healing modalities and how she explains how integrating different facets of ourselves can cultivate attachment security. She also offers really practical strategies for healing past traumas that can lead to transformative healing. Plus stick around to the end of the episode and hear why she had me tearing up. So without further ado, here’s my conversation with Jennifer Nurick.


Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights so you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.


Hi everyone. We have Jennifer Nurick on the podcast today and I’m really excited to get into nerding out on attachment with you.

Jennifer (02:35):

Me too. Thank you for having me on and making space for me, especially with the time zones. So great to be here.

Dr. Sarah (02:41):

Yeah, you are talking to me. I’m in New York and you’re in Australia. So this was logistically a beautiful dance and here we are. It’s the magic of technology.

Jennifer (02:54):

Absolutely. So lovely.

Dr. Sarah (02:56):

Yeah. So maybe what if we start by you introducing our listeners to your work and how you integrate, you integrate a number of really interesting fields of thought into your work with couples and parents and individuals. So maybe we could start there.

Jennifer (03:16):

Yeah, so my journey into healing was a really personal one. I went through a, I guess you could call it kind of a dark night of the soul or a real struggle as I started to move closer towards my now husband, he comes from quite a strict religious background and there were just complications with us being together with his family. And that really led me. I found that I felt, I felt I had really strong feelings about it and the strength of the feelings was kind of shocking to me. And so I started to see a therapist. I also started to see an energetic and spiritual healer and then I did something which I guess a lot of people don’t do, and it coincided with a stage of my life because I arrived in Australia and I wasn’t legally allowed to work, but I was allowed to study.


So I thought, okay, well if I could just study anything that I would like, what would I study? And so I started to study some alternative therapies. I dunno if you’ve heard, some people would’ve heard of kinesiology and reiki and chronic healing and Qigong. And I just started taking modules and all kinds of interesting things and I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about the energy body. I then went on to qualify as a kinesiologist, an energetic and spiritual healer. Then I went on to train energetic and spiritual healers in Australia to be certified. Still very involved in that space in the International Energetic Healing Association. And then I went on to do a master’s in applied psychotherapy and counseling because I found that I was using a lot of psychotherapy techniques within that energetic and spiritual healing space. So mostly in a child.


So transactional analysis model for those of you who know that word. So inner child, inner parent, most of you, most the listeners would’ve heard of it probably is reparenting. So essentially it’s parts work where we’re working with different parts of self and especially parts that are maybe younger parts that are really stuck in certain patterns of behavior that show up in adult relationships. So I had a lot of curiosity around that and really started to notice the anxious and avoidant pattern playing out in my own relationship with me as the anxious. And my partner is the avoidant Now I think that we actually all have some anxious parts and we all have some avoidant parts. It’s just that there are, so in my own system there are more anxious parts and there is a tendency for my system to go into anxiety more quickly. And my husband has more avoidant parts.


So when he gets stressed or feels relationally, like oh, I dunno what to do, or overwhelmed, he has more blocking paths or more kind of numbing paths because that’s what his system did when he was younger. So I see attachment styles as very adaptive actually. And I speak a lot about that in chapter one, that it’s a very adapt. We’ve learned it often from childhood for different reasons. And again, I don’t think it’s always to do with the mother. I often think that it can also be to do with the environment. Maybe the mother’s very safe, but maybe you’re in a domestic violence situation and there are people around who are really not safe that would create parts that might be very anxious or parts that would be very avoidant. So I’ve given you quite a lot there. Quite a lot lenses I trained. Then in somatic psychotherapy, I’ve got training in EMDR, training in Internal Family Systems. I bring that all together, polyvagal training as well and the energetic and spiritual work and I bring it all together.

Dr. Sarah (07:16):

That’s so amazing and so refreshing too to see those. Well, I was going to say two, but really many, many worlds kind of combined, but especially this sort of sort of psychological psychotherapeutic stuff, neuroscience, polyvagal, psychotherapy, IFS, and this more the spiritual healing piece. And it’s interesting actually. So I actually see a reiki practitioner and an energetic healer. I’ve been going to her for over a year. She’s amazing. I’ve been in therapy myself for a long, long time. I do therapy, I believe in therapy. I love the power of therapy. And I think this is also really true for therapists. Sometimes it’s really hard to go to therapy when you’ve been in this field for so long. And working with her has one helped me personally just heal lots of things that in a way that I never really realized I could. But I also see a lot of the work that I do with her as being very similar to the, I was talking to her the other day about this actually, that it’s very similar to what I do in therapy with people, but it’s kind of coming in from a different doorway. I’m so curious your thoughts on that.

