All of us have experienced things in childhood – trauma and wounds that we still carry around today as adults. These wounds can range all the way from being very hurt at a specific comment or by a specific person and can go all the way to abuse.
All of us are carrying around wounds that have yet to be healed. Our inner child is crying out for it to be healed.
**TW: The following deals with mentions of domestic violence and mild molest.**
Growing up with domestic violence
Personal story – I grew up in a household that felt unsafe. of course I didn’t have the vocabulary back then to describe my emotions. But my parents had an incredibly tumultuous marriage. They of course had their own baggage and issues that they didn’t deal with in their own lives and when they ended up together – it was a toxic pairing.
Domestic violence was a common thing in the house. My earliest memory of my parents fighting and my dad hitting my mum occurred when I was around 5 years old. I probably had witnessed other things before but that was my earliest memory. I remember my mum crying, squatting in the middle of the room and confused little me put my arms around her and offered her the cup of water my dad, her abuser, gave to me.
There was constantly alot of anger and rage in the house. Lots of bitterness. Lots of fights. There was a fight every month and it continued right up until I was in my mid-20s.
Today, there are still harsh words exchanged and tempers flare quickly – over the smallest things.
The result? I grew up feeling anxious all the time. I disliked loud noises and any sort of conversation between them with raised voices triggered me because I always thought a fight would ensue. I felt unsafe at home. I found it difficult to assert myself, couldn’t speak up. I struggled with expressing my fears, anxiety, anger and sadness.
I bottled up alot of emotions and couldn’t communicate my emotions or needs well. I was always vigilant, scanning the environment for any slight whiff of a fight about to ensue. This has given me the ability to be incredibly astute and insightful about human behaviour today, but boy, did my younger self suffer through so much of anxiety and guilt.
Difficulty with boundaries
When I first sprouted boobs around 9 years old, I remembered my chest being touched a couple of times, making it seem accidental. I told nobody til I was in my 20s.
My mum would constantly put down my looks and criticise my dressing. This continues even until today. I realised she does it often as in her mind, dressing well = successful/way to bag a guy (eyeroll) and she was very judgmental about her own looks.
The result? I had very low self-esteem around my looks – much of which has disappeared, but only recently. I only paid attention to guys’ looks, dated men I found good looking and was convinced I was ugly. And when a guy didn’t return my affections? Yup. It was because I was ugly.
I struggled with boundaries, and later on, physical boundaries in relationships and tended to attract men who had very little respect for my boundaries when it came to my body.
Punished for mistakes and failures
I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes. in fact I was always punished – be it at home or in school for making mistakes, not paying attention in class (I was always a dreamy sort) or just generally not “falling in line”. Everything had to be obeyed to the T, rules were to be followed, not broken. Authority (parents, teachers, anyone older, rules) were not to be questioned.
The result? I had a very odd relationship with success and failure growing up. I never felt that whatever I did was ever enough and I could never soothe myself properly whenever I did not get a full score on a test. I liked studying but never found any delight in doing that day and night, memorising stuff from textbooks.
I indulged in self-handicapping, called in sick when I needed to rise to the occasion. Whenever I did not get something I wanted to, I branded myself a failure and found it difficult to have the courage or resiliency to continue. I gave up easily.
Perceived non-acceptance with my personality
I was always punished for my personality. I had a very exuberant, playful, mischievous sort of personality – loud, misbehaving, impulsive. Not “good” enough for my mum or the teachers in my preschool, no siree. So I was shushed, slapped on the leg – by an abusive school principal no less – and was always punished.
Children were not supposed to be so loud and playful. No. The quiet, obedient ones were well-liked. Got good grades? You were rewarded. Studious and obeyed the rules? You were rewarded too.
So growing up, I never felt that my personality was anything that would be rewarded by teachers and as I wanted to be liked so much, I constantly suppressed the real me and followed authority meekly.
The result? Suppression of my personality continued well into adulthood and even to this day, I find myself filtering out parts of my personality that I think won’t be liked by others. I always feel that my true personality will be judged and I never had the confidence to completely by myself. I over-filtered whatever I said or did. Wore the clothes only my mum said I should wear.
I was worse in front of people I liked romantically – I retreated into myself even further and came off stiff, aloof and disinterested. I also probably came off socially awkward and anxious. I’ve only started in recent years being more open about my personality, not caring what other thought and being totally okay with people not liking me. Those who do will find a way into my life experience.
Not being allowed or given the opportunity to experience things
I remembered being disallowed to do many things. We didn’t eat out much as a family as “outside food was bad and expensive”, I wasn’t allowed much toys to play with. My dad in particular always had issues holding down a proper job, so money was always an issue. It felt like we couldn’t afford most things.
The result? I grew up not knowing how to reward myself. I didn’t really understand the concept of “unwinding” or chilling out. I didn’t know what it meant to eat out with family – that concept was strange, weird, unfamiliar to me.
I grew up having so many limiting beliefs around money – beliefs I still carry around today. When I was a young adult, I would pick jobs that paid me little, I didn’t feel like I deserved more money or could earn more. I felt like I constantly couldn’t afford things. I felt like money was never enough – that only the “rich” deserved comfortable lives.
Repressing emotions and vulnerability
My parents were and are still awful at expressing emotions. I’ve never once heard an “I love you” or “I’m sorry” in the household. I was a sensitive child. I’m someone that needed love, affection, support – those of the nurturing, caring sort.
