I want to share that I have been diving deeper into my yoga practice recently. I haven’t been as consistent with it as I would like to be, so I’m setting out to change that. The consistency with which I show up for myself in that way.
Maybe you’ve never even tried yoga and you have no interest in it…don’t worry, I’m only going to brush the surface of my experience and you’ll find that it ties nicely into today’s topic which is going to be so good. Trust me.
I’m bringing this up because yoga for me is as much a spiritual practice as it is exercising my body. And that’s really the intention of yoga as a science. It is an ancient practice that has gained popularity in the U.S. recently. By recently, I would say over the past 10-15 years it has become more “mainstream”. Now you can find a class at just about every gym.
But those classes aren’t truly yoga, let me tell you. I don’t get from those gym classes what I get from practicing at home or at my local studio, which is amazing. One of the things that makes my studio amazing is that no phones are allowed…really, you’re not allowed to bring anything into the room other than yourself, a water bottle, and maybe a small towel. You have to be on time. No entry after the class starts. And you can’t just up and leave while the class is in session unless, of course, it’s an emergency.
Now, you may balk and feel this is restrictive. I have a friend who’s a native Indian who is never on time for anything and for that reason, she doesn’t do this studio. So funny.
I don’t feel that it’s restrictive at all. In fact, it’s refreshing. Leave all of your distractions behind and don’t become one yourself. We’re all here for this next hour to turn our focus inward and nowhere else. Oh, it’s so good. Seriously.
That’s how a yoga class is supposed to be done, my friends.
Now, if you’ve had any experience with a class at your local gym, it probably looks much different. I know I tried a stint at a nice, premier gym last year and really, I was there for all kinds of group classes, not just yoga. But I tried a couple of yoga classes along the way. Hated it.
First of all, the room was nice enough, but it was a lot smaller than the one I was used to. And it was positioned on the second floor right above the basketball courts, so you could always hear the sound of balls bouncing and just barely muffled…THAT was such a distraction for me. Not to mention the late arrivals and early exits from the room. People just coming and going as they please. Playing with their phones and rattling their keys. It was maddening. That’s why I only ever did yoga a couple of times there.
Those people were just there for the cardio or for the fitness part of yoga, not for the experience.
Like so many of us, I really wasn’t using that gym membership to its potential, so I went back to my home yoga studio and I’ve vowed to never leave again. That was a silly thing to do. Eh. But that’s what we do. We explore and we find out that maybe the premier gym down the street isn’t really what we need after all. We live and we learn. When we get better with our life lessons, we learn even quicker. It’s all great stuff.
In that same studio that I adore, I have held myself in Child’s Pose so many times. If you aren’t familiar with that pose because you’re not even interested in yoga, just Google it. And I invite you to try it for yourself. Just that pose.
It is my absolute favorite. There’s something about putting my body in that position that makes me feel comforted and safe. Like I’m being held. It’s hard to verbalize, but that’s a start. Comforted and safe.
It’s the pose that good instructors will tell you that you can take anytime when you need to rest, when things are getting too hard for you…just drop into Child’s Pose. Into that comfort. Into that safety.
And I have found myself really having some feelings when I’m in that pose too. That’s when I really connect with myself. Not every single time, but I know I have had moments where I have clearly held some emotions in because they tend to bubble up for me when I’m either there or in savasana. I have literally cried without knowing why.
That’s why it’s a spiritual practice for me. That connection. That deeper knowing of myself in a way that I can’t adequately express with words.
Through my continued growth as a human, I have come to realize that we are all carrying this inner child around with us in our daily lives. We don’t always acknowledge her (or him – I’m going to use the pronoun “her” today because I’ll be speaking about my own inner child, but you use whatever pronoun that you identify with – it’s all good).
We don’t always acknowledge her, but many of us experience deeper growth when we do.
Your inner child is carrying the wounds of your past.
She carries the deep damage made from the thousands of little cuts that have accumulated over your lifetime.
And she doesn’t quite know what to do with all of that pain, because after all, she’s just a child.
So she does what most children do and she looks for all of the ways that the external world can be blamed or how her problems can be solved by something or someone outside of herself. Help the bad memories to fade. Give her the love, attention, and happiness that she craves.
