The Inner Child at Play

Some days I actually feel fortunate that I recovered memories of incest, because the intense work I did with them opened up so much creative energy in my life. When I was deep in the process, I began doing artwork that was dark and full of turmoil—plenty of black and red slashes of pain and anger, gray and brown messes of confusion. Then I drew hundreds of little girls in their new world of trees, rivers, and blue skies, which helped me see the changes in my life.

Granted I’m still aware of pockets of unresolved issues, like the fear that I wrote about in the last post. But awareness is half the battle and slowly I make progress.

Now my artwork is more abstract, deep play with color and form. This week I’ve been playing with acrylic paints in bright colors of red, orange, and tan. I also dance and write poetry. My freedom in all these media is possible because I went right into and through the scary, dark, messy material of my abuse, danced it, wrote it, drew it. It’s the hardest thing to convey—the joy and freedom, confidence and love that came from this difficult journey.

Inner Child - Lonely in a Crowd

I woke up today in despair over a group I’m in—It’s a group of wonderful women, which just makes my inner conflict greater. When I sat with my Inner Child this morning, what I heard was a wail. They’ll never listen to me. I shouldn’t complain about anything there because they are so nice. But I feel so lonely and unheard!

My mind immediately bounced to trying to fix it, what I’d say, what to do. How can we change the ways we interact and the structures we’ve set up…? I corralled my attention back to the inner child’s despair. I can’t do anything, I can’t say anything. If I speak up, I’ll hurt someone’s feelings.

I visualized my first-grade picture, a little girl with tight pigtails who looks so solemn, responsible, and repressed. I thought about my family’s pattern from well before that. My father would get angry about little things, my mother would shut down, and I would try to be good and quiet. When my older sister who had Down syndrome was sent away, I was supposed to stay cheerful, not mourn. There was no space for me to be angry or sad. There was a myth that the family was fine, just fine, and I was not supposed to ripple that picture.

Slowly it came clear that it’s important for me to speak up in this group at this time. I don’t know what to say or how to say it, but I need to give a voice to that little girl. It doesn’t mean that I need to spew out or act out, but I need to let them know my feelings. It will take more time to know how to do that, but this morning I assured the little girl that I will speak up for her. Then I sat and appreciated her, all her emotions and her energies, her loving nature and her willingness to take risks.

That’s how it works for me with the inner child dialog. It was really hard to sit and listen to the deep despair, but then, beyond hope, something shifted.

Innocence Regained

When I was sexually abused when I was quite young, my world changed. I lost things I didn’t know I had. There was a new sense that my body was not my own and my feelings and reactions weren’t, either. They had been superseded by other people’s wants—not only my father’s blind, willful desire, but my mother’s need to deny and conceal, not to rock the family boat.

After the memories came back I undertook a long, difficult, and rewarding therapy. I first had to find and let out my feelings of shame and confusion and betrayal. There were layers upon layers, and it took years of listening to my Inner Child and learning how to comfort her. Then I began to regain trust, beginning with trusting my therapist and then myself.

And then, innocence. What I mean by innocence is not only a child’s concept of the world as being safe and parents as people you can trust. It’s also the child’s sense that she has a right to have space in the world, boundaries and her own desires. It’s a fundamental autonomy and sense of rightness. Losing that meant losing the right to protest, the right to assert my being in the world, and this carried over into adult relationships. At work, I could be forceful and vocal, but in personal relationships, I shrank myself and gave in to others’ desires.

We all suffer hurts as children and our selves are diminished by the rubs and demands of the world. We all develop defenses and coping strategies that serve survival but limit our possibilities.

To me, innocence regained is learning how to trust self and others, combined with seeing clearly how relationships are imperfect. There’s a growing sense that I have a right to be in the world in my own particular, peculiar way.