Yes, you are reading that correctly. After many years of self-reflective soul-searching, I seem to have arrived at The Inner Child. For those who don’t know me: I’m not an inner child kind of person. If anything, I’d be more of an ‘A2+B2=C2‘ kind of person. Or a ‘let’s fix this here and now’ kind of person. The inner child is just not for me; especially not the wounded one that is supposed to be nurtured and healed. Or the one wearing pink leggings and going on swings. Nonetheless, today I spent almost an hour talking about my inner child. And strangely, things kind of made sense.
Last night I had made a total PTSD mess of myself. First, Facebook had confronted me with a picture of my abuser (or so I thought; it turned out to be someone else who doesn’t even look like him). Upset, I tried to distract myself by doing the dishes, which resulted in hot water burning the back of my left hand. So I ran it under cold water and applied a soothing cream, which triggered another set of intrusive memories, until eventually my legs gave in and I fell (don’t worry, other than the hand I’m absolutely fine).
“Looking back, is there anything you could have done differently?”, my therapist asked. Admittedly, I could have chosen a safer distraction than washing dishes and cutlery in hot water. She agreed, but it was not the answer she was looking for. I could have detected my bodily signals of distress earlier? I should have known not to go on Facebook after a long day at work? I should have called an ambulance? She shook her head. I had no other ideas. “Did you at any point consider trying to comfort or sooth yourself?” she asked.
Obviously, I had not. “When you saw that picture on Facebook”, she patiently explained, “your thirteen-year-old self got very upset. Instead of jumping up to provide distraction, you, the thirty-year-old Ana, could have comforted that traumatised inner child. Look, you could have said, that’s not him in the picture; that’s someone else. I’m with you, and nothing bad will happen to you”.
I realised immediately that I can’t talk to my inner child like that. I just can’t. If I’d try my bestest best, I may manage a grumpy “you’ll be fine” or “come on now”. I hate my inner child, and not just because she’s so terribly incompatible with science. I hate her because she needs attention. I hate her because she can’t take care of herself. I hate her because she sleeps with a forty-year-old guy (even if she never wanted to). I hate her because she’s fat and ugly. I hate her because she’s me. If only she wasn’t me, I’d know exactly how to care for her. I would wrap her in a blanket, hold her, stroke her hair, stay with her and tell her she’s safe. And I would fight with all my might if anyone would ever try to hurt her again. But for the inner child that’s me, I have no clue where to start. I don’t even know her.
So, I may not be an inner child kind of person, but I’m not a very ‘happy and PTSD-free’ kind of person either. And that’s something I want to change. I decided I may consider accepting the existence of an inner child in myself, and make an attempt to get to know her. But on one condition: the inner child shall behave. No going on the swing, no whining over veggies, and no pink leggings. Does that sound like a reasonable start, Inner Child?
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