When life hurts

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Portrait of Gwen Randall-Young

There are times when the pain of life can feel unbearable. The loss of a loved one, the break-up of a relationship, losing a job or having a serious illness can cause one to feel overwhelmed. The emotional pain is intense and sometimes the problem cannot be fixed.

At times like this, the future can look bleak. It seems impossible to imagine ever being happy again. Life seems unfair and we question why this had to happen to us. We may lose our ability to function as normal.

When we feel this broken and there are few, if any, signs that we are beginning to heal and cope, even as significant time passes, it may be that our inner child is having a reaction. The inner child is a concept that refers to the part of our psyche that retains feelings as they were experienced in childhood. It is the childlike aspect we all have. There is the playful, curious, fun-loving part and there is also the vulnerable, scared part.

Children thrive with security, but that security is easily threatened. A little one loses sight of mom or dad while shopping and sheer panic sets in. The child feels abandoned. They are too young to reason that, if they just stay calm and in one place, the parent will find them. Instead, they fear they may be lost forever and that thought is completely overwhelming.

As adults, certain events may trigger, albeit subconsciously, that same overwhelming sense of fear, dread and panic. People say supportive things to us and our rational mind understands, but it does not help our inner child any more than telling the lost child everything will be okay.

We may not realize our inner child is having a severe reaction. Worse yet, the inner child takes over and starts driving the bus. Then we feel even more out of control. We lose the ability to take the steps or think the thoughts that might help us.

What can we do about this? Therapy can be helpful because there is a wise adult who can help to comfort the inner child and assist in the healing process. Ultimately, however, what we need to do is to activate our own inner wise adult and bring comfort to our inner child. We may picture ourselves as we were as a young child and in our mind see that child feeling so lost and bereft because someone has died or left us.

Our wise adult part has to embrace the inner child with assurance that he/she is not alone because you are still there. Tell that child that he/she can count on you because you will never leave. Acknowledge that it is very hard, but tell that child again and again that we will get through this and in time things will get better.

Even if it is physical pain or illness we experience rather than abandonment, it is still important to tend to that inner child. Children are afraid of pain or being sick. When we have chronic pain, we tend to reject that part of us and with it the wounded inner child. So in this case, we give comfort, love and compassion to our vulnerable part. Try saying, “I know it hurts and it makes you sad, but I love you and will stay here with you.”
If you are in emotional or physical pain, try a little of this inner child work. It can be very powerful. (Visit my website www.gwen.ca for CDs that can assist in healing the inner child.)

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visit www.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.

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