A couple of weeks ago, I posted a quote on Facebook that really struck a chord with my followers. The image went on to be shared 102 times, with 12,825 people reached. The quote was, “She held herself until the sobs of the child inside subsided entirely. I love you, she told herself. It will all be okay.” (H. Raven Rose)
I believe that this quote resonated with so many people because the words finally put a scenario that they had dealt with so often into simple words. It’s a strange situation to explain but one that I guarantee most, if not all, people have experienced often. After a particularly hard day or after a triggering event, you might feel overwhelmed, upset, angry, and sad but confused because they don’t feel like your feelings. The feelings are in your body and something is pushing you to feel them but it doesn’t feel like it originated from you, or at least from your adult self. So where are these feelings coming from then?
They are coming from your hurt and scared inner child. A very young version of yourself, that all people carry within them into adulthood. And while this inner child brings along many good things as we grow up, like playfulness, silliness, a love of fun, passion, joy, freedom, laughter, all the things we love most about children, he or she is also bringing some negative things. For survivors, this is the abuse and following trauma being viewed through the eyes and processed in the mind of a child.
For survivors of child sexual abuse, terrible things are done to us at a young age and because our brain and body isn’t prepared to handle these complex, terrible acts emotionally or physically, they get handled in the only way children can. For example, by coming up with false realities (adults are always right and always good so I must have deserved this abuse), by disconnecting from their bodies so that they don’t have to remember or think about the overwhelming act that just happened (why some survivors don’t realize they were abused until years later), or retreating into themselves out of fear and refusing any kind of interaction with the outside world (children who grow into quiet, depressed, terrified adults).
Because most of us didn’t have adults to comfort us as abused, scared little children, we didn’t grow up knowing how to comfort ourselves, self-soothe, and self-regulate. We might not even know what it looks like so we don’t trust ourselves to differentiate between good and bad behavior from others and from ourselves. The healing journey is about learning how to love and trust again. We desperately want to know love in all forms. We want to feel love, hear loving words, and see loving action. We want to be cared for and comforted by someone safe and warm.
But have you ever thought that you might need to be the person to hold, soothe, and comfort yourself, that you might be the very person you have been looking for to be the protector and caretaker of your inner child?
You may shudder at the thought of doing this for yourself. I know I did. I did not want to have anything to do with loving my inner child. I did not want to be reminded of what happened to her, to us. I had done a good job of leaving her behind, tucked away in the darkness so that I wouldn’t have to feel her pain, her sadness, her fear. Without knowing it, I was working very hard all the time to avoiding feeling her, at all cost. Because I was afraid of her, her anger and her hurt, and how powerful it was. And I was also afraid that her anger might be pointed at me.
And I was right. I was in some way responsible for her anger and hurt now. She was angry with me because I had picked up where my abuser left off. I had added to her pain and fueled her new beliefs about herself by continuing the hurtful blame for the abuse. I added to the confusion she felt over her worth by ignoring her cries for help and care by disconnecting further from my body (her home) with busy work, control, or starvation.
So what was the turning point?
I woke up one day and realized that my inner child was running my life. That I was showing up in my adult world, rigid, angry, blaming, and judging because that’s how my younger abused self felt. By then, I had done enough work on myself and read enough about healing to know that I was desperate for love and connection. But the same part of me that longed for it was also the part that would fight it. It was very confusing. But the more I learned about the normal development of children and parenting, I saw that it was not too late for me to learn to become an adult and that I could actually help myself by re-parenting myself through inner child work.
Like any healing work, it took time and dedication. I needed to learn how to apply the steps I was learning about in my own life, my biology, my nervous system, and inner dialogue, and how to become the loving compassionate parent that I needed all those years ago.
It starts with a willingness to take responsibility for yourself and your feelings. The feelings that felt random and that I blamed others for, I had to be willing to sit with, even when I didn’t know what I should say or do. I just needed to start by showing up. Each time you show up, you learn more and more about yourself and your inner child. And showing up simply means stopping the habit of running from your feelings and being willing to sit down with yourself, and your inner child, and let the both of you finally have a moment of silence to say what is wrong. Even if you can’t do anything about it in the beginning, you will greatly heal yourself and your inner child simply by listening and becoming your own safe person to have your feelings with. And you will see that there is no reason to be afraid of your feelings, of your inner child, or of the different parts that your inner psyche has created to protect your heart. It is all you. It is all parts of you. And each part holds a beautiful piece of the puzzle that is you and your story.
The process of inner child work will teach you and constantly affirm a truth that you might have lost as a child; that you are enough. You always were enough. By sitting with your inner child, holding him/her, listening, and telling him/her everything that you both need to hear over and over again until it sets in, you will come to realize that you are enough because YOU are all you need. Your inner child will see that a strong, loving, and safe parent is finally in place to care for both of you. And you will teach each other that neither your young self or your adult self ever has to do anything to deserve love and care and kindness. You will both know that who you are is enough. And that is love.
You have to love your inner child the way he or she deserved when you were young. You have to hold them tight when the world feels like it is falling apart, because to that little boy or girl inside, it has been falling apart for years. But you survived. You grew up and you are strong enough now for the both of you. It is your job to reach out to that little one within, hug him or her tight and never let go, and repeat to the both of you that everything is okay, that you love you, and you will take care of you. Repeat it over and over until both of you believe it and the tears dry and your inner child can see the world for the hope it has in store for you. For both of you.
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