Healing the Child Within
Have you ever experienced a moment of dread when your boss calls you into his office, just knowing that you will be called out on something even though you haven’t done anything wrong? Once in your bosses office perhaps you are praised and affirmed or maybe your boss just wanted to give you some more data about whatever it is you are working on, or simply wanted an update as to how the project is going? You expected the worst and in the end discovered you had nothing to worry about after all.
Have you ever done everything in your power to make sure your spouse, friends, neighbors, or the person sitting next to you at your place of worship, is pleased with you or is as happy as you can possibly make them? Have you ever been worried that their attitude toward you might sour and in the end they would push you away?
Have you ever watched others having fun, being silly, while not having a care in the world of what others think about them, and long to join in but were afraid to take that step? Joy is so close that you could reach out and touch it, but it would be wrong for you to take hold of it even though you have no idea why it is right for them and wrong for you.
More than likely you are reacting out of the past pain of childhood. What is happening in your present circumstances reminds you of something from your past circumstances. The child within you had no power at such a young age and so could not fend for himself. This trauma memory became frozen or stuck inside of you and now whenever something reminds you of this memory, those old familiar response impulses come back. Maybe your impulse is to run and hide, or to fight? Or maybe you check out altogether, dissociating until the moment passes and you feel safe once again?
It is important to remember that you are no longer the small defenseless child. You are now an adult who has power and choice. You can protect that little one inside you that so needed someone to come to his rescue at a tender age but instead was left to fend for himself. Take a breath. Assure the child within that you are there to protect him now and that those around you love you and will not abandon you.
Just because we feel something is true does not mean that it is true. Challenge your belief. Why are you unable to join in the fun and silliness? For instance, going back to joining in a fun and silly situation: if everyone is okay with the group of people letting their hair down a little bit why would they single you out and tell you that you cannot or should not do the same? So first, challenge the belief and second you need to follow the impulse. Step into the fun and silliness to further challenge your fear and wrong belief.
If you continue to pull back or think the worst is going to happen and that it is your job to make everyone else happy, always placing others needs and emotions before your own, I would invite you to consider finding a good counselor and do some work around trauma and the inner child.
There is a child inside us all that needs to be loved and reminded of how worthy he is. Loving him begins with you.
Thaddeus Heffner is a marriage and family therapist in the greater Nashville, Tennessee area. He is a member in good standing with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the Nashville Area Association of Christian Counselors. Visit Thaddeus Heffner at thaddeusheffner.com.