Encountering the Inner Child

A few weeks back, my therapist and I were working on some EMDR around when I first started having any sort of ideation thoughts, which I started describing in a post late last year. In doing this work, and working through times in my childhood where I felt alone, she asked me to sit with my younger self, and ask her to let me help, to tell her that my grown up self had new tools, and we didn’t need to keep daydreaming about dying anymore. If she could trust me, I would help find other ways through the painful times.

First of all, before we even get into what happened next, every time we’re working with my younger self, and she has me “talk to her” and ask “her” things, it just takes a while to get used to. I very much live in my cognitive brain, and things like inner child work, or sitting with your younger self is very much one of those “therapy” things that feel crazier than my original diagnosis. Spending time, holding little paddles that alternate buzzing on each side, imagining sitting with a child version of myself and talking to her (me) – cognitively and logically, it doesn’t seem logical (or sane). However, one thing I’ve learned in therapy is that cognitive understanding and logical work is sometimes only half of the key. Even if I cognitively understand where a lot of my pain is coming from, and even if I am able to challenge the thoughts, there can still be pain and scar tissues in the emotional brain, in the more intuitive side of myself that hasn’t healed yet. I can know something in my head, but not know/understand it in my full self, if that makes sense. I can know something is true, cognitively and logically, but not necessarily believe it as true.

OK, so, weirdness of inner child work vaguely addressed, let’s go back to asking my younger self if she could lean on me and let me help find other ways through painful times and big feelings. You would think that, in talking to myself, I would always agree with me, right? Nope.

Wall with nope written
A big ol’ “NOPE”
Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash.com

I asked this younger self to trust me, to let me help, and she said “No!” I asked why she wouldn’t let me help, why she wouldn’t trust me, and she said that she couldn’t trust me, and that she didn’t need or want any help. She could do it all by herself.

Even after a couple of tries, I couldn’t make any progress. As we touched base between rounds of EMDR, I told my therapist this, and we agreed that I was, essentially, running into my own trust issues and defenses, and that we might need to work through those before making much more progress. She suggested that I spend the next round thanking my younger self for sharing how she felt, and letting her know the door was always open if she wanted to try letting me help. My therapist did advise that I shouldn’t try to steamroll her (which was my instinct), because that is how I’ve always handled things like this in the past: I’ve tried to suck it up, and steamroll forward with no space or time for feelings or any of that.

Holding Feelings
Sometimes, my therapist invites me to gently hold my feelings and honor them, rather than fight them.
Photo by Joseph Gruenthal on Unsplash.com

So, I took her advice, as weird as it seemed, and as counterintuitive as it was to my “normal” way of approaching things. Doing this, though, was very much in line with my February affirmation: “Old ways won’t open new doors.” In that particular session, nothing really felt resolved. In fact, over the following few days, it was rather frustrating that I had run into a wall and couldn’t immediately plow through it, like I’d wanted to. It goes back to the whole concept of wanting to skip the messy middle. I want to start a project and boom, it’s done relatively soon. Or at least has visible progress. Running into an obstacle, though, and just leaving it there, with kindness? That’s not something that is familiar to me. I would rather either plow through, or avoid the obstacle altogether.

Over the past couple of weeks, though, we’ve used our session time to sit with younger me, and we’ve made some progress, though I think that will have to be its own post.

Have you done inner child work? What was your experience?

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