Jennifer (08:43):

Absolutely. And that’s how I explain some of the somatic work. When I’m doing my debrief with my clients, I say it’s often to do with what you feel in the body or an illness that keeps on showing up. And I see it actually as just a different doorway into a part of the system because often it’s holding stuck energy. And I’ve had clients say to me in session, oh Jen, it’s like all these, and this is in a psychotherapy session, I could just see all these bats kind of flying out of my throat. And to me that’s energy moving. And when the tears come, that’s energy releasing from the system. And whether you think that’s from the nervous system or from the trapped traumatic parts, it’s part of the system healing. And so I think when we say healing, there are so many different ways that that can happen. And absolutely, that was what I saw. I saw that those two worlds are not so separate. And that’s really where I focused is how do we combine those worlds and bring about healing because I think there’s so much richness in the western systems and in the eastern systems.

Dr. Sarah (09:53):

I agree. I so agree. And you had said something else when you were talking about your orientation, about thinking about attachment almost from a parts perspective rather than when. And I think in the the attachment world, we actually really do talk about it that way. We talk about how you have an attachment style in relationship to another specific person. And if you have a lot of those types of relationships, then you have patterns in your attachment style. And then we, the way that most people tend to talk about attachment is like I am an anxiously attached person, or I have an anxious attachment style or an insecure attachment style or an avoid whatever, different types of attachment style, but it’s sort of like this is me, this is my fixed identity, this is how I am in the world, and I really appreciate this idea of breaking it down and whether it’s how I show up in relation to another or maybe, and I really do agree with you here, that there’s really different parts of us and those different parts may all have different attachment styles.


They all kind of adapted to their environment in different ways, some of which might have been checking out, this isn’t safe, I can’t depend on you to meet my needs, so I have to for my own safety, do this on my own. But other parts might be very much like, no, no, no, come back, come back, come back. I need you, I got to have you. And it’s like which part’s getting activated is going to determine how we show up, which is why I think it’s so important for people to understand this because we get confused. I hear so much confusion around attachment. They’re like, sometimes I feel like I do this, but then sometimes I do this and what am I? And it’s like, well, you’re you.

Jennifer (11:46):

Yeah. And I think that that confusion often leads people to think, oh, I must be disorganized. I hear that a lot because I’ll say, Jen, I really identify with the anxious style that I do that a lot, but then sometimes I just want to go and rent a house in South Australia and leave my whole family and I’ve left the house and I’m driving around the streets so I must be disorganized. And I find that can often be confusion around that and I think it’s because of the different parts.

Dr. Sarah (12:17):

And so how do we help people integrate those parts and be able to, you have talked about creating secure attachment internally versus in relationship to, because we talk a lot about attachment being in relationship to another, which it is. Attachment systems are like a mechanism of seeking proximity to our safety systems outside of ourselves, but we obviously internalize those relationships and those identities and then they become internal. And I’m curious how you talk about that piece and what an inner secure attachment might look like or how we achieve that.

Jennifer (13:05):

That’s a great question. I’ve divided the book into two parts and the first part is all about either inner secure attachment and the second part is about relationally. So I feel like there’s two parts, and in my own journey there were two parts. The inside part, the outside part. Now the inside part, and I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this and for them as well, it wasn’t just one thing, it’s not kind of do this one thing and it’s going to completely change. I found that it was a few different things that were really helpful. For me, one of the most helpful things is the parts work and the way that I work with that in therapy with clients and in my own therapy is with internal family systems, which I see as being a more prescriptive and more detailed view of the system that is very similar to transactional analysis that in a child and in a parent. And I think that’s a great place to start and that’s the model that I start with in the book because it’s quite simple.


What Richard Schwartz did really well in internal family systems and a great book for listeners if you’re interested and curious is No Bad Parts. His seminal book is we have a protective system that grew adaptively to our environment. So if I am in an environment where my needs are not getting met consistently, then I might become anxiously, follow my caregiver around, stay really close to my caregiver because I’ve learned that when they do have a moment or when they do suddenly notice that I’m there, then I get my knees met or I might find that I try that and nothing really happens and maybe my caregiver is working two jobs and maybe when they’re at home they’re just sleeping a lot. And so when I reach out, there’s not enough. And I like that phrasing, not enough attunement, not enough reaching back. So then I just learn, well, I have to kind of take care of myself and there’s not much point in me having needs and voicing them because I’ve learned that they’re not really met.


