Listen To The Pleas From Your Inner Child: They Are The Key.
More often than not, when adults hear inner child, they think coloring books and trips to Disney World.
They think of the happy, healthy, fun, whimsical piece of their childhood that has remained as they’ve grown older.
What we do not typically think of when we hear inner child is darkness, shadow work and the unhealed trauma, pain, sadness and anger that remains from our most formative years, and we surely don’t think of a direct road map to all that needs to be addressed for us to heal our way back to the unconditional love of the Divine; however, in reality, the inner child holds the key to all that’s not working in our lives.
So many challenging, inexplicable things that we do in life can be attributed to our attention-seeking inner children.
Everything we do in life that is unhealthy is just a plea from our inner children begging to be healed, to feel safe, and to be seen, heard and loved.
John Bradshaw, the father of Inner Child Work, and author of Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing Your Inner Child, spent his life studying pain. Ultimately, he found that the unhealed trauma, fear, sadness and anger of our childhood will never go away until we act as the parent to ourselves, to our inner children who are hurting.
He shares that our aching inner children have three outlets for their pain.
They can act them out as an offender. Our prisons are full of these painful manifestations, but that is the obvious offender archetype. Not parenting in a healthy way would be acting out as an offender. Repeating unhealthy relationship patterns could also be offender behaviors. Much of what we do that is deeply hurtful to others would be us acting out as an offender.
The second outlet is to act them out as a victim. This is every “Why me?” situation we call into our world, including unhealthy relationship patterns, unsatisfying careers, and overwhelming parenting challenges.
Finally, they can act them in on oneself. Addictions, drugs, alcohol, sex, self-mutilation, food, so many possibilities to continue to hold on to our pain and hurt ourselves.
Unbeknownst to me, I spent 42 years in this cycle of misery, acting in and out the traumas of my childhood.
I didn’t know what it was. I had no words for it, I just knew I was terribly unhappy and that there seemed to be no end in sight.
As I began to wake up spiritually and my victim mentality faded away, I realized my life was made up of all that I invited and all that I allowed. Yet, as a brilliant, highly educated woman, I was baffled. I didn’t know why I invited or continued to allow these deeply unhealthy patterns in my world.
I searched for answers on my own, continued to make decisions that hurt me and others, until finally, at age 42, I hit rock bottom and reached out for professional help.
I’d known for my entire life that I had no memories at all before the age of 10. I’d taken psych classes in grad school for fun, I knew what this meant. My heart knew there was trauma in my childhood, but I didn’t have even one second of a memory to back that up.
I’d been in therapy for PTSD and childhood sexual abuse memory recovery for about 10 months with little progress, hearing about my inner children weekly, before I was finally convinced I had an inner child who was totally in control of my life.
That week I’d shared with my therapist my feelings for the family friend, whom I absolutely despised, who lived in our home when I was 11. I’ve always been an extraordinarily loving person, so for me to hate this man so vehemently was odd.
I raved about how absolutely repulsive he was to me, how he literally made my skin crawl, and how the mere sound of him chewing made me want to vomit, yet through this entire discussion I could not, for the life of me, remember his name.
Why couldn’t I remember his name? He lived in our home for almost a year. It made no sense that my feelings for him were still so sharp, graphic and fresh, yet his name, completely elusive.
It was as if all references to him were locked away in a six-foot-thick steel vault that I could not penetrate, and I had no idea where to find the key.
I spent all that night trying to find the secret code to unlock this mystery. No luck. Finally I gave up and just let it go.
The next morning I was fully and peacefully absorbed in the mindless task of blow-drying my hair when it struck me, as if a little voice inside had suggested it, to try out this inner child dialog my therapist had been telling me about, and to actually ask the Keeper of the Memories to share the man’s name.
Tired of being stuck in my old patterns, and finally willing to try absolutely anything, no matter how far-fetched it seemed, I took a deep breath, slowly exhaled, then said out loud:
“Keeper of the Memories, I see you. I hear you. You are deeply loved and valued, and you are now safe. No one will ever hurt you again. I will keep you safe, today, tomorrow and always. What was his name?”
Instantly, like magic, I heard his name, then a warmth filled me, like the deeply enveloping hug of a long-lost friend, and with it, the dam that had been holding back my childhood exploded.
