Why am I struggling so much now? And more importantly, what can I do about it?!
You may be asking ‘why am I so unhappy right now? or angry, depressed, anxious or any other negative emotion which is affecting the quality of your life. A brief exploration of the influences which define us may help. You are a complex being made up of infinite shades and unique ways of being and there are reasons for this. Firstly, you are the totality of all your experiences, and every event which you have felt and tried to make sense of. In addition, you are interconnected with the generations that came before you and with those that come after and your family history shapes you in ways which are invisible and pervasive. To this mix, you can also add your personal history, gender, culture, age, sexuality, and personality. From my experience and from my studies, I would like to explain a bit more about my current understanding of our human condition.
I think we have several aspects of the self and our happiness depends on who is running the show. Ideally, we work best if our healthy adult is predominantly in charge. I see the healthy adult as the wise, quiet, soul part of us, who knows exactly what is best for us. This part can provide validation and comfort when needed. It is the kind, loving inner voice which says ‘ Never mind’ when we make mistakes. ‘Next time, I’ll do better’. This part loves us unconditionally and accepts us as we are. It is the expert of us and helps to regulate our emotions by its acceptance that we are limited in our perceptions, in our human bodies and that we are all flawed. Despite these restrictions however, we are magnificent in our efforts to do our best and to carry on regardless. The wise adult understands all this.
We also contain within us two very destructive and negative parts; these are the internalised critical parent/authority figure and the hurt child. The critical parent could sound very much like your own Mum or Dad at their critical worst or a teacher who criticised you. It’s the inner voice of blame and judgment. When you make a mistake it will say something like ‘There! I told you that would happen. You fool! Don’t you ever learn! How many times will you make the same mistake. You’re no good, anyway. Never have been...’ On it goes in a loop of self condemnation. Alternatively, because these thoughts stir up a maelstrom of negative feelings within us which can threaten to overwhelm us, this voice may project the judgments out onto others. Now, the object of condemnation is not ourselves but whoever is unlucky enough to come within our sights. The voice now says ‘Well, look at her?! What a ridiculous way to do something! She’s got no idea’ etc, etc.
The second negative voice which can dominate our thoughts and affect our mood is the hurt child. From my personal experience this aspect of us can often run our lives, unconsciously of course, and she or he will receive a huge amount of air time. Why? Because she or he is as loud as hell and diverts our attention from the quieter, healthy adult. It’s the same if you actually had a three year old in the room, who’s just fallen off a swing and hurt her/his leg. They’re screaming and all your attention goes towards them to calm them down. Where does this hurt child originate from? He or she comes from your childhood when you failed to get your needs met by your primary care giver, usually your mother. There is a moment when the child feels the impact of Mum not coming when they need her and feels abandoned. Also, our parents are themselves flawed, having themselves been parented by flawed parents. It is the human condition so it’s not about judging our parents but about accepting this is how it is for all of us. The hurt child is trying to get its needs met but in his or her experience these needs are never met, so it continuously complains and cries in a destructive loop of neediness or suffering. He or she can sound a bit like this ‘I can’t do it. It’s too much. I’m stuck like this forever. If I try, I won’t be successful so what’s the point ‘.
Imagine your life is a bus, and the driver of the bus is your hurt child. The healthy adult is sitting at the back of the bus, seemingly powerless or disinterested in where the bus is going. The hurt child is too young and distressed to drive the bus, make decisions about the destination or do anything except react to the immediate road in front of them. The bus jerks, reverses, goes off the road or in loops randomly and the hurt child again feels that early abandonment over and over again. This is the way life is if your hurt child is running your life. Does it sound familiar? Now, if this was a real bus, you would get your healthy adult up to the driver’s seat quick as and you’d say to the hurt child ‘Now, my lovely child. Have a rest. This is not your job but mine. Your job is to go and play and do what children do best. Laugh, have fun and enjoy yourself. The hurt child may not trust the healthy adult at first so this is a process which takes time. If your hurt child is in the driver’s seat, it will probably be a well established habit which takes time to replace with other, healthier ways of being. Also, you need to summon the healthy adult from the back of the bus. This is where the wisdom of the saying ‘fake it till you make it’ is helpful. You will need to imagine a consistently, loving voice which reassures and soothes you at times of distress. It will feel contrived to start with because it IS contrived but after a while, it will begin to feel like a normal, natural resource for you. Having counselling sessions at this point can be useful because they will offer support for this process.
Some clients find it very helpful to watch YouTube videos or listen to meditations as below. This one is by Michelle Chalfont and is called ‘Inner Child Meditation for Codependency, Lack of Self Love and Negative Programming’. There are many similar ones and the internet can be a great source of help with healing your inner child. I hope you have found this helpful and can take from it some new ideas on how to change some of the entrenched negative patterns that are currently trapping you in a miserable life. It doesn’t need to be this way and there is light at the end of the tunnel if you’re ready to see it.
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