And so I can even shut down connection to my own needs. And that brings about more of the avoidance style. So how do we go about working with that essentially in the internal family systems and the inner child model is that those younger parts are stuck in some of those behavioral patterns, kind of like in little bubbles. And I see them as a little bubble of 3-year-old little bubble of 4-year-old little bubble of 6-year-old. And those younger parts are still looking to the other person and just drop in a bit of polyvagal theory. They’re often looking to the other person to be regulated to receive that co-regulation, to learn what that feels like. So those younger parts don’t know how to calm themselves down yet, and their tendency will still be to look to the other to do that. And when we move into intimate relationship, they’re looking to our person to do that, which is natural for them.


What we want to learn how to do slowly is to meet those parts, and we do this one at a time in internal family systems and we help them to look towards us for that nurturance, for the attunement, for the witnessing, the calming. Then there’s a healing process that we take those parts through and then we help them back to actually release the burdens that they were carrying back then the stress, whatever else might’ve been going on. Often there’s a lot of releasing that happens. There’s an energetic component to internal family systems. I think that’s another reason why I love it so much. There’s the parts work at the beginning and then there’s an energetic component to it, and then they take on a new role. And because it’s a constraint release model, once the constraints have been released once what they went through has been really held and witnessed and seen in a different way and they’ve let go of what they were carrying.


Often those younger parts, well the younger part or parts, sometimes it’s a cluster. When you ask what new role would you like to take on, they’re often very clear. They’re like, I want to be in charge of adventure or I want to be in charge of friendship and having fun, or I want to be creative or I want to dance again. I was never allowed to dance. I want to dance again. And so they often know what that new role is to be. And then they integrate into the system in this very expansive full way in the way that they were, which was almost like in a clench.

Dr. Sarah (17:43):

Yeah, it’s not lost on me that those young parts, once they can let go of that sort of parental job of protecting us, what they want to do is something very developmentally appropriate. They want to actually play or make friends or dance or have adventures, right? It’s like an appropriate, they’re realigning with their sort of developmental job. And we, because I do find, and I love IFS, I think that one of the things that I see so much in people, adults who have attachment challenges in their early childhood or who kind of have these protector parts that are holding onto a lot of responsibility is they don’t often play. The adult that I’m talking to does not often have, they can do it, they can play, they’ll sit on the floor and play with their kid if they have to, but it’s not joyful for them. It’s a task that they willingly do. They love their kid, they understand there’s value in it. It’s not like a deadness, but it’s not joyful really. It’s not really for them. It’s not filling them up. And I think when there is this healing process that you’re talking about where we can really do our own inner healing, let this integration happen, let these younger parts that maybe had to take on grownup roles to protect us kind of go back to their childlike jobs, that person has so much more access to authentic and truly joyful play in their life.

Jennifer (19:32):

Yeah, absolutely. And that can be bought into even work. I’ve had experiences where people, inner children are super excited to go to work with them and do their work, but not in a task way, in a really curious, wow, your work is so interesting. Show me everything that you do and parts that are really keen when maybe we’ve experienced feeling ugly or not attractive enough as a young child. Parts that really want to play with makeup and hair and didn’t get an opportunity to do that as a child. So the part will naturally want to fill it in. Another way to think of it is that missing experience.

Dr. Sarah (20:19):

Yeah, that’s so beautiful to be able to give our inner parts that thing they didn’t get to have. And I like too what you were saying, how those parts might naturally seek developmentally still very young. And it’s so interesting when I ask adults that I work with how old a part is, even if we’ve never really discussed that I’m doing anything from IFS, but I just say, how old is that part? They always have an answer. They just instinctively know what I’m talking about and will name the age of that part, which I always find so interesting how it’s like this really does tap into I think a universal truth to the human condition. Even if people don’t know this work, it’s like it taps into something.

Jennifer (21:12):

Yeah. I bumped into, on a flight, I was watching a documentary called, I’m pretty sure it was called Crazy, Not Insane, by the psychologist who, I think she was a psychiatrist who started to, she basically termed the coin “dissociative identity disorder”, working, exploring and studying serial killers, doing lots and lots of interviews with serial killers. And she noticed that a lot of them had very old scarring on their body and that a lot of them had experienced deeply the most kind of torturous, traumatic childhoods that you could probably imagine. And her theory was that in order for such young psyches to cope with such intense experiences, they had to fragment, they had to separate out into parts. And so I think that really, we all have parts, and I explained it to clients like how her friend will call you up on a Saturday night and say, do you want to go out to have a drink?


