I read a great deal of literature, and I have heard many people talk, about the inner child. I have written about my inner child, thinking that I knew her well enough to introduce her to others. I was wrong. I didn’t know her at all.
My sister, S., recently sent me Affirmations for the Inner Child, by Rokelle Lerner, (Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL, 1990.) She and I will be studying these affirmations, and I decided to poke through the book and to read different pages, just to get an idea of what it said.
I didn’t react too strongly to the first one or two pages I read, because really, I wasn’t reading them, merely glancing through. But as I read on, I paid more attention, began to read more slowly, and to think about each page, and then each line, and finally, each word.
(I learned, while reading these pages, that I had skimmed through every self-help book I ever read. I pulled one from my bookshelf and opened it to a random page. I only needed to read two or three sentences to understand that I had never read it, seriously, at all.)
So there I was, reading all of these affirmations, and learning, getting it. I hesitated, briefly; I was afraid to meet that wounded kid inside of me. The pain, the frustration and anger, and above all, the loneliness I experienced through my childhood opened up before me, and images of myself at different ages appeared, one after another, in an almost unmanageable flood. I realized I wasn’t supposed to manage this little girl, I was supposed to listen to her, and comfort her, and love her.
So, I slowed the images enough to pick one out. I had to start somewhere, after all. I saw little Judy sitting on a wall, outside, dressed in a little plaid dress, white frilly bobby socks, and black shoes. That day was the first day of school; first grade for me, I believe. I wasn’t smiling for the camera. I wasn’t smiling at all.
Suddenly, a rush of loneliness overtook the Judith me — I was feeling what Judy was feeling, and I burst into tears. I reached out with my mind and wrapped my arms around that sad child, who never did understand what she had done wrong to make her family hate her so, to never be told, or even allowed to believe, that she was lovable. She certainly didn’t feel loved. I sat there with her until my tears stopped, then I told her that I loved her, and began to look for other scenarios from my childhood.
This continued for about an hour — one after another, each Judy stood before me, and she felt so alone, so unhappy, so starved for love and some kind of positive acknowledgment. I spoke to little Judy when she was 10, and sent away from home for the summer because she was too much trouble to keep around. I spoke to her when she was eight, sitting on one of the stone seats of the amphitheater in Ephesus; she was surrounded by ancient beauty, by more than two thousand years of the history of countless families who loved each other. She was so hurt, and yet she couldn’t even think of the words to describe that pain. I invited her to tell me of those feelings, and we cried together, while I told her that I loved her, that she was lovable, that there was nothing she had done, or could do, that would make me stop loving her. Again, we sat together until the tears subsided.
I reassured the 14-year-old Judy, newly diagnosed with diabetes, scared almost to death, that she would be able to live with diabetes someday; that the death sentence handed down by the doctor was not true, and would not come to pass. I spoke to the 12-year-old Girl Scout, sitting in a cabin in a swamp in Florida; she had just taught a whole room full of girls how to hold their breath until they passed out. That Judy already knew that she was in trouble, and she was still wondering why she so enjoyed unconscious, escaping from the world in which she lived.
I spoke to little Judy as she was punished, at 5 years old, for having revealed her sisters’ birthday presents to one of them. She was horrified, although she didn’t know how to express it, by the fact that she never intended to hurt anyone, or to cause any trouble, and yet she was being punished as though she had committed an unpardonable sin. And on, and on, and on.
Finally, I had to stop; I just could not handle any more unhappiness, and guilt, and feelings of worthlessness. I dried my tears, and told all my Judys that I would be back soon, and that as time went by, I believed I would be able to be with them without falling to pieces. I sat in absolute stillness for as long as I could, regaining my sense of self-worth, and reaffirming my love and appreciation for myself. Then I came to the computer and began to write.
I cried as I typed, sad that I waited for so long to offer little Judy some comfort, and glad at the same time that I can do so now. So now I know her, and I know, at least in part, what I can do for her and with her to heal some of those wounds we’ve carried around for so long. I am finally ready to parent Judy in the way she needs, with love and compassion; and since she is the only child I will ever parent, I intend to do the best I can to parent her well.