There is in fact healing in mediation and visualization of the child you were before the damage was done to your “self.” My parents emotionally abused me for the better part of my life, and obviously the younger I was, the worse it was. It was especially those years between 3 and 12 or so when the verbal attacks created the “split” in my brain between the person I really was in my heart and the person they said I was. I have had so much exposure to the theories of Inner Child work from various authors as well as clinicians, but I don’t think I ever did the work until now…until the desperation set it because nothing else is working. I always thought it was silly and that I didn’t need to “meditate” on what they did to me because I know it perfectly well. They stole my self-esteem and made me afraid of everything. They made me perform as the “perfect” child or they withheld affection. My father required this until he died and my mother still does.
I recently told my mother I need time away from her because she is a trigger for my emotional turmoil. And I’m not sure when I’ll let her back into my “circle.” This was a decision I made because it was time to stop the ongoing abuse…you see she simply demands her right to say whatever she likes to me despite my being an adult and a parent now. According to her, I am still her daughter and she has a right to her opinions, according to her. But I also cut off from her because up until then I had refused to do my own work and it was finally time to do so. That work is to re-parent that inner child and to re-order her self-conception as it was inflicted on her. Sure, for years in therapy I rehashed and complained…”They didn’t love me. They were miserable and didn’t get the help they needed. They abused me to release their own pain,” all of which is completely accurate. It is accurate, but only in the abstract because other than the instances of the worst abuse, I have barely any memory of those years that include my parents. I have memories of the people who were kind and fun and brought joy into my life, but not of my parents. So it is accurate to say they abused me for all the above reasons but there was a further truth available to me that is quite helpful and I hadn’t realized it until now. And it only came about through a deep meditation, which brought up the real feelings of a 5 or 6-year-old girl left all alone most of the time trying to figure out how to make her parents love her.
My first real memory of myself at that age, and most of my memories of that period of life, when I am at “home” (their home), I am alone. Invariably alone in my room playing. But not just playing…I am learning to perform. I am memorizing nursery rhymes so that my parents could put me on display for their friends. I am teaching myself how to read music and play the organ (we didn’t have a piano at that time) also to provide them with bragging rights. I am teaching myself how to read books way above grade-level. The interesting part is no other adult is ever with me in these memories. And it makes sense. Because I know from my experiences when I was older and can remember more clearly, that my parent were so caught up in their own lives and with the new baby (who came when I was nearly 6), that no one had time for me unless I was performing. Unless I was doing something extra special that they could brag to their friends about. Otherwise, they had no use for me really. “You are sullen and a cold fish,” I was told. I didn’t smile enough. “You have a sour disposition,” my father always said. I think rather I was petrified that I’d run out of ways to get them to pay attention to me. I wouldn’t be able to pull off the next “feat of strength” to win their love. And since I believed him about being sour and that no one would ever love me, I had to make them love me. Otherwise I’d always be alone. Performing was the way to do that. The alternative: showing my pain, crying, needing something, now that was the worst behavior I could display. Those methods of getting attention resulted in more abuse and ultimately punishment. And punishment invariably took the form of isolation. Consistent isolation for a child that age is torture. And I remember it viscerally. I was not welcome. Only the “perfect” little girl got to leave her room and be a member of the family. And even she was skating on thin ice. She had no heroes in that household. No advocate. But thanks to the meditation work and the visualization of my adult self in that picture, keeping that little girl from feeling isolated, she is not feeling so alone these days. She has a protector now. Someone who thinks she’s amazing and tells her so. And things don’t look so bleak through her eyes anymore.
Most importantly she is instructing me on how to be a better parent. I feel almost like I can look out through my children’s eyes now and I know what they expect to see mirrored back at them. I hope I live up to what they deserve.