Last week, I grudgingly admitted that I might, perhaps, in one way or the other, benefit from taking a closer look at ‘My Inner Child’. Or, actually, from taking a look at that inner child at all; because until now, I have persistently and relentlessly denied her existence. Frankly, all I hear these days is my inner scientist: “I can’t see the inner child; I can’t touch, hear or interact with the inner child; therefore the inner child can not exist”. Yet, I am determined to give her a fair chance. Because ultimately, it would be kind of nice to not be so harsh on myself the entire time.
So far, even the smallest steps in the inner child’s direction have proven to be giant leaps. My mind seems to throw up barriers whenever it can. “Could you say something nice to her?”, my therapist asks casually, as if talking to invisible children is totally normal. I can only think of mean things; the kind of things I would shout rather than say. I really do try to come up with something, but I’m lost for words. The more we try, going backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards, the more my brain refuses to cooperate.
Being unable to speak feels familiar in an unpleasant way. Around the age of fourteen, I couldn’t speak for several months. My ‘silent phase’ had started shortly after the abuse had stopped. Looking back, I think that the intense fear, the loneliness and the pressure I was putting on myself to speak together caused my brain to go on lockdown. While trying (and failing) to come up with some kind words for that inner child of mine, the memories of these dark months take me by surprise and throw me off my feet. Seeing myself in a classroom full of girls I can’t communicate with makes me feel lonely and frightened, just like I felt back then.
“Why don’t you take your fourteen-year-old self by the hand and bring her back here with us?”, my therapist suggests. And quite to my own surprise, before she has even finished that sentence I have moved my inner fourteen-year-old away from that classroom. Immediately, my anxiety drops a level or two, and I think “AHA! Nailed it, well done Ana!” Until, one second later, I realise what exactly I’ve just done. I feel as if watching myself on CCTV footage, except that I’m watching the both of me: my thirty-year-old self violently grabs the fourteen-year-old by her arm, yanks her out of that classroom, and drags her limp little body into the therapy room. Mission accomplished, alright. But I’m appalled by what just happened, or rather, by what I just did. I would never, ever, in my life treat anyone this way. Never. Yet I readily assaulted that child right there. How am I capable of so much violence? How can I hurt a child like that, without hesitating and without remorse?
I play those one-and-a-half or two seconds of CCTV footage again and again in my head, as if trying to convince my inner scientist. “Look, you can see her now”. Even if only for one second, she’s there and you may want to treat her with a little bit more respect next time. Although perhaps I was wrong about my inner scientist throwing up barriers. Perhaps the inner child herself was trying to stay away from me. I certainly would, if I were her. I would turn my face away and make myself invisible, just like I saw her do.
These one-and-a-half or two seconds with my inner child were probably among the most insightful seconds in years. We’re not quite talking yet, let alone being nice to each other, but at least I’ve seen her and that’s something. Nailed it, well done Ana! Gosh, I may even become an inner child kind-of-person one day…
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