Your Inner Child Needs You

Photo credit: Artur Aldyrkhanov

Somehow, somewhere, in some way, the inner child was hurt. It may have been something as everyday as a disappointment. Or the expected pierce of rejection. Or something altogether deeper. But for all of us, if we want to heal as grown-ups, we need to heal as children first.

For a long time I was completely unaware that my inner child needed any healing at all. But the freedom of leaving home brought with it memories of a darker childhood past. It started coming back to me in bits and pieces. In flashes. In dreams. Or when I was in the shower. Or someone would say something and it triggered another flash. And then it all came together into one story.

My uncle tried to kill me.

I was on the floor, he was straddled on top of me, his hands were around my neck, and he was squeezing me, choking me, and I was screaming and yelping and scratching and fighting and doing everything I could but he completely overpowered me. And he was looking at me right in the face, saying over and over again, ‘I’m going to fucking kill you.’ And then I passed out. I thought that I had died.

But then I woke up and he was gone. And the first thing I did was run to my mother to tell her what had happened. But she dismissed me, telling me I must have provoked him, that intellectually disabled people couldn’t possibly be capable of any violence, and not to tell my dad such stories because I would only anger him.

My father. The one who himself had strangled me from time to time. Drunk. Enraged. Holding me up by my neck so that my feet were dangling in the air. My mother standing beside him.

I was 6 years old. And I didn’t have any adult protection. My uncle was violent. My father was violent. And my mother just stood by. Waiting to be rescued herself.

I realised then as a little girl that if I wanted to survive this home environment of mine I would have to be in charge. I realised that I would have to do whatever needed to be done to protect myself. All fantasy games and playtimes were over. It was all ‘ears open’, and ‘eyes wide’ and ‘don’t sleep at night’, listen to what’s happening, lock your door, jam it with a chair to make extra sure.

When they’re talking in whispered voices, you learn to tune in because you need to know what’s happening. You’re constantly on guard. Constantly vigilant. You just learn to live in that space. Because it’s live or die. And I had decided that I wanted to live.

I was so deep in fight or flight mode to survive that environment that I became stuck there. For years. Even when the memories were completely supressed in my memory banks, I still always reacted with an inbuilt flight or fight response to any kind of human contact. Because after 20 years of doing it, it becomes a habit.

I guess I had to be in an environment where it was actually safe enough for me to remember and explore and heal … and to finally stop and ask myself what am I fighting for anymore?

Because you don’t know how trapped you are until life shows you something different. Like how people can do good things for other people. How people can love and care and live and laugh and be free.

And when I look at the life I lived before those memories were triggered, I see that I was living in just a haze. I was so disconnected. I was on autopilot. My spirit was captured in a prison inside my body. And my body was just going through the motions of what society was telling me to do. But I wasn’t engaging in life the way I am now.

My healing began with releasing this burden. This burden that had been holding me back, keeping me trapped as this terrified person who just kept on attracting the same energy and more danger into her life. And for me, part of releasing that burden was disowning my family. My mother, my father, my uncle.

My father denied his own violence. He denied his brother’s too. My mother denied everyone’s violence. They chose each other.

But I don’t carry any of that for them because I have a legacy I want to build, I have dreams I want to live. And that stuff kept on sabotaging me. Because the fear that comes with that kind of trauma keeps on eating at you. Until there’s nothing left.

And so I began healing my inner child.

The things I had to do most were the things I wanted to do the least. I had to learn to love myself. I had to make my body sacred again. I had to stand up for myself. I had to create healthy boundaries.

And slowly but surely, as you put your feet into the water, toe by toe, you realise that this is your life force, that you can to use it the way you want to use it.

To pull yourself out of a trauma is a journey. I think you need a desire to not want to live in that space anymore. Because there is an addiction to the lower emotions. And self-love is the key to the door that leads you out.

And self-love, for me, was truly reconnecting with my childhood self. I do little things … I take out photos of myself at different ages and chat to that young self and give her the guidance I can now give. It’s the journey of healing your inner child. And taking accountability for the fact that you are the only one who can heal your inner child. Not therapists, not anyone. Just you. Others may guide you, but you have to do the work.

Feel your way through the feelings. Allow your feelings to be acknowledged. Surrender to your pain and let it guide you because it won’t keep you there in the pain and the fear, it will take you beyond it, to something far more exquisite.

Give yourself the space to express yourself, to purge it, to release it, and then to somehow find a little gratitude. The gratitude is important. And for that I always go into nature and surrender completely to the abundant energy of life. Beautiful things start happening when your heart is resonating in that space.

I can’t even imagine how many people have been on a similar journey, because in my work as a therapist I keep seeing how there are so many tribes of us going through the same experience. That’s why I feel it’s so important to talk about it.

And yes, it’s a hard lesson, but I’m grateful for it because with trauma there is always the divine potential to transmute all that pain into something infinitely more beautiful.

Read next: #MeToo: If You Can’t Speak It, Whisper It

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Natasha van Zyl AKA Jellybean
Natasha van Zyl AKA Jellybean is a behavioural change therapist who happens to be classified as autistic, AdHd, dyslexic and bipolar. But determined to share the love that overflows from her heart for other people, she has worked with families with special needs children, and learned about the grace of love, acceptance and the bonds that grow between people when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. She offers guidance and healing for matters of the heart, relationships, and emotional turmoil.