A few weeks ago I received an invitation to speak at a conference of abuse survivors and authors. Great idea! I thought. But as I read the materials I was sent, I got a little uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, a warning from my Inner Child.
I paced and thought, I journaled and tried to figure it out. Surely it would be good to be together with others who are healing. Surely it would be great to network with other authors who write about abuse and healing. I’d meet some fine people. The proposed location was wonderful. Why didn’t it feel right?
There was just one person organizing the conference. The write-up contained a warning that no counselors would be present to help anyone having a hard time. It was pitched to be for people well along in the healing process. That could be all right, I said to my Inner Child, a scared little girl who was huddled at the bottom of a stone labyrinth. Surely it will be fine. I even knew another author I trusted who was intending to go.
No! Said my Inner Child. Doesn’t feel safe! So I wrote to the organizer to say that I thought such a gathering of abuse survivors talking about healing for a whole weekend would bring up a lot of feelings, and I wondered whether there would be moderators to help ease the dynamics, or quiet rooms for people to chill out.
"This conference is only for people at advanced stages of healing," he wrote, "people who have achieved inner peace. If there are any tears, they will be tears of joy. This is all about bliss and moving on."
Well! that made things clear. No one with mixed feelings would be welcome, and anyone whose “negative” feelings were triggered would be treated as if s/he had done something wrong. I immediately wrote back to say I wouldn’t be there, and my other author friend did the same.
I don’t believe healing is about attaining consistent bliss and lack of pain. Certainly I’ve had moments of great joy and connection as I work through the effects of incest, but I’m human. I know where my weak places are. For example, I’m susceptible to the feeling that people don’t believe me and I hate it when people push me around and assume I’m there for their convenience.
But I actually feel that the sensitivity we survivors often experience, the alertness to our own pain and that of others, is a gift. If you hang out on the survivors’ forums such as Pandora’s Aquarium and isurvive, you see how incredibly caring survivors often are. If we stay in touch with our wounded parts as well as our joyful ones, this is a great gift of life.
Another way of saying it is that I love all my inner children - the wounded silent girl, the eager one who says Let’s go!, the Good Girl, and all. I’m not banishing a single one. We all go forward together into a richer life.