It can take a long time to get in touch with the inner child of our past that lives inside of us with all his or her unresolved longing and needs that we lost touch with so very long ago. Needs that were not met and which we were not allowed or able to recognise can dog as far into adulthood and play out in our attraction to certain relationships. Our wounds, emptiness and emotional deficits are the thing that attract us and replay in the present now, past patterns that we may not be fully aware of. They are also the generators of our depression which contains within it confusion, sadness, grief, anger, pain and self blame.
It is for this reason that pain and difficult emotions are actually in some way to be welcomed once we have decided to launch on a journey of consciousness, awareness and healing. For the pain we suffer in the now will inform us of pain of the past that may have been buried and will show us where our wounds lay. Healing at some point requires that we actually accept that we were hurt, damaged or wounded in some way. Accepting that we were does not condone the abuse or neglect but it helps us to separate from it to a degree and understand that its power and impact was actually outside of our control in childhood.
As adults we have to take responsibility which means accepting the fact that we are responding in some way due to a wound and the buck stops with us to learn why and how to stop repeating that pattern as adults. And for us that means starting to connect present reactions and listening to the inner child that may be acting out his or her pain with a loving presence inside not endlessly being held hostage by the damaging inner critic which we had to form in the absence of parental love, attention and containment.
Abandonment trauma expert, Susan Anderson has called the acting out of our inner child’s pain the state of being driven by an ‘outer child’. The inner child becomes an outer child when there is no inner parent there to help our inner child make sense of her pain and wounds, no objective, loving, non-judgemental presence there to act as a witness and container for the suffering.
Many of us with inner child injuries will need to find an advocate outside or ourselves in the early stages of our work of healing, as we may be overly critical of ourselves and blame ourselves for our own injuries. This mirrors and echoes the fact that we are often blamed by parents who fail to take responsibility for the way they have re-enacted their own wounding patterns upon us in childhood.
I was discussing this afternoon with my therapist something I read this week in Jonice Webb’s book on childhood emotional neglect. That a voracious inner critic does not always come from being criticised by parents in childhood, but instead forms in the vacancy or empty space left by the emotionally absent parent who could not contain sufficiently our nascent developing feelings and thoughts.
Growing up we need a more adult mature mind to contain our mind, to help to mirror back to us our emotions, to help us from words and mind concepts for emotional feelings, a mind that can help us make sense of ourselves as we really truly are. Lacking this we develop a heap of confusion, self blame and criticism. We founder alone on high seas.
I was actually sharing this afternoon an image I had with my therapist of how it felt as a latch key child to be home alone for hours after school. I had the image of childhood and adolescent me afloat in an ocean, swimming by and bobbing about were packets of cigarettes, a television, Tim Tam biscuits and the bean bag I used to sit on in the afternoon’s while home alone. I felt myself to me in an empty place, my father was a long way out at sea in another boat and of course my mother was nowhere to be seen. I became some one who learned to get lost and to then also revolve myself around others in some attempt to connect. I had no boundaries or filters with others or within myself to discipline myself in healthy ways since this was also missing in my childhood. Despite this I was not a total failure. I did well in school and managed to work but I did not learn to connect to myself emotionally in any way. I did not either learn good strategies for self soothing. So even now my inner child can look for things and substances to fill inner emotional needs that need to be met in different ways.
I am beginning to realise how much work of inner self parenting I now need to do. Lately I have become ever more aware of the inner critic that wants to beat me up at times and also tries to sabotage my best efforts. I am aware too that the inner critic is not always negative, sometimes its trying to tell me things that would be best for my own self in order to function more successfully. For so many years I was so unaware that deep down inside me I had a deeply deprived inner child who did not know how to connect emotionally or practice good self care. Pain has taught me this is so. I am aware more and more of my deficits and don’t praise myself for my small achievements. I need to learn to move away from deprived child and find the inner champion who will care for my inner child in ways that her true beauty can shine forth.
I have also become aware through therapy and my own healing work and insight lately that both of my parents had deeply deprived inner children too. They did the best with what they had but passed down real scars, wounds and injuries which have effected me well into adulthood. The positive now is that in seeing all of this I am in a far better place to be realistic and to change old patterns born of a deprivation punitive excessively harsh inner critic mentality that does not serve me well.