And we’ll go to a bar and then we’ll go and watch a movie and we’ll have loads of fun and there’s a part that thinks, oh, that’ll be great. We’ll get dressed up, we’ll go out. That’ll be fun. And then there’s another part that’s like, oh, I’m already in my pajamas. I’m already watching friends. Do I really want to do that? And we might have part that really loves your husband and wants to stay with your husband. And then part that thinks, oh, I dunno if this is working. I think I just want to leave him. And in internal family systems we call that a polarization. So I think that everybody has parts and when the more extreme our experiences have been historically, and it can happen as an adult as well, the more extreme our parts will be.

Dr. Sarah (23:09):

And I think that’s really, I mean, I know you talk a lot about this work and relationship to romantic relationships and partnerships, which obviously this is a podcast for parents and not all parents are partnered, but a lot of them have kind of navigated that dating world and now are doing a different kind of relational exploration that parent-child relationship can wake up a lot of these same kind of parts, the parts that get active when there’s vulnerability, when I’m not totally sure if you like me or love me or I don’t know if I’m doing a good enough job in this relationship. I am sure there are so many similarities. In your work with couples and also you a parent, you work with families, what do you notice there?

Jennifer (24:08):

The way that I love to get curious in my own system when I’m parenting, if I feel myself get triggered, my curiosity goes to what part of me came forward, what part of me is coming out now. And sometimes it’s kind of my mother’s voice. I’ll often notice that when I’m parenting that I will feel or hear my mother’s voice, which I see as a part of me. My mom’s still alive, my mom has lots of great qualities, and sometimes I’ll kind of hear, oh, that’s my mom’s voice and isn’t what I want to say to my kids. And sometimes it will pop out before I get to vetted. Sometimes my kids will look at me, who is that? And then in those moments I will name it and say, oh, I think that that came out a little bit strict. Did that sound a little bit strict? And I remember this more from when they were about five and six, they’re now 13 and 15, and they’ll both just look at me and just both just nod. Yeah, that was way too strict mom. And they’ll say, oh, okay, can I do a redo on that? And they’ll go, yeah. And then I sort of reset myself and I might do a little bit of a jiggle. How I meant to say it was, guys, I’m wondering if now might be the time to clean your rooms. And then I’ll say, how was that? And they say, much better, mom, much better.

Dr. Sarah (25:35):

I’m still not going to clean my room or I will now you play. But the beautiful thing about what I think you’re describing, which is obviously there’s this beautiful parts integration piece that you’re talking about, but I’ll let you explain that part, but from a parenting perspective, when you are, it’s always so incredible when kids know, Hey, that’s not a familiar part. Who is that? Right? They know when a different part shows up, they’re so tuned in, and if we’re tend to be pretty integrated, our kids are probably more like, whoa, who was that? However, if we tend to be less integrated and we frequently have pretty polarizing parts show up unpredictably, our kids can have a much harder time knowing who’s going to show up, which can be a whole other issue. We could talk about how to address, but from just a strictly parenting strategy, when you hear that voice and you’re like, Ooh, that came out wrong. I didn’t want it to sound that way, to engage them in the narration of it to say, ah, you know what? That didn’t sound so quite what I wanted. Can I do a redo? Now you’ve got their, instead of them just receiving that strict tone and having to hold it and maybe get reactive and want to power struggle with you there, now they’re playing with you, which is the best way to get your kids to clean their room, to make it playful, to make it fun. Then now you got their attention and their engagement and they’re so much more likely to move with you.

Jennifer (27:17):

Yeah. The other piece that I really like about that is it’s teaching them through showing them that we can make mistakes and how to repair it, and that a redo is a really normal thing and we don’t need to go into shame when we make a mistake, small, medium or large that we’re all going to need to do redos. And sometimes I’ll check with them, oh, that was quite intense. Did you mean it to come out like that? And sometimes I’ll reflect back and be like, yeah, I meant that, or no, it came out really, really different to how I intended. Okay, do you want to do a redo? So we find the redo in our house super helpful in lots of different ways, but about kids as parts detectors, kids are great parts detectors. So I was in the car with my daughter about a year ago and she was telling me about a struggle she was having with her friends, and I said, from a really compassionate place, that sounds really hard. I’m guessing that that’s something that is hard for all of your friends. And she just looks at me and said, oh, don’t use your therapist voice.

Dr. Sarah (28:32):


Jennifer (28:32):

And I thought about that and I thought, am I using my therapist voice? I thought, you know what? She’s right. I am. So I said, sorry, you’re right. I am. I’m using my therapist voice. Let me just hang on. Let me do a redo. Let me find my mom voice. Oh, that sucks. I’m sorry that’s happening. That’s just so sucky. She’s like, yeah, that’s better. That’s what I needed.

