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Healing The Child Within

Inner-child work fuses memories of the past and feelings of the present into a unison that will shape our healing. Everyone can benefit from mending the relationship with the child-self. As children we are embodiments of love without rationality. We are impressionable to the slightest facets of this earthly reality. From managing a stomachache or a bee sting to making a sandcastle at the beach, the tiniest events are formidable in the expression of personality that will shape us. It is unfortunate that the negative experiences we endure can turn into traumas that bear heaviness in the mind of the child-self. It is not helpful to define traumatic events into confined psychological categories or to think comparatively about what others’ might have experienced as being better or worse. Further, it does not necessarily mean that if we did not witness violence, drugs, or death, that we have been exempt from trauma. A trauma can occur in the most loving of families, households, and safe school environments. And it can occur in harmful places, even if that place is our home. It can occur unwillingly, accidentally, or intentionally. Navigating trauma is part of the universal human experience. It is a primal fact of life.

What happens when the child-self grows up? The adult that loses the relationship with their child-self cannot fully heal. This adult will continually embrace sadness, fear, or anger as an inherited normalcy. This is not what the child-self wants. The child-self wants to become alive as the full creator of an enriching, fulfilling life. More importantly, this self exists freely and detached from the ego, the aspect of ourselves that says what we should do to appease others, to fit in, or to abide by societal expectations.

It may seem that the most difficult personal challenges that we encounter are heavily influenced by deep fears or repetitive negative relationship patterns. Some lessons are continually “gifted” to us until we can conquer them. Unfortunately, the brain that has been exposed to trauma makes it so much more difficult for us to be cognizant in moments of fear or when intertwined with negativity in relationships. In fact, it is psychologically impossible to identify with the rational mind and placate the emotional mind in fight-flight-freeze situations. For me, escapism is not just avoidance. Escapism is identifying the safety in shutting down the brain while the body remains, only physically stable. Or seemingly stable — frozen. I have navigated the same patterns of behavior in relationships with others throughout my life and, not surprisingly, witnessed my family do the same. I do not wish to escape, but it is what feels familiar and safe. We will always go back to what feels familiar and safe. In order to heal, we must reestablish not only the definitions, but the activities, people, and feelings that correspond to healthy emotional states of familiarity and safety. This is critical. If we can develop the awareness that, “what I grew up with, what I saw as a child, or what I experienced throughout life were situations that I do not now identify with as positive,” we can begin to reframe our thought process and conditioning that brought us to heal in the first place.

Reframing is truly challenging amidst moments of perceived panic or compulsory behaviors and thoughts. My mantra, my reminder to stay present, is taken from Thich Nhat Hahn: “I am home. I have arrived. In the here. In the now.” Sometimes I wonder if it helps, but I say it anyway. As adults, home is the one place where we can weave nuanced acts of love for ourselves, our partners, our families, and friends into the space we design as safe. Reframing our thoughts will start in the home, which is not just the physical space we live in but also the metaphysical space of our hearts. We must first build the home in our hearts with a foundation of unconditional love for the self. I am still working on this unconditional love, navigating what it might look like, feel like, be like, for myself. Then we can create ritual and routine within the home space that reaffirms a bodily sense of safety. Predictability is not monotonous when it becomes ritual — it is sacred.

Growing up, we take cues from our families as to what love is and what it should look like, and unfortunately, these cues are not always helpful in our own understanding of love. Maybe we harbor resentment, anger, or fear for the part of ourselves that did not stand up to someone, or had to be something other than a child, when being a child was the only job we were supposed to have. Perhaps we weren’t nurtured, supported, or validated during moments we sought to understand our destinies, and we turned to sadness, grief, or misery. These negative emotions block a part of ourselves from feeling the deepest love we are capable of having for the self. When we retrain our minds to relinquish the “what ifs” and the things we cannot control, we can shift the brain’s perception from fear to gratitude. We are fully capable of giving ourselves love when situations go awry and we lack perceived control. But this understanding it will take time. Even if we understand the ideology, living out negative situations is completely different than thinking about one. This is not an immediately gratifying shift. It is continual. It will remain continual throughout our lives.

Imagine having a gentle meeting with your child-self. You, the present body, and you, the memory of yourself as two separate forms in the same room. Give yourself a hug — a fully encompassing embrace, and it will become the purest act of compassion you can create in the mind’s eye. Narrate a dialogue in the present time as if it were reality and it will become a truth and a record that is restorative. This dialogue will never be judgmental. It is not discerning, nor is it the voice of your inner critic. It only knows equanimity. Take pen and paper. Write freely. Write to yourself from both perspectives and allow both voices to have their time to speak. Apologize and forgive.

