As a child (although we may or may not be aware of it) many of us were burdened with negative beliefs or painful negative emotions that had little to do with us. These burdens, negative beliefs and painful emotions had much more to do with the quality or absence of care, validation, nurturing and support we received or did not receive and which affected in different ways our ability to sooth, cope with and understand all of our complex emotions and needs. Many of us were crippled by these feelings and beliefs which we need to understand and release in order to heal our Inner Child’s pain and disconnection from an inner source of love and nurturing support. Negative beliefs and feelings lead us to be inwardly critical and they generate negative emotions that wound, sabotage and keep us stuck in self hatred.
The issue of unburdening our inner Child is dealt with in chapter 7 of Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss’s book Freedom From Your Inner Critic : A Self Therapy Approach. The issue of uncoupling or releasing from false beliefs we have assumed is also addressed in depth by Margaret Paul in her book Inner Bonding : Becoming a Loving Adult to your Inner Child.
The negative feelings we have as a result of painful treatment and mistaken beliefs, for example that we will only be good enough if we perform in certain ways or display certain traits which pleased or were valued by a parent or other caregivers can cripple us well into adulthood. We need to be able to release these feelings and beliefs in order to heal ourselves from the stunting seeds of depression and low self esteem which were planted in us in our youth in our thoughts and feelings.
Earley and Weiss outline a process of releasing these burdens once we have done the work to locate where we are holding them. Often we hold them in our bodies somewhere, as well as deep inside our minds, and since mind and body form a continuum both are connected and experienced simultaneously!
If we identify one of our burdens as a stone we may choose to bury it in the earth. We can also choose to give the burden to the light, watch it blown away by the wind. We may write our burdens down on a piece of paper and then burn it. We may imagine the burden we carry subsumed in flames or washed away in a flood of water or golden light.
We can also do the work to subplant some of the painful negative messages that we absorbed and were told as children with positive ones that no longer lie to us keeping us locked in shame, blame, guilt, self rejection, or self abandonment.
Below I am sharing the list of negative beliefs we may have absorbed that we now need to release adapted from the work of Margaret Paul.
Six Major False Beliefs
- There is something wrong with me. I am unlovable. I am inadequate, basically defective, bad. I am insignificant and unimportant. Therefore, if I let people in in on who I am or if I am me, I will not be loved.
- I am powerless over how I feel. Other people or outside events are responsible for making me happy or unhappy. Other people are responsible for my hurt, anger, guilt, or disappointment. I can’t help how I feel. My good feelings come primarily from other’s approval and my bad feelings from their disapproval. I do not have the power to make myself happy within myself, or to take care of myself in the world. I have to rely on other people, things, or substances to make me happy or take care of me. I am a victim.
- Other people’s feelings are more important than mine, and I am responsible for their feelings. When others feel hurt, disappointed, or upset because of something I’ve done (with no intent to hurt or harm them), I’m wrong and it’s my fault, and I deserve the guilt I feel. Making myself happy (again with no intent to hurt or harm others) when others want me to make them happy is selfish, and unloving and therefore wrong. To be a loving person, I have to sacrifice what I want for what others want.
- I can control what others think of me, feel about me, and how they treat me. I can ‘make’ them like me or love me or be open to me by being good, nice or open. Or I can ‘make’ then treat me how I want to be treated by getting angry, righteous and blaming.
- Resisting others’ control over me is essential to my integrity. As soon as someone wants something from me, I have to do the opposite, even if it’s something I want to do or give, or I will lose myself to that other person.
- I can’t handle pain, discomfort, shame or aloneness. I have to protect myself from these feelings with my anger, caretaking, and withdrawal, with activities such as sex, or work, or with substances such as alcohol, drugs or food.
Margaret Paul believes that there is rarely a child who is not brought up with some of these beliefs which are self limiting and that as long as we believe we must look outside of ourselves for happiness we remain stuck within these imprisoning lies and limited beliefs. We need to learn we have the power of choice, to react differently and to take good care of our Inner Child and its true impulses and needs by developing a Loving Adult inside.
I see these beliefs as very similar to the notion of burdens spoken of in Earley and Weiss’s book on the Inner Critic. We can and do traumatised and limit ourselves by continuing to carry these burdens. We limit our selves through negative beliefs which don’t give us freedom to feel the inner joy that comes about as a result of feeling a true connection to who we truly are, how we truly feel and what we truly need which comes from a good relationship with our authentic inner self or inner child.
Regardless of how we were treated in childhood we can explore and overcome the damage. Only we can take responsibility in the now for changing the core negative beliefs outlined above and releasing the burden of painful feelings left in us as children by parents who could not help us develop a good relationship with our authentic inner centre or inner child.
We need to replace the false belief we hold with positive ones. We can release other burdens of shame, blame, pain, anger and rage and let them go once and for all so they no longer block our freedom and happiness. When our Inner Child feels uncared for by us we leave that Child alone with its pain, we force it to carry burdens and believe painful things it should not have to. We need to listen to our Inner Child. That authentic place in us that has the ability to break us free from false burdens.
Negative thoughts cause negative feelings. I would refer readers to the explorations in Margaret Paul’s book for further practical explorations of how this occurs. When we shame, blame and criticise our Inner Child we leave that child alone. Often our unloving adult is a mirror of a parent who treated us badly, later in life the parent’s attitude may change but our inner relationship may not and we still act towards ourselves in unloving ways.
If we wish to come to place of freedom and joy within ourselves we need to learn loving self talk, we need to protect our inner child from shaming or inner abuse or negativity, and only then can we set boundaries with those outside who continue to hurt us or treat us in unloving ways. As adults this is our responsibility.