I asked for help in understanding the "inner child" concept and how it relates to recovery. This is my compromise between the extremes of "Don't go there" and "Embrace and nurture" - my interpretation of the responses. i decided to write to my younger self and explain what I have learned from experience, reading, therapy, and MOST OF ALL - this MS site and the Forums. THANK YOU ALL for the many things i have learned from you. Your bravery in being vulnerable has been the biggest help of all in whatever positive progress I have made. It has been even more valuable than my therapy sessions. many times in therapy i find myself quoting or refering to something one of you has shared. My T follows up on that but it wouldn't have come up without the discussions here.
So - here it is - what i wish i had known. Not that it's original or that i've fully understood or accepted or believe or apply all of it. But I aspire to it. I hope it will encourage someone else.
Dear younger me,
I don’t know how to do this because I/you never had this modeled for us. No one ever told you or me the things we needed to hear, the things that would help us get through the hard times, the things that would help us feel better. As the older, and I hope, wiser version of you, I want to tell you some things that I wish someone had told you/me many years ago. Since they didn’t then, this will have to do:
You are of great value in yourself. You do not have to earn it or prove it or find it or achieve it or work for it – the value is already there because you are a unique individual that God created and that no one else will ever be able to duplicate. No matter how much anyone else tries to de-value you, do not believe them or accept it. Do not let them force you to believe their lies.
You are smart and good and handsome and creative. If they cannot see that or admit it, it is their loss and problem. You may not believe it yourself but it is true and there is evidence to support it.
You had a right to expect and receive respect, protection, validation, recognition of your value and gifts. You should have been able to live free from fear, guilt and defensiveness. You should have been loved, cherished and nurtured. The adults around you failed you and betrayed you. They were not worthy role models as parents, teachers, leaders or authority figures. Instead they either actively abused you or passively allowed abuse to take place and continue. They are guilty of Sins of Omission, being Accessories, Enablers, and Contributors. They assented by not objecting and condoned by their silence.
The bad things that happened to you were not and are not your fault. You did not want it or ask for it or seek it or deserve it. You did not bring this upon yourself by any choice or action or thought or inborn flaw or vibration or subconscious attraction. You did not agree to it or participate in it willingly or assent to it by your silence or passivity or submission. Nor was it valid to “teach you a lesson” or “toughen you up” or “make a man of you” or “good for you” in some other twisted, rationalized excuse. Even though the things that were done to you precipitated physical sensations and emotional feelings on your part, those were involuntary reflex reactions – not anything that you could prevent or suppress. Those responses were, in fact, proof that you were normal and healthy and just like any other boy or man.
There is evil in the world and there are people who choose to do evil and there are other people who suffer for their decisions and actions. You are one of the latter, not one of the former.
You are far stronger that you think or feel you are. You are resourceful and resilient and show great ingenuity and perseverance in your struggle to survive and thrive. You will succeed in overcoming many obstacles. Some bad stuff from your childhood will continue to haunt you and try to handicap you, but you can fight it and make progress against those crippling ghosts. If I could, I would help you in your difficult journey, but for long stretches of time you will feel very alone. You are a survivor – not just a victim!
There will be times when everything looks dark and bleak and hopeless. Hang on – it will get better. There will be bright spots along the way – periods of joy and contentment that are a promise and foretaste of how life can be and should be. Enjoy those to the fullest whenever you can and be thankful for them. The memories of those good times can help when everything feels like it has always been and always will be totally dark. Keep moving onward and upward toward that light. You will make it.
The hurt you are feeling seems never-ending. It will last a long time, but it is not everlasting. Some pains will diminish with time and effort and knowledge and growth. Some may end completely. You can endure even the ones that hang on persistently and stubbornly. When you start to face up to the root causes of the pain and begin digging them up, it will feel worse before it feels better. Someone said that if you can survive abuse, you can survive recovery. For it does get better if you hold on and keep working at it.
There will be times when you wonder if it might not be better and easier and more comfortable to just give up or die and end all the pain. Don’t go there. It is worth the hard work to heal.
There will be those who will not be aware of what you have been through or will deny and negate it and its effects. There will be some who do not care what you have been through or will know but not be able to understand or empathize. There will be some who blame you and judge and condemn and reject and hate. But there will be others that will understand where you are coming from and how you have become who you are and the demons you wrestle with. There will also be some precious heroes who overcome their own shame and brokenness to reach out and empathize and offer grace and acceptance and love. They can help if you will let them. They will freely give of their own costly treasures of experience and encouragement and wisdom and compassion and acceptance.
You do not have to continue to be alone.
You must forgive yourself.
You must accept yourself.
You must trust yourself.
You must learn to love yourself.
And then you will be more able to forgive, accept, trust and love others.
And you will become a gift and a blessing to others.
With regret, grief, empathy, love, and hope,
Lee (in the present)
"My experience has shown me that I all too often tend to deny that which lies behind, but as I still believe, that which is denied cannot be healed." Brennan Manning, "All is Grace - A Ragamuffin Memoir"