Let’s face it: few of us get through this life unscathed. A lot of the bumps and scrapes (and scars) often occur in childhood, especially ages 0-7 when we are the most impressionable. No matter what your upbringing looks like, I imagine that nearly every child becomes an adult with a child ache still in him/her. Perhaps a need that wasn’t met early on. An unintended oversight, some missed opportunity. These bruised places are carried into adulthood, buried in our subconscious and show up as echoes of the past waiting to be seen and loved and healed.
I experienced this first hand last night after an unusually tough yoga class. I am new to hot yoga and there I was, without water, in a room full of strangers, my body tight and resisting even the simplest bends. I felt myself panic. I got teary. I got judge-y with myself. Was I going to be OK? Would I make it through? Was there anyone to help? My inner child was clearly triggered. She wanted someone to witness her fear, to reassure her it was OK.
What happened next was powerful and beautiful. I came home, raw and vulnerable, and immediately, instinctually, wrapped myself in a soft blanket. I wore this blanket around my shoulders most of the night, even as I cooked dinner. With this one simple act of love, I acknowledged the fear and provided comfort.
I gave that child part of me exactly what she needed.
Too often we look to the outside for validation, to feel safe, significant, loved, to be seen and heard. While these are important needs throughout life, over-reliance on others can lead to disappointment and instability. Continuing to blame or look to caregivers to attend to the tender places only keeps us emotionally unhealed and stuck in the past, and that can be painful. Instead we ask: How can I give these things to myself? I believe this is the single greatest point of transformation you can bring to your emotional life as an adult.
So what does this process of re-parenting look like?
The first step is always awareness. Noticing without judgment the need as it reveals itself. It will likely manifest in your thoughts and behaviors, so pay close attention to what you are saying/doing/feeling. Do you notice yourself getting angry, frustrated or down when someone fails to meet your need or expectation? Are you falling into an old story of victimhood or helplessness? Are you noticing a familiar pattern, thought or sensation in your body? Is there a familiar storyline?
It is important at this stage to acknowledge the original need. Name it out loud. Rather than push feelings under the carpet, deny or gloss over them. Allow that child part of you to feel heard and seen. Hold space for her to speak, release emotions if needed. You are there for her unconditionally. The next step is to ask: What does she need? Do what feels intuitive. Show up for this younger part of you. If she needs to feel visible, see her. If she needs to feel validated, validate her. If she needs to feel secure, reassure her. This includes self talk, but also caring gestures that communicate to the subconscious, like wrapping in a warm shawl or pouring a cup of hot tea. It could mean stroking your arm or giving yourself a hug. It could mean going for a walk and reconnecting with nature. By simply turning your attention inward and connecting to yourself more fully, you’ll notice a new sense of wholeness and energy rising within you.
You, my friend, are all you need.