All of us are holding on to some pain in our childhood, and we continue to re-experience this pain in adulthood until we can learn to heal the inner child. Studies show, for example, that if your father leaves your family and abandons you, you have a higher chance of either marrying someone who will abandon you or becoming the one who abandons your loved ones. I remember when I was in college, one of my psychology professors said, "If you were abused as a child, you will either be abused as an adult or become the abuser. Period. That is, until you confront the hurt child within you." When my father was in rehab recovering from alcohol addiction, the counselor told us children participating in the group therapy, "Unless you release your pain now, you will either grow up to become an alcoholic or will marry one." I am very happy to report that I did release the pain and continue to if something from my childhood pops up, and I did not become an alcoholic nor did I marry one. Frankly, I'd rather waste the calories on chocolate than wine :)
The things that happen to us as children remain magnified within us because as children, we are essentially powerless. We are at the mercy of our parents. If our parents are having a bad day, guess who else is going to have a bad day? Children also don't have the capacity to see things beyond their own self, meaning they perceive everything as their fault. If dad leaves, the five-year-old believes he did something wrong. If mom gets drunk every afternoon, the nine-year-old continues to believe it's her fault. Many adults who are raised in dysfunctional homes will either become over achievers or under achievers with some always trying hard to fix the problem and others feelings as though, "What's the use?"
I had a client who continually dated men who would royally mess up -- but all in different ways -- so it took her a frustratingly long time to see the pattern. Her father never left the home, but he emotionally checked out after declaring bankruptcy and seeing his long held dream of owning his own business go down the drain. My client was only six when that happened, and after that he just stopped being a participant in her life. All her memories revolve around him coming home from work, eating in silence, and watching TV until he fell asleep on the recliner. Her mother eventually acted out by having affairs. So my client grew up and began dating men that could never emotionally connect with her (her dad) and who always created drama (her mom). One boyfriend was a gambler, another was a serial cheater, one lied about everything (including his marriage and two kids), one became a stalker after she broke up with him and on and on.
We will always (and I mean always) re-create the sadness from our own childhood until we can face it, heal our inner child who is still in there waiting to be loved, and forgive ourselves. (Remember that scene from Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams tells Matt Damon, "It's not your fault" over and over? That's what I'm talking about.)
So, how can we do this? The first thing you need to do is leave the land of denial. I see so many clients who claim to have this perfect childhood and can't see what that has to do with all the chaos in their present life. Yes, some of you may have had a good childhood and good and decent parents, but there is always some pain that needs to be released. My best friend growing up had amazing parents. I often envied her the love and adoration they bestowed on her, but when she changed schools (due to stupid redistricting laws) she was picked on horribly for being the new kid. She was bullied and even had her arm broken on the school bus. Obviously, this had a terribly effect on her that continued to domino. Her self-esteem was crushed. She eventually learned to heal from this through therapy, writing and acting.
Look at the patterns in your life. Where are your worries constantly focused? Health? Money? Relationships? Career?
If you have a lot of health issues, it can mean you weren't properly nurtured and cared for as a child. Money issues center on feelings of self-worth. Who told you that you weren't worth much? That you were a loser, a failure? If you have relationship issues, examine your mother's and father's relationships to each other and other people. If you have career problems, ask yourself if anyone ever told you that you were special, that you could do anything, be anything you wanted.
Once you've identified your pattern of issue, work to heal it through guided imagery, therapy, writing and affirmations.
Here are some other things you can do to heal your inner child:
1) Write a letter to your inner child explaining how much you are loved and protected and safe. Write back in your non-dominant hand.
2) Play, color, imagine, skip, daydream
3) Sleep with a teddy bear of body pillow
4) Ask your parents about their childhood so you can begin to understand them as people rather than just your parents.
5) Spend some time imagining the childhood you wished you'd had. For example, if you could have grown up in any sitcom family, which one would you choose? The Cosby Family? Family Ties? Growing Pains? Happy Days? The Brady Bunch?
6) Imagine the home you wished you'd always had and put yourself as a small child in that home. Imagine the mom and dad you wish you'd had telling that little child how loved and special you are.
For more information on this subject, check out these books:
You Can Heal Your Life and The Power Is Within You by Louise Hay
Self-Parenting by John Pollard III
Homecoming by John Bradshaw
Will I Every Be Good Enough? by Karyl McBride
Children of the Self-Absorbed by Nina Brown
Good luck on this journey. Love yourself and let the healing begin!