Imagine a small dark ball. This is the world of your inner child. Years ago, her world was very limited. It consisted of herself, her parents, siblings and possibly grandparents. At that age, the rest of the world just isn’t that important. Although a child’s world should be one of play, fantasy and joy, many children’s worlds are unfortunately filled with pain, disappointment, judgment, criticism, emotional abandonment and rejection. And for some others, their ball can be a realm of pure hell.
The beliefs you hold about yourself, about others and the world were shaped by what happened in your ball. And it is important to remember that everything that happened there was controlled by your parents. And, although you were profoundly affected by what took place, you had little real influence over those events. However, like all children, when things went wrong, you assumed that what happened was either your fault or that you deserved it.
Today the dark ball of your childhood exists inside a much larger white ball – the one of your life. This larger ball is made up of loving, caring people who know and care about you and many others who don’t know you but if anything, are largely indifferent. There are a few troubled people out there and some who would condemn and criticize you, but you avoid them.
Your inner child is not likely to see your big ball very clearly. She’s locked away in her dark ball, reluctant to show herself because she feels wounded, inadequate and afraid. She will assume that your larger world will simply be an extension of her world with all its difficulties and problems.
She will assume that people in your world will reject and emotionally abandon her as the people in her world did. Making things worse, because she was anxious and afraid, when she made earlier forays out into your world, things did not go well. So, regardless of what you tell her, she has proof that the world is inherently threatening. Besides, there are enough fools out there that she can point to them and say, “See! The place really is unsafe!” If you happened to be one of the rare people who grew up in a loving and nurturing environment, she will feel better about venturing out into the world.
The two of you have probably created an accommodation where you trade on mutual needs and fears. She shuts you down when you go out too far, you drag her along when there is something you really want to do. It is a difficult and painful accommodation. But, it does not have to be that way! However, until she begins to heal from the pain and misunderstandings she carries from childhood, she will be reluctant to challenge the assumptions she made back then, because she will still see herself as defective.
She will not understand that her childhood experiences were shaped by the fears and anxieties of her parents. Your folks did the best they could, but in all likelihood, their unresolved fears and anxieties interfered with their ability to unconditionally love you. A child is unable to understand things like that. And a child’s self image is fragile and can be devastated by a parent’s dysfunctional behavior. She assumed that their withholding love was because she was undeserving, unworthy or in some other way, defective. Making things worse, she was alone and powerless.
It might help you to understand that this wasn’t just your life. These experiences are virtually universal. And when you find something that cuts across nationality, race, ethnicity and culture to affect virtually everyone on the planet, you realize that something far more significant is going on. I don’t have space to go there here but you might find this series of articles to be helpful Why Are You Here.
When I do a workshop, we talk about our childhoods. And there is a moment in every session, and you can literally feel the “pop” in the room when it happens, when people realize that, “Other people are telling my story!” We are not as unique as we think. And we have much more in common than we realize, when we can get past our fears to talk about it. Understanding Life.
You may not realize this, but you can be the doorway out of her dilemma. You stand with one foot in each world. You can see her fears and where they came from. Even though you may not understand your parent’s motivation, you can see their anxieties and behavior. You can see more clearly that she could what happened and that it wasn’t her fault.
You will be able to show her what was really going on back then. And you can help her to realize that her parents did love her, but when it came to parenting, their fears and anxieties got in the way. You can also help her to understand that what happened wasn’t because of inadequacy on her part (as she presently believes). What happened simply wasn’t her fault! Your parents were the way they were before you came and they were likely to be that way after you left. She did not, could not, dictate their choices and behaviors.
There is one other thing you can do for her. You can give her the love she never received, and that she so desperately needs! You can create a loving relationship with her, instead of the somewhat antagonistic one you probably have today. This is very important! Tell her that from now on, no matter what happens, your love will be there for her (but you’ve got to really mean it!). Some people are unsure they can do that. I ask them to look at the love they give their dogs, kids or grandchildren. You can do it. Not doing it is a choice.
Why should you do this? Simply because she is the source of your power. Compassion and its flip side, emotion, are the domain of the child. Put a three year old in the middle of a room and he’ll fill it with joy, anger, frustration, whatever. You’d probably have a difficult time doing that. Feel exhausted most days? You’re doing your life in opposition to her, and running on your battery. You disconnected from your vitalizing energy years ago because the pain she was in was overwhelming.
Dealing with a wounded inner self can be very difficult. The inner pain can be considerable. My childhood was pretty painful. I could not have gone back through all that pain and muck by myself.
I tried conventional psychotherapy for years and it just did not go deep enough to allow me to deal with my core issues. Therapists got me to change some of my behaviors, and although this was helpful, it did not go deeply enough to address my core issues. I found that the shamanic journey process, under the guidance of a caring shaman, gave me a way to work with and heal my inner woundedness. I won’t lie to you, it wasn’t easy or fun, but my life today is filled with joy and sunlight instead of the pain and suffering it once was.
There are many different healing modalities available today. I have tried most of them, and I have not found anything that goes as deeply as shamanism – humankind’s oldest healing tradition. The practice would not have remained viable for over 200 centuries if it did not speak to something innate in the human soul. A word of caution: there is no certification process for shaman. I have heard of people who did a weekend workshop and then set up a healing practice! Learning to do this work is difficult and challenging. If you are considering working with someone, make sure they have been properly trained. In addition, look for someone who has been to hell and back in their own life and in their training. They’ll be able to hold the space for you.
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