“To my child-self, I recognize that you are still wounded. I will confide in you and hold your hand out of the darkness. I no longer want you to hide in pain. You are now a younger sister to my present self. I will walk with you and show you the marvelous love and magic found in this fear-free world. I want to show you, that although you could not take care of yourself without the support of others, that now, you have the resources to support your own growth. I can love you as if I am loving a separate person. My love for you is so pure that it radiates a lightness that surpasses the dimension of time. Tonight, I look at the stars in the sky; I have chosen to represent the brightest star I see as the star which represents the light of my unconditional love. This star among many others will outlast my physical body but it will not outlast the love I have shown you, my child-self, because that love is limitless and without bounds. It does not need or know the dimensions of time and space. It only knows that this love is necessary so it exists. I am grateful to give the opportunity for you to know that there is a world that lives free from fear, paranoia, and suffering.

“Today I continue to let my child-self speak her inner wisdom. I will let this relationship between my past and current self merge into a blissful unison. I will reclaim the past in joyfulness. As I hear her speak, she notes that she has an enveloping sadness. But she also reminds me to not forget the childhood memories of happiness. There were many moments of my childhood that were joyful and you experienced excitement through your imagination. My child-self feels sad for the current self for having neglected the powerful imagination that resides within myself. She asks me to recall the memory of reading in the mid-afternoon sunlight, a story of a young girl who lived alone in the forest with the animals. Do you remember how I embodied that story as if I were the one living in the forest with those woodland creatures? She asks the current self to forgive the younger self for losing sight of individual imaginative power. She also says how happy she is to know how many young people to whom you have instilled creativity and imagination. I, my current self, what to make a promise to my child-self. I promise you that I will not lose sight of my imagination. I will become a story-teller for your sake and I will invoke imagination in many others. My present self embraces my child-self in a hug.”

Forgiveness of the self is an emotive act of empowerment. It is painful to release memories we feel no longer serve us and our development into healthy adults. It is likely we have been attempting to keep these memories at bay, locked a box in the far away depths of the fragile mind. But creating dialogue between the two selves can create a bridge across two cliffs you were once afraid to cross. The dialogue has changed the past emotion from fear to safety. It may not be helpful to talk to the child-self. Perhaps it is the teenage self, the young adult self, the self who just ended an unhealthy relationship, any version of the self with whom we must make amends. When we simultaneously apologize and forgive different aspects of ourselves, we make space for others’ forgiveness in our hearts. We must remember that blaming of others and victimization of the self are the works of a hurt ego. The child-self will render healing through tenderness and gentle compassion, for that is all it knows. Then, we not only will more deeply forgive those that have hurt us, we will also more genuinely apologize to those we have hurt.

When we are born, we are vessels of pure light and radiance. We know nothing of apology and forgiveness, of suffering and pain. When we die, we no longer have the vessel to carry such lightness but we will return to the earth with the same energetic magnitude, despite the suffering we endured. As we navigate the physical earth, each soul-journey embarks a different path. Our bodies will attempt in its own way to return to the equilibrium of lightness. No one is exempt from suffering. It is suffering that makes us heavy, but it also grounds us to the universal life experience. I hope for everyone to find such balance between being rooted to the earth as well as embodying lightness from the stars. I hope for myself to find such balance in the physical body as the auric one stretches its limbs, gravitating from the heavens to the heaviness in a seemingly weightless unison.

Finally, there is not one path to healing. What works for me might make you suffer more. We must stop taking cues from others’ healing if it cannot resonate with our soul-journey. Even then, if we don’t listen to the intuitive self, we might cause more harm to the gift we have been given as humans on this earth: our bodies and our consciousness. We must nurture our bodies and our consciousness by finding activities that are simultaneously healthy and pleasurable. And then we must balance these activities with a delicate rigor that will fuel our ascension to the higher self. Perseverance is training the physical body, the dedication to mastery of a craft, or any continual work that is difficult, that both challenges and strengthens us on a multitude of levels. A yoga practice, a painting practice, a writing practice, a teaching practice. Life without perseverance is a life simmering in a broth of laziness. Through the practice of perseverance, we can carry the mental strength to gracefully navigate the inevitable suffering of our lives. Through the dialogue between present-self and child-self, we might hear answers that will invoke a renewed tenacity for purpose that upholds the life force within us.

I urge you to create a ritual in which you journal or write to the child-self. Once a week, three days in a row, whatever is sustainable in managing the feelings of your safety within.

What will your dialogue say?


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