I am sharing my experience with you to inform you of the power of doing this healing work and what it can look like. I am in no way a spokesperson for any 12 Step organization.
Back in the day (in the early 1980s) many were becoming aware of the fact that growing up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family had affected them in similar ways. I took a look at what is called the laundry list and felt both sadness and relief: I was not alone. Others experience these characteristics and there is a way out of this mess!
You can find this list of characteristics at:
I related to this list 100% and, though I felt a sense of hope that a solution was possible, I wasn’t quite sure what that process would look like. The tools I discovered included attending meetings regularly, finding a counselor who understood my adult child issues, reading materials that spoke about the problem and the solution and listening to Bob E who spoke about ‘finding the child, who has so many tears to shed’.
While I was busy cleaning my way through college (house cleaning business, that is) I would listen to AA speaker tapes and Bob E was my speaker of choice. He was not shy about talking about his dysfunctional childhood and how that led to a life of chaos and addiction as an adult. He shared about his process of finding his inner child, that little boy within him who got wounded from lack of love and healthy parenting so many years ago, who was now crying for attention, disrupting his life in order to be heard. Bob had a way of sharing his experience that touched my inner child. She also felt unloved and unlovable, and I began to realize it was my job to give her the love and guidance she didn’t get all those years ago.
My counselor gave me a hand-out from a book called ‘Big You – Little You’, by Grace Kirsten and Richard Robertiello, M.D. It talked about Separation Therapy, where you learn to distinguish and separate the following perspectives or voices:
- You, the Individual or the Observer. You are the one separating Big You – the Adult, nurturing parent from Little You, your inner child.
- The Adult, nurturing parent, aka Big You – who needs to take responsibility for his/her life and set healthy, nurturing boundaries for the inner child. Big provides guidance, protection, care and buckets of love to Little.
- The Inner Child – Little You. Let’s refer to Little as ‘they’ for simplicity. This is the emotional child within who needs to know they are loved, cared for and protected. If they sense that no one is taking care of them, they will cry out for attention, usually in destructive ways (picture a child having a temper tantrum or isolating themselves off in a corner, trying to be invisible). They need to know that Big is there for them and that Big loves them unconditionally and will set healthy boundaries to keep Little safe.
Here’s what this work looks like. When you, the Individual, become aware of strong emotions you start a dialogue between Big and Little. This dialogue can be written out or spoken out loud, preferably when alone for obvious reasons!
I had this dialogue early on in my work w/Separation Therapy. While watching TV alone in my first little apartment, a ‘reach out and touch someone’ commercial came on and I started to cry.
Big: Little, what’s wrong?
Little: I miss my mommy…
Big: I know you miss your mommy, but she’s 2000 miles away. But I’m here and I love you. I’ll always be here for you.
Little: (calming down now) Really? You’re here for me?
Big: Yes. I’m sorry I haven’t been here for you in the past, but I am here for you now. I love you and I’ll take care of you.
Little: Ok. That feels better. (Little felt safe and loved. Little calmed down and stopped crying)
As adult children we have much sadness, much grief that needs to be addressed. We need to talk about it, be heard and experience the love and acceptance of others who understand because they’ve been there. The nods of understanding from others in these meetings are part of that healing. And the most powerful healing is when we start to love and accept that needy, wounded child within. As that child heals they become the ‘wonder child’, as John Bradshaw called it. That child has enriched my life in wonderful ways.
John Bradshaw was a pioneer in reclaiming the inner child. His books can be found at: https://www.johnbradshaw.com/
You Tube also has some of his videos, so feel free to browse.
To learn more about Bob E, visit: https://aca-arizona.org/bob-earll/
Doing this work has been a journey through grief that has led me to a lighter place where the pay off includes an increase in joy, self-confidence and spontaneity as well as the ability to be vulnerable and to connect with others.
I am looking forward to your Share on this topic of re-parenting the inner child:
- What strategies work well for you to heal from childhood pain and trauma?
- If you have unresolved grief from childhood, how open are you to this technique for moving through grief?
- What are you willing to do to re-parent your wounded inner child?
- What is one step you can take today to reclaim and begin to re-parent your inner child?
To Comment, just click the blue Comment on the page or see the field below. If you prefer to share just your first name, that works!
Until next time, be kind to yourself and Shine Your Light!