Dr. Sarah (28:55):

And I love that she can ask for that. How incredible to grow up in a family where there’s so much, obviously permission, but also education modeling of it so that they can then use it. That’s language that is accessible to her and that she knows what it means. That’s amazing.

Jennifer (29:16):

And that she can pick it. When I didn’t even know that I was doing it, I didn’t even know I was in a therapist part and I’m a therapist and I always would do therapy. I’ve done use of therapy. So it’s kind of, oh, thanks for that. That’s helpful.

Dr. Sarah (29:26):

Yeah, yeah. Oh, we’re in it. We can never see our own parts all the time. Yeah, no, I find this so fascinating. Okay. Can we talk a little bit about this idea too though of, okay, maybe we have a more anxious attachment style or we have a lot of parts that show up frequently in that way or avoidant or some type of less integrated, steadily stably secure style of relating in general. And we know that there’s lots of reasons why that can happen, and we’re in this process of becoming aware of that and thinking about it as a parent, I get, I field a lot of questions from parents being like, am I sort of doomed for this to become my child’s experience too? And let’s maybe talk a little bit about that because I think it’s a hopeful answer. And also there’s some things you want to really be mindful of so you can get to that more hopeful outcome.

Jennifer (30:37):

I’ve seen lots of parents who have a particular style that shows up in intimate relationships, be really attuned parents to have had experiences in their childhood where they’re really clear that I don’t want to do that. And that will bring a lot of parents I find into therapy knowing that they have certain patterns and going, I don’t want to do that with my kids. So it’s absolutely not a given that your kids are going to inherit the same attachment style, and if you know that there’s those patterns there, working on them therapeutically is absolutely going to help. So how to do that, seeing a therapist who can help you as somebody who’s trained who has an attachment lens can be helpful but not essential. There’s different modalities that can be helpful. I’ve already named internal family systems can be really helpful. EMDR can be really helpful if you know that you have a trauma background.


I also find somatic work very helpful, so I work with ones that I found very helpful in my own system and I found somatic work very helpful for my system. I found that that really taught me how when I had a felt sensation, so I found having the anxious style that I would get quite overwhelmed with feelings, that I would feel so many things all at the same time. I’d be kind of angry and kind of sad and kind of disappointed and there would just be so many different feelings. It was quite hard to name them one at a time and unpack them. So a big part of my work was to get to know those different parts. And you can do that through inner child model as well, which is very easily accessible. You don’t have to see a therapist to start learning about the inner child and how that works.


So if I’m a parent, let’s just say that I really don’t like being touched and I find touch really quite intense and don’t want to pass it on to my child. I don’t want when my child reaches for me, therefore there to be a part of me that’s like, oh, don’t touch me. You’re touching me too much. And that’s a real problem that people can have around being touched or on me all the time, and I find it exhausting. I would go with some somatic work around that touch and starting slowly with how does it feel to kind of touch myself, what’s my relationship with touch, getting really curious around that. Somatic experiencing can be a great modality. The one I use is called focusing but different again, working with a therapist. And the therapist will give you some exercises to do on your own and some tips around how to work with touch, how to work with the part that has learned that touch can be intense. It can be full on, it can be too much because sometimes we can experience touch as a child that’s not necessarily abusive, but can be just too much when we say with parenting, did I get enough? But sometimes there can be too much touch. Maybe the parents very hugging and very close to you and there’s not enough allowance for space and allowance for making mistakes then that can cause a, oh, you’re too close to me. Stand back and that can transfer onto our kids.

Dr. Sarah (34:05):

Yeah, it’s funny. It makes me think of just tiny little micro moments where this can even happen, even if it’s not just the way that we’re always showing up. So for example, I am super ticklish and I also, I am sensitive to certain sensory inputs and the sensation of my daughter has been in this sort of, I like to tickle mode. She’s four and we were goofing around and having rusty play and she kind of tickled my armpit in this way that I was. It was nails on a chalkboard. It was creepy crawly feeling all over my body. And I was like, don’t do that. I really don’t like that. Whoa. And it was a really intense response. It was super just physiologically overpowering. It was too much for me. But I had a really strong reaction, and I’m working on this with her right now.


This happened maybe three or four weeks ago, but now whenever she gets kind of stressed out in her body and we’re close, she tries to tickle my armpit. And it’s so interesting how her body is remembering that exchange we had and trying to work through it again by revisiting it and revisiting it in situations that have nothing to do with what we were doing before. But it’s just the feeling in her body of feeling some type of agitation or discomfort and she just wants to go straight to that same exchange. And I’m like, makes me just think about that a lot, what you’re talking about.

