Safety and your Inner Child—Part I

I remember the first time my therapist told me to find a safe place inside myself. I looked at her with disbelief. What did she mean? How could I do that? Nothing felt safe.

Kids who are abused and threatened—in violent or in subtle ways—learn coping strategies. Some kids become timid, some become fiercely brave. Since survival is such a deep instinct, these responses become ingrained in our souls and our everyday behaviors.

When I was a girl, I learned to be brave and scoff at fears. I am grateful for my bravery, since it let me do many things, like backpacking alone and taking physical risks. But underneath the fearlessness was an ingrained fear of people which I could not even recognize until I learned a little bit about safety. The sense of danger was so deep-rooted in me that it felt normal. It was just when I was getting in touch with my fear that my therapist said, “Find a safe place inside.”

It took me several years to find a fairly secure sense of safety—first with my therapist and then inside myself.

As I learned to parent my inner child, she presented me with lots of fears. They often felt overwhelming. I had to find ways to cope with fear and to build my inner child’s sense of safety. (Some of these are in my booklet, Caring for the Child Within.)

Early in the process, I used to think that finding a safe place inside was kind of silly. How could that help? How could it change the way the world is? But I realized the fears are inside of me. Indeed there are dangers out there and the world is unfair, but my fears were with me when I was actually safe, threatening me when there was no real threat. It began to make sense to find safety on a more magical, imaginary level.

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