Instead I got the tough love type of treatment from my mum and an incredibly stilted, emotion-less sort of nurturing from my dad. I’ve realised that they both struggle with their own emotions and probably never learnt to express it properly when they were younger themselves.
The result? I grew up feeling unloved. I latched onto friends who weren’t good for me and had these really intense, obsessive friendships which left me feeling abandoned and incredibly sad when they found new friends. I grew up not knowing how to love myself, or nurture myself.
Later, I was attracted to emotionally unavailable men, probably because a part of me felt like I didn’t deserve any type of the healthy sort of love. I also latched onto men who were always somehow not right for me, but I persisted due to the attention.
Yes, attention that anyone gave me was addictive. I craved it. I also found myself in lots of fantasy relationships/crushes – with celebs and guys I didn’t know well in real life. Probably cause I would never get a chance to know them, so it effectively saved me from having to be vulnerable in my relationships.
Ah vulnerability. Something I struggled with my whole life. Expressing emotions – besides anger – were foreign to me. Crying? In front of people? Unheard of. I’d cry at the drop of a hat in private though – over seemingly frivolous things. Thank God for my humour and optimism in my personality, because I have no idea which dark path I’d have gone on, if not for those traits.
How do you reparent your inner child?
So yes, those are just some of the main themes in my childhood. Every one of us would have stories of our own to tell. Some very dark tales that we’ve buried and have dragged them along into all other areas of our adulthood.
I personally would recommend therapy of some sort. Although I’ve not been to one formally, working with spiritual healers and meditating, journaling and just being conscious of when my inner child would come up helped me alot in soothing myself and taking a step back from my reactions.
Tip #1: Soothe and affirm your inner child
Trauma from childhood tends to have adverse effects on our nervous system, such that it is primed to react in the same ways when similar (but not necessarily identical) triggers show up in our experience. For example, when I hear loud voices – my heart palpitates and if I’m asleep, I will sit up awake in fear. They remind me of my parents’ fights.
At times like this, your inner child is activated and those feelings he/she felt back when you were younger would also be activated – anxiety, stress, fear etc. I like soothing my inner child by telling her everything is okay, and older me is now around to protect her. That I’d be able to solve the issue and won’t allow her to feel helpless like she did when she was younger.
Use affirmations and talk to your inner child/younger you in a soothing manner. You will find yourself feeling better in no time!
Tip #2: Listen to your emotions. Process them. Feel more.
Observe the children around you. Do they process the world through their emotions or logic? Or they express themselves through feelings or rational thought?
Children are a huge ball of feelings and emotions. And any number of experiences like mine above, can damage or affect the way emotions are processed and felt.
So, start to feel into yourself more. When you feel emotions bubbling up, sit with it and process it. Accept it. Do not try to push it away or push it down. There might be an urge to intellectualise it too – you can, but allow yourself to feel the emotion first.
This can be difficult to do if you’ve been constantly told to “stop crying” or “be strong” when you were younger – and it can be uncomfortable to experience emotions like sadness or anger, which could be associated with past trauma.
So be gentle with yourself.
Tip #3: Do what your inner child wants to do
You might have had to follow plenty of rules as a kid and always denied and disallowed from doing things. Well, right now you are much more grown and it’s time to indulge your inner kid and give her/him all the freedom they never got!
So – do whatever your inner child desires. Eat all the chicken wings you want, lay in bed all day, attend a dance class and have fun. The idea is not to overdo it but to give your inner child moments of joy that she/he may have craved back then but didn’t manage to get.
You will be surprised at how effective this can be in rebalancing and sustaining your energy! Next time you feel tired or down, just ask your inner child what he/she wants to do and indulge them!
I’ve been resting alot in between jobs and just letting my inner child run my day and have never felt so happy and full of life.
Tip #4: Forgive your inner child and everyone else
One incredibly important process to get through is that of forgiveness – forgiving your inner child and whoever was around her/him back then.
As children, we are entirely dependent on adults, to look after us, nurture us and protect us. However, some of these adults may have failed you in some way – either intentionally or unintentionally, because they have their own unresolved baggage they are dragging around.
It can be a very difficult process, but what I’ve found that has worked for me is to forgive them for what they did (or did not do). This can bring up alot of emotions for you, so do ensure you are well-hydrated and give yourself some quiet time to go through this. You may find it easier to do it with someone like a therapist.
Another person that needs forgiving is your child self. As kids, we may have an idea of what is happening to us, but we may not have the language or the ability to put it into words. We were still making sense of the world around us and may not be able to properly process what we experienced back then.
So, cut your kid self some slack. Forgive him/her for whatever transpired and comfort them! They need to hear it – many of our inner children carry around alot of shame and guilt. Let them know that all is well and adult you will take good care of her/him!
Where to from here
Do I hate my parents? To be honest, a part of me is frustrated with my mum stiill, and a part of me still dislikes my dad and resents him for what he’s done. But once I’ve gotten to the realisation that they carry around their own demons, probably had really unresolved emotional baggage from childhood and did not receive the resources or help to process them well, I stop blaming and resenting them for how they acted.
It doesn’t condone what they did (those nasty teachers included) but it helps me better process my childhood and forgive them for their role in shaping me.
As an adult though, I am determined to make amends for my inner child, and make her feel safe and loved again!