Jennifer (35:49):

Yeah, I love that. And I would be so curious about slowing that down for the two of you as a relational experience and sharing about how it is for both of you. So I would actually be curious to recreate it to kind of sit with her and say, I was really curious about that thing that happened the other day when I had that really strong reaction and I pulled back. I mean, you’ll know what she’s able to do, only four. So I’m mindful of that. And then be like, okay, I just want you to kind of reach forward your hand just, but not don’t touch me. Just put your hand there. Just reach it up. You’re going to tickle me and I’m going to share with you how that feels for me. So she’s not even touching. And then I would let her share. So then she might say, what does it feel like?


I might say to her, what does it feel like for you? And she might say, I feel kind of a bit naughty. I want to wriggle you and I feel like I want to see you do that face that you did again. Okay. And then, okay, is it okay if I share how it is for me? And then I might say, then I’ll just show how it feels for me. I feel like I can already feel myself pulling back and I feel a little bit tense in my heart and a bit scared. I’ve got this sort of scared feeling inside. And then I might say, okay, could you put your hand forward a little bit further? What does that feel like for you? And then what does it feel like for me? And I would really slow it down and what does it feel like for her? And then I might even let her put her hand on my arm instead of under the arm, put her arm there because there’s a piece there for you too as well to be really curious about, wow, what happens? For me, it was such a strong reaction.

Dr. Sarah (37:29):

Yeah, I know. That’s beautiful. I love that you

Jennifer (37:31):

Could absolutely do that with you could something you could do with your therapist or your therapist is the person coming forward, but if the child is really trying to move through it, it could be super interesting to do together.

Dr. Sarah (37:45):

Yeah, I’m definitely going to play with that with her because we’ve been talking about it more like at bedtime when we’re in bed, and I think I was a couple nights ago, it came up again because she always wants to do it now. And I was trying to almost kind of give her context of that that she could relate to. I was like, do you know how sometimes when you have a tag that’s bugging you on the back of your shirt or when the strap of your pants are too tight and that feeling that just really doesn’t feel good. Those are her sense. Those are things that she knows are sensitive to her. And I was like, it’s kind of like that for me when you put your hand in my armpit, I have a similar feeling. It can’t get comfortable. But I do think actually that what you’re describing, which is more about almost reprocessing it in real time, somatically would be really interesting. And I think she could do that with me.

Jennifer (38:52):

And it can be so interesting what comes out of them. I often find it quite surprising, the things that they will just know. And also I find it as a mother super interesting what’s happening for them because I’m often without realizing it, having my own assumptions about what they’re experiencing or, oh, she just wants to play, or Oh, she just wants to see me do it again or whatever my assumption is. But when I ask often it’s quite different to what I’ve assumed and you’re getting to learn each other in that process. So yeah, that’s why I love therapy.

Dr. Sarah (39:28):

I know me too. And parenting, it’s like, but it’s true. I think you make a very good point, which is a lot of times even with really young kids, there’s a lot of information that they are capable of sharing with us. It might not always be verbal, but a lot of times it’s shocking what they do have to say. If we ask and if we ask in a way that they can receive it, receive the question in a way that developmentally they can understand what we’re asking, but also in a time that’s maybe a little distanced from the thing so that they can actually be regulated enough and sort of integrated enough to reflect on it and talk about it at their level, what a three or 4-year-old can do to look different than what a six or 7-year-old can do, which should look different than what a teenager can do. But a lot of times we just don’t really ask or we don’t ask in a way that they can come with us.

Jennifer (40:32):

Or I would find asking. And then if there’s kind of a blank or kind of a confused look and then giving a couple of different ideas, sometimes the prompts will give with the prompts, they’ll kind of be like, no, no, no. And then they’ll come up with their own.

Dr. Sarah (40:53):

Yeah, I like that.

Jennifer (40:54):

A great question I used a lot was my kids were growing up and from quite a young age was when they were distressed or would finished being distressed or was, what do you need? And I would often would see them kind of look up and they would shift and they would start thinking, what do I need? And then they would come out with, I need a hug. Or maybe they’ve been crying because they haven’t had the amount of chocolate cake that they wanted and they think that they need the cake. But then actually when they sat and what do you need? Sometimes it would just be, I need a hug or I need Teddy, or I found that question really helpful at different points.

Dr. Sarah (41:41):

And I think when we could do this inner child healing, this sort of inner work of reintegrating these parts that maybe had these less secure attachment ways of protecting us, and then we show up in parenthood with our ability to give our children space to be really integrated, have parts that don’t have to get stuck protecting doing a grownup job, but just to be like, this is happening.


