ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY CENTRAL STANDARD TIME
Close your eyes and picture yourself as a young child. What do you see?
When I did this visualization exercise on a weekend retreat, I burst into tears by what I saw. The other participants had other strong reactions, and we talked about our images and I came to believe that what I saw was the core of who I was at the time. While I showed the world a successful, healthy, and fierce woman, I came face to face with my inner child who was wounded and traumatized.
The image you see may surprise you. It may hurt. But the hurt you carry can damage you in the present. Damage is seen in self-destruction, self-sabotage, self-loathing, unworthiness, lashing out, or being judgmental and critical. Deep down, you don’t have faith that you can count on and take care of yourself.
But you wouldn’t leave a child outside in the rain, so why would you leave the wounded inner child abandoned without care, forgiveness, and love?
My inner child was clearly hurt and damaged, and I ignored her. Partly, because I felt so much shame and blame for my childhood traumas that it just became easier to compartmentalize, and stuff it all away. Then I could invent the ‘self’ I wanted! I became a master of being who you wanted me to be. I kept adapting myself to the surroundings I was in, the master chameleon.
I barreled through life like an earth moving machine, with much success. Decades went by. But not dealing with the past resulted in rare but shocking outbursts that were toxic for me and others. I’d always apologize, but I just could not explain where this was coming from, until I did that visualization exercise. I knew then I was filled with hurt inside turned outward into rage from anger and resentment.
By looking in, I was able to see that the compartment I created for the hurt inner child was overstuffed and spilling out. There was no more ignoring it, no more blaming others. When we take our attention off ourselves and point a finger at others, we project our injured feelings onto them. It’s so much easier than looking inward. But since we co-create every situation in our life, our experiences with others become reflections of the healed or unhealed aspects of ourselves.
I was pushing people away, because I was not caring, forgiving, and loving myself.
Think of a situation that you felt you were unfairly criticized or judged. Think of how you reacted. Most people remember getting offended, or defensive. And while it’s lousy to be unfairly criticized, or judged, it’s not about you. It’s about someone projecting their unresolved feelings onto you. And truth be told, if you had never criticized or judged others it wouldn’t bother you. If we didn’t have toxic feelings stored up, we would not react to others’ upsets, complaints and grievances, we would merely listen. We get angry and reactive when we have unresolved issues that need and want resolution. It makes it hard to get along in the world if you’re broken and blaming.
Next time that happens, catch yourself, and say…’why am I so reactive to this?’ ‘what is really going on here?’ ‘why does this push my buttons?’ If you can get some objectivity, you might be able to see that it’s triggering a part of you that you haven’t cared for, forgiven, or accepted. You don’t like being reminded of it. No one does.
Often the pain that accompanies looking in is excruciating. It stings like scrubbing salt on an open wound. Because while we’re drowning in our righteous indignation and make others wrong, we are both victim and victimizer out of cowardice. I don’t want to live that way.
My inner child was alone in a dark hallway with her head buried in her knees.
Now she’s playing in a field of wildflowers.
I’m so glad I cared to look in on her.
Author - Rainee Denham