Monday, February 29, 2016

Healing My Inner Child

It sounds a little wacky to talk about a hurt "inner child," but I think the concept is so important to talk about and address. 

I think so many of the ways in which humans are awful to each other stem from how some awfulness was done onto them as children.

My own childhood issues are not relatively awful, but they have left me with emotional issues that I need to work on. 

My mother got accidentally pregnant when she was 22 years-old, and my biological father never wanted to have anything to do with me. I feel the tears start to well up as I write that sentence. I can see how so many of my emotional issues are tied to that initial abandonment. 

I can see how I became a perfectionist and a striver in order to prove my worth out in the world--to overcome the lack of worth that I must carry around inside of me since half of the people who are supposed to care most about me in the world didn't care about me at all. 

I can see how I gravitate toward controlling situations and people because of the complete lack of control my inner child must feel. 

I can see why I was most attracted to emotionally unavailable men in my twenties because I was hoping that I could convince just one of them to love me the way my father never did. 

One component of my ongoing work in life is to continue to support and heal my inner child. I started reading this book on the topic, and I loved this piece of the introduction:

In each of us, there is a young, suffering child. We have all had times of difficulty as children and many of us have experienced trauma. To protect and defend ourselves against future suffering, we often try to forget those painful times. Every time we're in touch with the experience of suffering, we believe we can't bear it, and we stuff our feelings and memories deep down in our unconscious mind. It may be that we haven't dared to face this child for many decades. 

But just because we may have ignored the child doesn't mean she or he isn't there. The wounded child is always there, trying to get our attention. The child says, "I'm here. I'm here. You can't avoid me. You can't run away from me." We want to end our suffering by sending the child to a deep place inside, and staying as far away as possible. But running away doesn't end our suffering; it only prolongs it.

The wounded child asks for care and love, but we do the opposite. We run away because we're afraid of suffering. The block of pain and sorrow in us feels overwhelming. Even if we have time, we don't come home to ourselves. We try to keep ourselves constantly entertained--watching television or movies, socializing, or using alcohol or drugs--because we don't want to experience that suffering all over again. 

The wounded child is there and we don't even know she is there. The wounded child in us is a reality, but we can't see her. That inability to see it is a kind of ignorance. This child has been severely wounded. She or he really needs us to return. Instead we turn away...

The wounded child is also in each cell of our body. There is no cell of our body that does not have that wounded child in it. We don't have to look far into the past for that child. We only have to look deeply and we can be in touch with him. The suffering of that wounded child is lying inside us right now in the present moment. 

But just as the suffering is present in every cell of our body, so are the seeds of awakened understanding and happiness handed down to us from our ancestors. We just have to use them. We have a lamp inside us, the lamp of mindfulness, which we can light anytime. The oil of that lamp is our breathing, our steps, and our peaceful smile. We have to light up that lamp of mindfulness to the light will sine out and the darkness will dissipate and cease. Our practice is to light up the lamp. 

When we become aware that we've forgotten the wounded child in ourselves, we feel great compassion for that child and we begin to generate the energy of mindfulness. The practices of mindful walking, mindful sitting, and mindful breathing are our foundation. With our mindful breath and mindful steps, we can produce the energy of mindfulness and return to the awakened wisdom lying in each cell of our body. That energy will embrace us and heal us, and will heal the wounded child in us. 

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Kate said...

As I'm sure many of your friends, family members and contemporaries have shared with you, you are an incredible force for good and we're all so grateful to have you in our world.

I find myself sometimes more focused on this kind of "work", and then sometimes I wander from it, possibly to take a break. The only thing I might add to your post is that when the winds of self are carrying you to address this important work - make the time and space for it. Early morning meditation. Lunchtime journaling. Evening walks alone. And when the work seems to die down and your present life comes into greater focus, give yourself permission to take a break from that work to return to the things in your adult life that bring you joy and contemplation of another kind.

Balance is good. Seasons change. :-)

Thank you for continuing to be so honest and generous in your writing, Sara!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, Kate!

lmb said...

I think the link to the book is missing?

Channing Parker said...

I'd love the link also to the book you've been reading. Thanks for sharing your experience and the beautiful quote. What a wonderful thing, to heal your inner child. I celebrate you today!

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