I remember sitting at my P.C one morning. Fiddling with the keys, having an attack of 'writers block'. My intention was to begin to write my story. However it's not a nice story and I'd been brought up to put on a happy face even if turmoil reigned supreme on the inside. I really didn't want to dump the details on readers and I had to somehow convey to people that this happened to a real person. Where and how to start seemed to run around my head and go nowhere.
I remember thinking about my childhood, trying to recall how I felt as a child. I'd been going along to counseling and learning more about my feelings- about how I'm feeling now, so I asked myself well how did I feel as a child?
Whenever I thought about how I was feeling it became a theoretical exercise- I got in my head. We men are good at thinking about our feelings, and as soon as we do this we sabotage our ability to contact our authentic feelings. Back to my childhood. How did I feel as a child? I didn't know and this bothered me. It was as if I had shut myself off from my childhood feelings. I went blank, when I thought about it. I then tried to go over major events as a child; my first day at school, my birthdays, my sister's birth and I quickly realized that I had no memory of these. Whilst memories of the abuse I suffered were slowly leaking out I had this niggling, uncomfortable, unease about how I felt as a child. This separation from my childhood feelings cut very deep within me. I was reading my journal and it was full of what happened and lacked how it felt. I was beginning to get into some very traumatic memories and noticing that I was having dreams about having dreams! That was how hard it was for me to get in touch with those all important childhood feelings.
As I was scanning through all of this I thought well how would it be if I asked my child to tell me his story? How would it be if I really listened to him? Got to know him? Where and how would I start? It then dawned on me that I could start by writing him a letter. I must admit that I felt more than a little silly and embarrassed, however it was a starting point and I believe in making an effort and starting just to see how it will turn out. My letter was a peace offering to Little John. Apologizing for ignoring his screams to be heard and asking him to tell me in his own words how he felt about being so badly hurt.
The reply I got back was most unexpected. It told me a lot about little John and the effects of the abuse on him. Firstly he didn't want to talk about his feelings- they were not important to him. Secondly he avoided reminders of the abuse, eg. He talked about the games he liked to play and then said he didn't like playing chasey, 'it sort of reminds me about something else', he said, 'but I wont worry about that'! I learnt that he like me avoided difficult to handle feelings. I also learnt that he coped by not talking about it, that he was good at keeping secrets and that he didn't trust me! What's this person want by talking to me after all these years of not listening? I learnt that Little John didn't trust anybody. He had engrained in him the message that it's not worth talking about problems; no body listens and at the deepest core of this message was you will get killed if you talk. Not that this bit of the programming came out in his first letter back to me.
In response to his reply I quickly adjusted my line of enquiry. If I persisted with the please tell me your secrets all I would get in reply would be NO, NO, NO!
So I began to see that I needed to build up my relationship with him before he would begin to trust me. I asked myself the question if I were a little boy again what would I want? How would I want to be treated? From this basis we proceeded with getting to know each other and building up that trust.
Then as time moved on I began to discover the real reasons behind my fears, behind my inability to feel and stay with feelings. Then the secrets came out. All the hurt, the feelings of anger, mistrust, ugly hurting stinking, rotten, I'm a nobody messages came out and then we had to rebuild the basis for living.
I discovered that I was horribly abused that Little John was curled up in a tight ball, crying (quietly) to himself, hurting, angry but not able to express his anger because he lived in a 'happy house'. He had learnt that anger was not a feeling that was appreciated or welcome in this house.
This is where I really like the powerfully healing aspect of inner child work. It focused our attention on the reality of our childhood, it highlights the need to repair and rebuild and it gives value to the need of a child to grow up in an environment that respects the need of the child to grow up loved, appreciated, valued, safe, free to feel, love and be loved. All of this was missing in my childhood as a result of the abuse.
Rebuilding the home our inner child lives in.
One thing I did was to get into the habit of asking Little John what did he want. I mean if we are to rebuild trust then the child's opinion really matters- it never did! What sort of home did Little John want to grow up in?
After the secrets came out I said to myself that Little John needs to live in a safe home, if nothing else it needs to be safe. I set about building a home for him to grow up in because I discovered that he hadn't had the chance to grow up.
Inner child work gives us the chance as adults to re-parent our inner child, allowing them to receive the love and care they missed out on, allowing us to reprogram the messages they took on board about themselves, their world, their sexuality, their feelings, their relationships. Many of these messages have come out of a twisted and warped world where it is ok to use children, where it is ok to hurt them, where it is ok to inflict the horror and deep shame of sexual abuse on the innocence of a trusting child.
The powerful thing about inner child work is that it's possible to re-parent our hurt child, it's possible because they live in us, they haven't been killed as I discovered, and out of the abuse we all have a deep connection to our child. I relate to this when I ask people to tell me how they would not treat a child. Immediately they come up with many things they would not do. All we have to do is harness our anger, our hate of what was done and turn that into determination not to treat ourselves in this way and then begin to learn how to care for our own inner child with the respect they deserve. I certainly grew up when I began to care for Little John the way he deserved. The color returned into my life I began to feel and deal with much hurt and then enjoy learning to trust life.
I can now connect building a safe home for Little John with my own practice as a social welfare officer. The sort of bottom lines I have for myself, of giving time for me to unwind, and to practice safely above all else, has meant that I enjoy my work, survive the tough times with clients and allow them time to deal with issues has worked for me.
I have grabbed the opportunity to learn about myself and instead of spending all of my time avoiding my feelings, take time to deal with them and time to live and love freely who I am.
Finally if you have difficulty touching base with your feelings I have devised a quick and simple list, which may highlight some of the feelings, and issues you have within. It's called the 'I HATE LIST'
I hate………for me it's electric shocks, brussell sprouts, tight collars around my neck, the color red, the smell of dog droppings, needles, the smell of ether, being told what to do, I could go on. These things are connected to feelings, to events and they can highlight areas we can seek out support for and areas we can begin to listen to the voice of our precious inner child.