What is the need? I’m going to try to meet it. I might not meet it all the time, but my desire is to meet your need whether or not, and by need, I don’t mean the chocolate cake. I mean to be safe and seen and comforted when I’m upset. There’s the perceived need of the child in the moment, which is like, you aren’t, I want this thing and you’re not giving it to me. That’s different. But when we show up in a way, they’re like, and we don’t have to be perfect. We can do the redo, we can do the repair. But when our kids just generally feel like we are interested in knowing what their needs are, oftentimes those, they don’t have to sort of fragment off and create these protector parts because, and not to say that they don’t ever in their life because like you were saying at the very beginning, it’s not all up to us as parents to create the secure attachment for our kids. They’re going to go off into a whole wide world of things that sometimes make them feel not safe. And they have parts that break off to protect them from those exchanges. And that’s okay if that happens. But if you build this sort of core foundational safety, they might be able to navigate those instances with a little more integration.

Jennifer (43:42):

And some parts are developmentally very appropriate. So we need parts that can help us manage our life. We need parts that know what time to get up for school and can help manage. Yeah, so some parts are very adaptive, and as we meet different, more complex, well sometimes not more complex characters than the ones that we have at home, but sometimes the school will meet a whole different array of people that we have to learn how to work with and stay safe around. We might also develop quite protective paths in school. You might not have kids who have just snatched things away and run away at a hundred miles an hour at home, and suddenly you’re at preschool and suddenly you’re playing with a toy and little somebody’s just run off with it.

Dr. Sarah (44:31):

So I’m thinking if you were to give people who are listening something they could try maybe in the next couple days or the next week to get to know a part in a different way, what might you suggest people play around with?

Jennifer (44:54):

Okay, I could give them a little process if you’d like. Yeah, choose a part that’s more of a protective part than a vulnerable part. So choosing it might be a part that you find, oh, I just get this frustration when my child does this. I just feel this frustration. Or when my partner does this, I just, yeah, so maybe a frustrated part, or it could even be a part that’s holding a lot of grief about something, but something that’s more protective. It could be a very controlling part that you notice that I’m having to, I’ve got feedback from my whole family that I’m really controlling, so it could be an indicator that I have a controlling part. So something that’s that you’re noticing that you think I’d really like that to see some kind of shift in that and then kind of bring it online.


And the way that I do that is I invite it forward internally, and then I let it kind of speak, just let it kind of freeform speak. So if this part had a voice, what would it say? So I’m going to use my frustrated parts. It might say, oh, I have to do everything. Nobody does any of the housework. It all just gets left to me, and it sounds quite like my mother. So as I hear that voice, I’m like, oh yeah, that’s some of my mom’s recordings. And then I think, okay, so where do I feel that in my body? So as I feel that voice, I feel it kind of in my upper chest, lower throat around that dip in the bottom of the throat, then I’m just going to stay with that felt sensation. I’m going to stay with that feeling. And as I stay with it, I might then feel this, I might remember the last time the dishwasher was left for three days and I might feel this kind of a raise in heat, come up through my body, and then I’m just going to stay with that part. I’m just going to really give it a voice, really let it be heard. Just going to stay with it and just see what else emerges. So just see what images, what memories, what thoughts emerge. So I’m just going to do it live now.


So then I see a picture of my mother saying something very similar, and she’s doing this big gesture with her arms and she’s saying it quite loud. And I’m three. And so I don’t have a lot of memories actually pre about 11 or 12. So it’s often in this part work where I meet the younger, younger ones. And recently I’ve been meeting this three of her quite a lot. So she’s three. So I’m just going to ask her what that was like for her seeing mom do that. She said straight away, it was really scary. It was really scary. And I can feel the scare in my upper heart. I can feel like a panic. So she doesn’t feel unsafe, but she feels scared and panicky. It’s not like she thinks mom’s going to hit her or anything, but she doesn’t seeing it. And straight away I can feel she wants me to hold her. So I’m just going to bring her onto me and I’m going to give her a big hug, and I’m letting her know that I’m here for her now and I’m going to give her an invitation to come back and be with me in present day. She’s like, oh yeah, I want to be with you definitely. And then I’m going to bring her back and I’m going to just show her around my home. She’s like, oh yeah, I know your house. She’s looking around, she’s seeing my kids, my husband, she likes my garden. She says she’d like a dog. I get that.


I’m just going to check. Is there anything else that she needs? She says she’d like me to connect with her after we finish this and just give her a bit longer. So what happens often then is that when we come back to the thing that was the trigger, often there’s less fire in it. There’s less energy in it because a part of us that was holding some of the fuel for that has been reintegrated. So for some people that can go through a little process like that, for some people that might feel a bit intense, better to do it with a therapist. Everyone’s a little bit different, but I teach some of how to do some of that stuff in the book.