In the blink of an eye, I was flooded with memories of what he did to me when he would come to my bed at night after the whole house was sleeping.
I was blown away that just simply by acknowledging her, reassuring her that she was safe, I’d finally gained access to the sacred place that held the missing link to my healing, the elusive truth that I needed to process the missing pieces of me that my inner protectors finally felt I was strong enough to fully experience.
As sickening as it was, as horrifying as it was, as much as I wanted to find him and kill him with my bare hands for stealing something from me that I felt I could never get back, it was, at the same time, a relief as I finally understood many of my behaviors that had baffled me for my entire adult life.
Although it was excruciatingly painful to relive the violations I endured, the reprieve, the freedom of finally knowing, the newfound hope of understanding my mysterious lifelong unhealthy patterns, catapulted me into a deep desire to devour all I could about this powerful healing modality.
“Three things are striking about inner child work: the speed with which people change when they do this work, the depth of that change, and the power and creativity that result when wounds of the past are healed.” ~ John Bradshaw, ‘Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing your Inner Child’
Very much interested in harnessing my inner power and creativity, this work resonated deeply with my goals. As I began to learn more about this process, inner children became pretty easy to spot in both myself and others.
When I’m unsure of who is in control of my life and making my decision, an inner child or 47-year-old me, I simply ask myself, “Is that the behavior of a happy, healthy, loving, nurturing adult?”
Reflecting back on my life, I now clearly see my unloved inner children begging for acknowledgment through all my dysfunctional behavior.
Spending 14 years in an emotionally abusive marriage, is that the behavior of a happy, healthy, loving, nurturing adult? Nope. Inner child.
Yelling uncontrollably at my two children and demanding perfection from them, is that the behavior of a happy, healthy, loving, nurturing adult? Nope. Inner child.
Demanding perfection of myself and beating myself up when unable to get even close, is that the behavior of a happy, healthy, loving, nurturing adult? Nope. Inner child.
Whipping out my credit card over and over to purchase things I don’t actually need and could not afford, is that the behavior of a happy, healthy, loving, nurturing adult? Nope. Inner child.
Over and over again picking the same emotionally unavailable partners and relationship patterns, is that the behavior of a happy, healthy, loving, nurturing adult? Nope. Inner child.
Lashing out in anger at work, feeling jealous of a friend, saying unkind words to yourself and other, taking drugs, drinking too much, promiscuous sexual activities, self-mutilation, eating too much, not eating enough, inner child, inner child, inner child, and all inner children.
None of these behaviors are those of a happy, healthy, loving, nurturing adult version of you.
As I began to acknowledge my inner children, see them, hear them and love them, their unmet needs became easier to recognize and they began reaching out to me in healthier, less destructive ways. I now know, when my right eye twitches, which it sometimes used to do maddeningly for days on end, that it is simply an inner child who needs my attention.
When I feel this call, I stop what I am doing, just as I would with my two 10-year-old actual children when they need me, then give my inner child my full and undivided attention. I close my eyes, I breathe deeply, then I tune in to the voice of the piece of me that needs my loving, nurturing attention.
I call them by age now. “12, I see you. I hear you. I love you, and you are safe. What do you need from me today?”
Maybe she’ll share that she is scared of a new person we are going to meet because she really doesn’t like meeting strangers since they aren’t always nice. Maybe I’ll hear that she has a tummy ache that I haven’t paid attention to because I’ve been too busy and she’d like a nap or chicken soup. Maybe 12 feels like coloring or writing a poem.
Whatever it is, I acknowledge her now in a nurturing, kind, loving, healthy way, just as I mother my two 10-year-old children.
Just as I love my two 10-year-old children, I now love all pieces of myself.
Ultimately that is the key to all that is not working in life: Love — loving, accepting and nurturing all the sacred pieces of ourselves.
Christie Del Vesco is a College Administrator and Professor, a Universalist Minister, a member of the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) Speakers Bureau and single mom. She’s a children’s advocate, a survivor of many forms of sexual violence, and a voice for the survivors who have yet to find their own. Chris is a firm believer that we go through what we do, to help others when they go through the same. She also believes if we would all just “be the change,” we can change the world.