From back row, (L to R): Mom, Aunt Virginia, Uncle Doug, Maternal Grandmother, Aunt Priscilla, and Mother-in-Law of the bride. Middle row: Uncle Don, Uncle Dewey, Maternal Grandfather, my dad, and the best man. Front row: Using the names I used in Phoenix of Faith the book, Albert, Andy, me, Jimmy, and Davey.
Healing My Inner Child
Since the 1980s and 1990s I did much inner child work along with my therapist, as well as on my own, once I finished therapy. This year, during Mercury retrograde, I used this photo in a visualization to work with my inner child. If anyone has read, or is reading, Teal Swan’s book called Shadows Before Dawn, I’m using my own version of the suggested visualization on on page 87 under the title, “Using Visualization to Soothe Your Inner Self.” I relate to much of what Teal Swan writes because she, too, was trapped in a cult for many years and had to heal herself when she escaped as a young adult. Shadows Before Dawn reads,
“The mind seems to like to adopt all kinds of beliefs that, when we take a deep look at them, seem ridiculous. The idea that you don’t deserve something is one such belief. To help counter this belief, and replace it with a more positive and truthful view, I suggest that you find at least 20 minutes to sit down, close your eyes, and use the process of visualization to help you.”
So, based on Teal’s outline, I created the following scenario from my memory of that family wedding. It’s the only photo I have of myself when I was a young child and it brings back many feelings coming up which require a healing.
Visualization: Inner Child Work
“As I sit quietly, I imagine a safe and wonderful place. This place can be real or imagined, sort of like a personal heaven inside my own mind. Now I sit inside this safe place in my mind. I imagine myself as a child. I just allow the image to come into my mind. I allow it to be whatever it is. I see my self as a child who is very young, around five years old. I observe myself as this young child.
My five-year-old self is wearing a mauve dress with pink flowers that my mom sewed. I watch my five-year-old self at a wedding. It is my Aunt Virginia’s wedding when she is marrying Uncle Doug. We are at his parents’ house in Winnipeg, sitting on the grass in their front yard. I wonder why no one is allowed inside the house.
I watch while I see my five-year-old self shiver. She is feeling cold.
My remember how much my five-year-old self loved having curly hair. My mom curled her hair using what my mom called “rags.” We didn’t have curlers. Basically, mom used strips of cloth about a foot long to wrap my hair around. Once the hair was wrapped, Mom tied the ends of the cloth together. In the morning I had curly hair! Oh, how my young self loved to have curly hair!
I watch as Mom brings a small jacket that matches the mauve and pink dress with flowers and puts it on my five-year-old self. That feels a little better. Sometimes my mom did such thoughtful things, like curl my hair, and sew me a dress and a matching jacket. My dad didn’t want to “waste” money on little dresses, so if I needed a dress, my mom recycled a flared dress given by some sister at the kingdom hall or some neighbor. Mom was resourceful that way. After all, what was I supposed to wear to my Aunty’s wedding? Overalls? Anyway, I like that Mom brought the jacket to me when I needed it.
Me, the adult, watches a little longer as a photographer takes family pictures. I see my five-year-old self is sitting in the front row with my brothers. The grownups are in the back rows. It doesn’t feel like a happy day. No one is smiling. My young self is looking down at the grass. She still feels cold. She wonders why it is taking so long to take a few pictures.
And she’s still shivering.
It is getting close to suppertime and my little self is getting hungry. She has to pee. And it is getting damp down by the river, near to where Uncle Doug’s parents lived.
Me, the adult, is thinking about whether my little five-year-old self deserves happiness. I think about whether my little self deserves to be loved. Does that child deserve to be unhappy? Does that young child deserve to be deprived of warmth? Does that small child deserve to feel alone and unloved, as she so often felt?
I can never look at my childhood self and say that my inner child deserved to feel unhappy, deprived, and unloved. I know better than that when it comes to a child, any child. That thought made me appreciate how important it is to do the inner child work.
I stay with this visualization and scan back through my life between the age of five and the age that I am now. I try to identify the point in my life when I suddenly became undeserving of happiness and love. Can I find it?
The answer is always no.
I now scan back over my life and try to find a point at which that innocent child ceased to exist. Is there a point when that child died and suddenly an adult took its place?
The answer to that question is always no.
Interacting with My Inner Child
Now, my adult self is wearing a long shawl that reaches to the ground. It is soft, pink, warm, and made of beautiful wool. I imagine going up to that beautiful small child and introducing myself. I bend down to her and when she looks up at me, I say, “Hi Esther. You are me when I was five years old. I came to visit you because I want to let you know that you don’t have to be strong anymore. I’m all grown up now and it is time for me to take care of you. It’s time for us to just have fun. I want to tell you that you deserve to be loved. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to feel warm. You deserve to have anything you want and I am the one who will provide it all because I am ready to take care of you now. I love you so much. How may I serve you now? What can I do to give you a better experience of me?”
My sweet five-year-old child searches my eyes. Then, she reaches out to me for a hug and I move toward her lovingly and open my warm shawl and wrap her in my arms. I hold her for a long time. I comfort her the way she wants to be comforted, the way I wanted to be comforted at that age, on that day. I feel her shiver and I hug her longer. As long as she wants. I reassure her. “From now on I’m going to be with you to comfort you, keep you warm, and talk with you whenever you want.”
Then, I say to my five-year-old self, “Esther, I promise to hold you as long as you want. Later, when we are at home and you are safe, warm, and fed, we could draw a picture. Or we could sing, or we could play music, or we could dance. Or we could write a story. Or we could read a book. I promise to provide you with a safe place inside my mind forever. We can sleep restfully until morning. Then, we will awaken feeling wonderful and loved. Then we could do fun things and eat all your favorite healthy foods. We could go for a walk and visit the stream and sing with the birds and fairies. We will have such a wonderful life together!
I love you so much, Esther. Mmmmm…I love you so much.”
So, that’s my visualization to soothe my inner child. As part of my inner child work, I read my exercises out loud into my voice recorder and listen to it at night at those times when I experience insomnia. I find it completely soothing.
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