Thank you for protecting us the only way you knew how. You did the best with what you've learned to accept as love, so please forgive yourself for seeking these familiar patterns and attempting to find it elsewhere.
Thank you for bringing myself back to you. Together, we can continue to acknowledge our feelings, fears, hopes and dreams, and learn to navigate through them.
You are truly amazing and I will love you no matter what.
P.S. you were and always will be enough.
My inner child came to play after years of hiding, and what was she seeking?
Healing and acceptance for both of us.
I can't tell you how hard I've tried to bury all my abandonment issues and ignore any signs of codependency by staying distracted or seeking solace within someone else, as if they would be the one to save me. Oh, the fantasy of having a knight in shining armor come and sweep you off your feet! But like other things from my childhood I once chose to glaze over, that's just the stuff of fairy tales.
There are no princesses here waiting to be saved, no birds singing, dwarves dancing, or magical carpets flying, no romantic love interest waiting at the story's end with your happily ever after.
There is just me and my younger self.
And we're not subscribing to these childhood tales of codependency, performing for approval, control or denial any more.
As annoying as they are, these messages were engrained into our innocent, young minds that were oh so eager to absorb information about what it meant to love and be loved, especially from the adult figures from childhood.
But all hope is not lost!
Because yes, child, we can start to heal ourselves together and accept that we are lovable as we are.
Here's what's helped me discover and start to heal my inner child:
1. Acknowledge your inner child
Think of your inner child as an accumulation of your past experiences. While some were positive, others may have really hurt you, and maybe you've carried that pain with you into adulthood.
Start by acknowledging and accepting that yes, things have happened in your childhood that caused you pain. Maybe it was a single defining moment, or an accumulation of numerous events. Bringing these pains up to the surface helps you begin to understand their impact on you as an adult.
Continuing to ignore and hide your pain prevents you from healing and .
So now that you're aware of your inner child's presence, you can't go back into hiding! It's time to acknowledge your inner child's presence, and begin the healing process.
2. Educate yourself
Once I realized my pain and wounds stemmed from childhood (doesn't everything?!), I started my research on the issues specific to me. From reading books, listening to podcasts, and even following some social media accounts, I sought information on attachment styles, codependency, and trauma bonds.
Here are a few resources that have helped me:
I am currently reading Lisa Olivera's "Already Enough"
I want to also point out the potential to get stuck inside your head if you seek too much information and don't pair it with enough action. So don't forget to equip yourself with that knowledge and take that small step in the right direction.
There are certain situations that trigger strong emotions and open up old wounds. I'm usually met with anxiety, feelings of abandonment or worthlessness. But what comes up for you might also be guilt, resentment, insecurity, anger...
These feelings are uncomfortable, and there's the urge to get rid of them immediately and distract ourselves with any and everything just so we don't have to face the reality.
Instead of brushing those emotions off, listen to them and what your inner child has to say. They can give you clues as to what triggered you and what similar events have happened in the past. In time you might be able to see a pattern emerge and begin to break the cycle.
There are so many things I wish I could say to my younger self, and they usually begin with things I needed to hear back then.
What's something you want your inner child to hear right now?
In the same spirit of writing a letter to your inner child, it can also be helpful to journal from the perspective of your younger self.
You can take it further and start a dialogue between your inner child and your adult self. You might offer more insight and possible explanations to past experiences with compassion and provide reassurance and the comfort you need for yourself in ways you weren't able to get in the past.
A few questions you might start with are:
"How are you feeling?"
"What are you afraid of?"
"What do you need from me?"
If it helps, you can visualize your younger self. I like to keep a photo of me as a child at my desk for the times I need to have these conversations.
6. Bring back the childhood playfulness
You can do something you really enjoyed as a kid, or that you were never able to try when you were younger.
Skating at the park, chasing the ice cream truck down the block, and just enjoying that hideously delicious tweety bird ice cream with those bubble gum eyes... Oh, the joys!
One of the many things I wanted to be when I was younger was a gymnast. With the other elementary kids as my audience, I would walk across the tops of fences as if it were the balance beam or a tightrope, hang upside down off the monkey bars, and just climb to the very top point of the playground (I'm pretty sure I'm still the lava monster champ).
Now, as an adult, I realize my dream was about more about running away to be a part of a circus where people would watch and cheer in awe and acceptance, the external validation evolving into strangers in the audience. I'm no longer running away, still working on relinquishing the need for external validation, and very much enjoying every bit of these aerial arts class I am now taking without all that pressure to perform for a crowd, but to see progress within myself.
It brings a sense of playfulness, paired with the determination to get out of my mind, trust that my body is capable of amazing things, and that its got me.
Having a consistent meditation practice, through good and tough times, has helped me become more mindful and aware of my emotions as they arise. It provides me with a sense of grounding. No matter where I meditate, just setting aside the time and space for it helps.
I've also taken guided courses for dealing with specific topics like managing anxiety, or loneliness, during times of need.
There's no shame in getting help and seeking support from people, especially from a trained mental health professional. A therapist can create a safe space for you to explore any trauma and offer strategies for healing that are more specific to your experiences.
It's never too late to heal from trauma resulting from the unmet needs of your childhood. It takes a lot of hard work, there will be setbacks, but you will ultimately see progress. Being able to nurture your inner child yourself is a great way to provide yourself with the compassion, love, expression and validation you need.