During a recent annual Labor Day fish fry, a close family member asked me why I still do emotional work on childhood abuse. He explained that reflecting on his childhood memories and feelings was not helpful and that counseling and support groups were traumatic for him. Why did I kept putting myself through that? Why couldn’t I just get over it? Why didn’t I follow his lead and smile – even if I felt like crying? That’s what he does.
I shared that I go ACA meetings and attend, as best I can each moment, to the wounded places within so that I can let go of the past. I want freedom from repeating painful, dysfunctional patterns in the present, which are carryovers from the past.
But first I have to face the fear of fully accepting a blameless past and all of the people, experiences, and feelings that go with it. I have to feel them all as they come up. I don’t get to skip ahead to self-love and acceptance when fear, rage, shame, and blame are coming up for me. Slowly, gently, and with the loving support of fellow ACAs in the program, I become strong enough for the reparenting process that ACA suggests.
For me, this involves going back for my inner child – the part of me that I left behind when I was learning how to survive. To just exist. To pretend. To push away the painful realities.
I am unable, try as I might, to leave the past behind without reparenting my inner child. Until then, she is stuck in the past. I am becoming increasingly aware that she is me. Cutting her off and trying to live without her was impossible, but I did not know it at the time. You see, I was just a child when I made the unconscious decision to turn away from my True Self – aka, Inner Child – (since she seemed to be so unacceptable and unlovable to the adults around me). Instead, I adopted a false self made up of laundry list traits in the hope that I would be found worthy of the love, care, and respect that every child deserves.
I recently started an art therapy journal for my inner child, although I am not an artist by any means. I am also doing the things suggested by Dr. Lisa Cooney on her website at drlisacooney.com/how-to-re-parent-yourself. Her last suggestion is reaching out for support, and my heart broke reading that step 4 is the hardest part for the only person that commented on her blog post.
Giving and receiving support is what I do by being involved in ACA. It happens every or call fellow travelers by phone or go to lunch with them. That’s what I do when I am being of service in ACA, and being of service is part of taking care of my inner child for me. I am showing her that her pain is important, and that she deserves to be heard. Going to ACA meetings shows her that not only am I willing to listen to her and be there for her, but that other people are too. learning to be there for her – to reparent her with love, care, respect, and responsibility is even more important.
To my dismay, when I was doing research for this blog post, I discovered that “reparenting” is not a recognized word on dictionary.com – although many books, counselors, support groups, therapists, websites, etc. discuss and recommend this process of healing. I am hopeful that as ACA grows and reaches more people, “reparenting” will grow up to become a word in its own right. As we go back within ourselves and help our wounded inner children grow up with love and care, we are raising the consciousness of the culture and society to which we belong.