Editor’s note: The following post was written by the Lovefraud reader “Adelade.”
The first epiphany of my recovery from the exspath’s damage was when my astute counselor identified my “shame-core.” In that same session, it was suggested that I read Healing The Shame That Binds You, by Bradshaw. Since I was grasping for any and every lifeline, I undertook this suggestion with a tenacity that, even in retrospect, still astounds me. I needed answers and my counselor rather shoved me in that direction, mercilessly. I use the term, “mercilessly,” because it seemed harsh at the time, but it was a truly caring and merciful shove.
In a nutshell, my “shame-core” was a system of beliefs that caused me to feel that I was unworthy of love, undeserving of acceptance, and wholly invalid. Why and how this core of beliefs was formed isn’t as important as the work it took (and, still takes) to dispel those flawed beliefs. The work is not pleasant or comfortable.
Hello “inner child”
Meeting my “inner child” was one of the hardest exercises in recovery that I have undertaken to date. It was as grievous as any story that I’ve read on this site, or heard in the news, where an innocent child has been deliberately damaged beyond recovery by an adult. Although this was an emotional exercise, it was very, very real in the sense that the child that I was had, indeed, been wounded and impaired by the actions of adults that I was obligated to depend upon. I was meeting that part of myself that was unwashed, unkempt, hungry, frightened, lonely, terrorized, and ridiculed. I was meeting that part of my personality that had suffered what no child ever should, and it was wholly dreadful.
Back and forth dialogues with my inner child
The “inner child” work has resulted in a dialogue with myself, on occasions. When I am reacting to triggers, the dialogue begins. Although it’s not the name of my “inner child,” I reference this dialogue process with the character in Tolkien’s The Hobbit novel and Lord of The Rings trilogy named “Smeagol.” It’s a back and forth discussion between a ranting, demanding, and confused child, and a rational, fact-based adult. My “inner child” often throws tantrums of wants, and it is my job to speak objectively to that screaming and kicking child that we can’t always have what we want, but that she will be provided with everything that she needs.
My “inner child” does not receive corporal punishment. Nor does she receive ridicule for expressing her wants, her fears, her hopes, her dreams, or her true needs. These are things that she experienced in a literal sense, and there is no room in this arduous work to repeat past hurts with cruelty. At times, I grab her shoulders and sternly tell her, “Stop it. Stop this and look into my eyes. I am not going to abandon you and leave you hungry, cold, or fearful. We’re going to get through this, together. I still love you without conditions — you are deserving and worthy of love and acceptance.” And, I take this child into a strong, reassuring, and meaningful embrace.
Inner child feelings are real
Sometimes the “inner child” will apologize for her tantrum, and other times she doesn’t. She’s not obligated to apologize for her feelings, because those feelings are real, even if they aren’t based upon fact, and my love and acceptance of this child exists without conditions. Expectations are quite another matter, and are expressed without emotion, anger, tedium, or ridicule. And, oddly enough, the expectations are typically met.
The character of Smeagol had options. He could have chosen to do the “right thing,” stand accountable for his choices and actions and turn his back on his addiction to the Ring of Power. But the “Gollum” personality was more persuasive in its arguments. The psychopathic language and manipulations of this personality are crystal clear in Tolkien‘s writings.
My “inner child” could have easily remained wallowing in fear, hunger, filth, and self deprecation for all eternity if I had ignored it and allowed it. But, my experiences with various sociopaths throughout my lifetime have taught me one singularly painful truth: I DID have choices, even if I didn’t know about them. The fear-based thinking and decision-making of my “inner child” obliterated all options with high-strung emotional reaction, and any recovery that I make will be inspired from this simple fact: I don’t have to live in fear of ridicule, abandonment, dismissal, or invalidation, ever again.
Good, and not-so-good, days
This, above all things, has been instrumental in minute-by-minute recovery. Some days, the recovery is actually notable. Other days, there is no progress. But, the days of recovery are beginning to increase in length, duration, and intensity. The “bad” days are becoming simple reminders that I will be in recovery for the rest of my days.
On the healing path with my inner child
I certainly —most certainly — have moments of supreme doubt, crippling fears, extreme anxiety, and self-sabotage. Of course I do. I’m a human being and it’s “allowed.”
Today, instead of beating myself up and re-affirming that I “don’t deserve” progress and recovery, I remove the emotion from the equation and tell my screaming, kicking, spitting and scratching “inner child” to stop, listen, and recover. Those boundaries are firm, in place, and my “inner child” is responding to common sense, objective observation, and my own limitless love and nurturing.
This translates to my real-life interactions in that I am not obligated to tolerate a second of toxicity from any other human being because my “inner child” is “feeling” unloved, unworthy, unfed, unbathed, invalidated, abandoned, or ridiculed. She has finally learned that those are simply “feelings” and that she is, in fact, loved, worthy, fed, bathed, validated, not abandoned, and never ridiculed. My “inner child” is beginning to realize that she doesn’t need to seek the approval and acceptance of anyone other than mine because she is me, and I am her. We are one and hand-in-hand on a truly amazing healing path.