Dr. Sarah (49:26):

Yeah, that’s incredible. It’s so interesting. It’s first of all, just thank you. That was beautiful and I so deeply appreciate you sharing that in real time with us. And none of you guys listening can see this, but I’m literally crying right now. Every time I witness this integration with people that I work with, I tear up. It’s like this, maybe that’s my own work to figure out, but there’s this deeply emotional feeling I have when I see it’s something about the little child being invited to get that hug, to sit on that lap and just get that hug. This mother part of me gets activated, and I’m like, I want all the kids in the world to be hugged. I’m like, this is the so important. And it just makes me so emotionally joyful. So thank you. That was so beautiful.

Jennifer (50:28):

I’m left with that resonance in my heart as well, and I have the same reaction. And I know for some people listening, they’re like, oh, I don’t know. Is it possible to just kind of access these parts? Is that even helpful? Is it helpful to dig up all of that stuff? I’ve had spoken with a few people who’ve kind of been like, I don’t know. How helpful is it to dig up all that stuff from the past? And it’s not really digging up. It’s more that they arrive spontaneously. And I find that all the time, even starting with, I have clients, we’ve even working with maybe migraines or ongoing back pain or something else that’s kind of like, well, this is a physical problem, but my friend said, I should come and see you. Not quite sure how you’re going to help me because I have back pain and you’re a psychotherapist. But then when we start doing the work, let’s focus on the pain, stay with the pain, and what’s happening now? Well, I’m three years old and my dad’s just arrived home drunk, and I can smell the alcohol on his breath, and I know he is about to get violent.


And often those memories that we’ve locked away, forgotten about, tied up, put in a room, locked up, and enabled us to become maybe very successful in the world. But it’s showing up in my back pain, and it’s showing up in some of the dysregulation in my relationship. And so there’s loads of parts of my life that I’ve controlled and are going really well, but there’s some, I’m on my fourth marriage and I’ve got this chronic back pain and I can’t sit at my desk anymore. And then that’s sometimes when these parts will start to leak through and it’s because they’re sitting there in the system and they block the system energetically. And that can happen in different ways. And when I think about blocking it energetically, I think a lot about kind of the chakra and meridian systems, the meridian system acupuncturists work with, and the chakra system that a lot of healers will work with, that it can actually block the flow of energy. And so that can get blocked at different places for different reasons and can cause physical pain.

Dr. Sarah (52:46):

Yeah, no, and I think this comes full circle back to the beginning of this episode, we were talking about how all these ways of working with people can touch really layers of the same thing. And this integrative approach is so magical because it kind of can meet people wherever they are at, but then still get to the place where we always need to go to heal. And so I think the work that you’re doing is just amazing. You articulate it so eloquently as well. So I cannot wait to read your book. If people want to read your book or get connected with you, how can they connect?

Jennifer (53:27):

The book is called Heal Your Anxious Attachment, and the publisher is New Harbinger Reveal Press. You can buy that Amazon, anywhere that sells books, you’ll be able to order or find a copy. My Instagram is the best way to contact me. I run my whole Instagram platform. And so I answer all of the questions, all the comments, it’s all me. That’s @psychotherapy.central, and my website is psychotherapycentral.health.

Dr. Sarah (53:57):

Amazing. Well, we’ll link all of that in the show notes and the show description so people can really easily connect with you. And I am so grateful that you came on and thank you. This was a really beautiful conversation.

Jennifer (54:11):

Absolutely. Thank you so much for inviting me and lovely to speak with a fellow therapist because the questions and the insight is always just makes for juicier conversation. So yeah, thank you so much, Sarah. Really great to meet you.

Dr. Sarah (54:30):Thanks so much for listening. If you are interested in learning more about attachment science, check out my free guide, The Four Pillars of Fostering Secure Attachment. In this guide, I teach you how to use the principles of attachment science to help you parent with attunement and trust by focusing on four simple things. You can work towards helping your child form a secure attachment bond, which is a predictor of so many positive aspects of mental health, including self-esteem independence, healthier relationships with others throughout their lifespan, better academic and workplace achievement, and lower reported instances of anxiety and depression, not a small list. So to download this free guide and learn the four pillars of fostering secure attachment, go to drsarahbren.com/secure. That’s drsarahbren.com/secure. And until next time, don’t be a stranger.

200. Healing our inner child in order to combat insecure attachment patterns with Jennifer Nurick