It’s never too late to be a happy child.
I was 12 when I told my mother one day – ‘Mum, we need to get out of here!’
Little did I know that these words would shape my life, for years to come.
Few months later, we had indeed left my father and his house and I inadvertently became my mother’s helper, partner, best friend, confidante, co-parent for my younger brother. I was nearly everything from then on, except a normal child. There didn't seem to be space left, for that.
Not that I was that before leaving. But I hoped that leaving will, by some means, give me the attention, the normality I longed to receive.
There is no blame or judgement in this towards my parents though – they hadn’t come from functional families either and they had never received what I was looking for them, to provide me with.
Mostly, I feel that we can pass on something when we have been given it. A bit like a baton in a running race. If the runner before you doesn’t hand it over, the only way the next runner can have it is if you craft one yourself, along the way. But some life races are run fast and the terrain is so barren that it’s impossible for a baton to be made on the go. In spite of the best intentions.
But of course, even without the ‘baton’, I lived through those childhood and teenage years, finding spells of carefree joy from time to time. I had friends in school who now tell me that I looked like a fun, normal girl, most of the time.
On the inside though, I almost never felt ‘normal’, let alone ‘fun’. I now know that I’d learnt to adapt and to show what I felt my surroundings needed me to show. I'd become an expert at that, without ever having a clue about this expertise of mine. I thought that’s just the way I am.
Until gradually, life began to show me that this isn’t the way I am.
And the world isn’t the way I think it is.
As if an internal shell began to crack and pieces of the real me started to spill out. I had no idea what they were or what to do with them so, I rolled up my sleeves and began learning.
Researching. Discovering. Experimenting. Gathering the pieces. Understanding them. I left no stone unturned.
Of course, there was darkness and rupture and pain on the way but as Dr. Edith Eger, a Holocaust survivor and psychologist, says – ‘The opposite of Depression is Expression. What comes out of you doesn’t make you ill. What stays in, does.’
All along, I felt I was healing, expanding, opening up to my life..
I now know, more than 1o years on since this process began, that if our wholeness, our intrinsic sense of self, has been injured, especially by our primary caregivers, this is an inevitable point in our lives – this ‘shell-cracking’ and ‘spilling’ is something that cannot be avoided.
Or replaced with something milder, orderly and less turbulent. Yet, I see so many people try to do exactly that because just like me back then, they have no idea what is happening.
But whether we know it or not, we get to the same point. Of no return. Of rebirth, renewal and discovery.
And our wholeness doesn’t have to be so battered, cases of a completely broken childhood, are not that common. It is enough that a fragment of our essential nature has been suppressed and that would still trigger that process, of returning to wholeness.
My message here is - there’s no need to fear anything. And it doesn’t need to be a grim process throughout. Yes, there is discomfort. There are breaking points. There is unearthing of buried feelings, which causes emotional pain. There is darkness.
But ultimately, there is light. That’s our Light. The one we learnt to dim (or even turn off) so we can stay alive, safe and/or accepted, a.k.a. loved.
The Jungian analyst Robert Johnson calls this light ‘Inner Gold’ in his last book of the same name. There he says – ‘Inner gold is the highest value in the human psyche. It is our soul, the Self, the innermost part of our being. It is us at our best, our twenty-four-karat gift to ourselves. Everyone has inner gold. It isn’t created, but it does have to be discovered.’
The reason I’m writing this today is to do my share in raising awareness about this significant and so potent stage in our lives. Of late, more and more of my dear clients and friends come up to face stages of this process, some feel frightened and alone on this path, others less so.
To begin with, it takes some understanding, ideally some support but most of all, it takes that pure, unadulterated curiosity and courage, so native to a child.
And that is never lost in us. It lives on. No matter what happened in early life. The Inner Child can not be dimmed or switched off. It is our innermost/real/authentic Self. It’s who we came here TO BE. It is represented by our intact wholeness, before we began to chip away at it and hide the pieces (even from ourselves).
It is called ‘Inner Child’ because psychologically, it is represented by and made up of our deepest, most innocent, primordial emotions, feelings, ways of being and expressing ourselves, of perceiving the world. Some teachers in this field equate it with our entire subconscious mind.
Anatomically, it is our limbic system – the so called ‘emotional brain’.
On the densest, most general level, it is represented by our body. How often do you hear this common cliché – listen to your body, it knows?
On whichever level we look at it, the key is to re-connect with and then trust that innocent and pure inner being, to give us essential pointers. But it’s equally important to step in, at times and take its hand, as a wise elder. We need to become the force of what we didn't receive, we need to craft that ‘baton’, on the way. This is the magic ingredient, in my experience.
Functionally re-parenting ourselves, re-learning to play, becoming brutally honest again, forgetting time occasionally, consciously stepping out of fear, eating and resting when we feel like, seeking new experiences each day, each hour, where possible, staying present, being curious, choosing to shift out of negative moods, of judgement, orienting towards the most fun thing in each moment or situation, returning to our creativity, sticking to a healthy routine yet remembering that spontaneity is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.
There are many ways we can connect with the child within. Each one of us, intuitively knows them.
And we don’t need to do these all day, every day. Snippets here and there, to start with, will create changes and those changes will compound to create bigger and bigger shifts over time.
And then, onwards.