Unqualified love is the heart of your inner child. The child seeks to give love and receive love, and by doing this achieves intimacy with another. As the child grows, they learn that love is not always accepted or returned. For people who have grown up in alcoholic or traumatic families, the child often learns that love is dangerous.
As we grow older, we learn to hide the true nature of our inner child from others. Eventually, we even hide it from ourselves. In an effort to protect the vulnerability of our inner child, we mask our love and deprive ourselves of the ability to achieve intimacy. In time we forget how to take the mask off.
Intimacy is the way we share ourselves with the people we trust. It is the most basic form of validation that we have. Without intimacy we are lost and isolated and cannot thrive. Instead of being taught how to create healthy intimacy with others, many of us have been taught to fear others, to make intimate contact through conflict and crisis and to hide our need for support and help.
Having grown up in families where secrecy is the primary rule, and perfectionism the primary goal, we often have no healthy role models for developing honest and open relationships. Many of us grow up thinking that showing love is a sign of weakness. Needing anything, especially intimacy is an invitation to be attacked or humiliated. We see a loving parent being rejected by a withholding parent and we assume that the withholding parent is stronger and does not need love or intimacy. We draw the conclusion that the need for love and intimacy is weakness, withholding love and intimacy is a sign of strength.
We become ashamed of our need for love and intimacy. We become ashamed of our spiritual feelings because they bring us in contact with our love for God. The belief that showing love is weak removes us from our spiritual centre and shuts us off from contact with our Higher Parent and our inner child.
For adult children of alcoholism, shame has another meaning. It is a backdrop for our approach to life. We feel shame about our families. We feel shame for having failed to save our parents from themselves. We feel shame for being able to exist without help from others. In short, we feel shame for most of our life.
Shaming is something that adults do to children, and children learn to do to themselves. Shaming is about humiliation. It is about devaluation of the self. Unfortunetely in addictive families shaming and humiliation are the chief tools used for controlling children.
Shame inhibits life. It makes love and intimacy impossible. It imprisons our inner child in a cage of self hate. The inner child feels that she is a failure because she was not perfect and feels responsible for the dysfunction in her family. It is old baggage that needs to be discarded. It is necessary for our inner parent to teach our inner child to let go of this destructive habit.
The way out of shame is to break the silence about ourselves. We need to allow our Higher Parent to teach our inner child to share ourselves, our feelings and our self parenting issue with others. We need to learn that who we are is not just the trauma and unhappiness of our childhood but all of it, good and bad. We need to learn to share all of who we are if we are to achieve true intimacy. Our Higher Parent can help us with this.
We need our Higher Parent to teach our inner child that it is safe to share who we really are, and vital to our wellbeing to break the silence.
This will feel wrong at the beginning because talking with others is breaking your family tradition of secrecy. Sharing with others creates a new tradition of trust and guilt free living. Sharing your self parenting issue with others is a way of opening your heart to the world and admitting that you are not perfect and that you are worthwhile as you are.
Guilt is the great divider, it separate us from one another. It is also a way of keeping the focus on ourselves. When we hurt others and feel guilt instead of sorrow, we are not truly sorry for what we have done.
Self recrimination is a way of shutting people out and staying stuck in ourselves. Guilt is all about us, how bad we are, how insensitive we are, etc. and not about about others. It does not concern us with the feelings of others. Rather sorrow is about taking responsibility with your feelings for the pain you have caused. Sorrow does not devalue you as guilt and shame do. Sorrow allows you to feel your pain, and the pain of others. When we feel sorrow we don’t beat up on ourselves. We see and feel the result of our behaviour and change the behaviour. Sorrow is about taking responsibility and changing. Guilt and self recrimination is about wallowing in self pity and holding onto old ways of thinking and behaving. Feeling sorrow is about feeling the pain of others.
When we share with others without self recrimination we allow for real communication to take place. When we share with our feelings we can leave the baggage of the past behind. We can admit the exact nature of our wrongs and let go of them. When we share without self recrimination we open ourselves up to the greater community of humanity.
Our hearts are our best teachers. For adult children of alcoholics the heart is the hardest thing to trust. We have been trained to trust our heads, to reason, to sort things, not to feel our way through life.
If we are to be whole people, to be vulnerable and able to give and receive love, we must learn to trust our heart and lead the way, trusting in our Higher Parent to protect us as we go. If we are ever to enter the world in our fullness to reach for the stars and let our dreams of intimacy come true, we must become as children full of love and full of heart. In this way our Higher Parent will teach and protect our inner child to trust appropriately, to share herself with her sisters and brothers and to follow the best that life has to offer.
I know that my real strength comes from my ability to love and trust, not from my ability to perform. I affirm that as I open myself to others, I increase my real power and show my real strength.
Extract from Chapter 5 of 12 Steps to Self Parenting, by Philip Oliver-Diaz and Patrician A. O’Gorman.