Now, my childhood was just fine, honestly. All things considered. When I was very young, I felt loved, I felt safe, and I felt secure. Life started getting rocky when I was a teenager and my parents divorced, but I didn’t blame myself for that. No, I blamed my parents, of course! LOL. For ruining my life. Those are no doubt the thoughts that I had at the time.
And certainly, there were impacts even earlier – I’ve touched on my suicide attempt at fourteen in a previous episode.
We all have our stories. That’s the point. This isn’t about my life story, but I’ll keep sharing the highlight reel with you as we go and as they line up with what I’m talking about.
The point is, we all have our pain that we carry around without fully realizing the depths of it and how it affects us daily. How we let it define who we are, and we spend years in therapy trying to reconcile all of it.
Trying to come to terms with it. Trying to find ways to heal that are outside of us. Medications, therapy, as I mentioned – neither of those are bad things, don’t get me wrong – they are simply external solutions. We also search for other people to heal us. To love us because we’ve never really known love, or we believe that we haven’t. We may turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain away. Or self-harm. Or even things that seem good for us on the surface like exercise or sex.
All of these things we keep searching for outside of ourselves to fix what’s broken. Searching for whatever or whoever will finally light us the fuck up.
I had an amazing conversation with a dear friend just a couple of days ago. She is local and while we keep trying to make arrangements to meet up, it hasn’t worked in a little while. So this was a very long talk over the phone that ended up with both of us processing some things when it comes to self-worth and self-love.
These are so very crucial to our overall well-being, yet (as I’ve mentioned before) no one shows us how this works. Our parents didn’t teach us how to love ourselves because they didn’t know either. Their parents didn’t teach them. Yet, it has been my observation that every generation gets just a little bit better at it. Every one of us want to do it better than what we learned.
And we can reflect back on painful moments with a new sense of awareness of what things really mean. We don’t often see it when it happens, but…hindsight being 20/20 and all. Ha! A meme just popped into my brain since it’s the lovely year of 2020 as I’m recording this.
My friend and I are talking about the deep wounds of her childhood…she’s on a journey to heal her trauma and finding the antidotes that work for her using therapy and other methods.
During the course of that conversation that lasted almost two hours, I shared a couple of examples from my own story. One from childhood and one from early adulthood. I know I’ve already shared some background already, but I think you’ll appreciate the context of these two scenarios as my friend did and we both ended up having epiphanies.
Because I’m going to pull ALL of this together for you to explain how you go about the business of healing your wounded inner child.
I’m going to start with the young adult story because that’s the order in which things played out over the course of that phone call and I’m basically going to recap some key points of this deep talk that my friend and I had just the other day. It was so good. I told her at the end that it was absolutely podcast worthy and she agreed with a hell yeah, share it all. Do it.
In my mid-twenties, I had my first ectopic pregnancy. I’ve already covered my own traumas from that in E9 – When You Feel Broken. But before I knew that this pregnancy wasn’t viable, that it could kill me, and that I needed to have emergency surgery, I was grappling with the other side of being knocked up by a boyfriend who at the time really wasn’t committed to our relationship.
Before that first near-death experience, probably a week or two before I knew that was coming, I was sitting in the office of a therapist myself. Trying to figure out how I was going to be a single mom and I was already working two jobs, barely getting by, and I’d never be able to afford day and night care.
Even facing all of that, I couldn’t shake this notion and that’s what I shared with the therapist: I was anticipating all of the love I would receive from this baby. I would love the baby. The baby would love me. And that is something I was really looking forward to.
Well, the therapist set me straight immediately. She said, “Babies don’t give love. I’m telling you; I have a sixteen-year-old daughter and I can count on one hand the number of times she has shown me love.”
Whew. Your first reaction may be similar to the one that I had at the time like, WTF kind of therapist says something like that to a vulnerable client who is clearly struggling yet still grasping for one good thing to come of this situation? Then you take that one thing and snuff it out. Immediately.
And my second reaction was, seems as if she needs therapy herself.
Of course, I never went back to her. And a few weeks later, when I needed emotional support for entirely different reasons, I sought help elsewhere.
Yet in hindsight, and this is what I was telling my friend, she wasn’t wrong. Terrible delivery, yes. But she wasn’t wrong.
Babies are in fact incapable of giving love to their parents. The parents may feel love for the baby. For the child. And the child may later feel love for her parents. But the feeling of love itself is not something that is transferred from one person to another. It’s something that you feel within yourself…when you think of that person or see that child, or hold that baby, you may feel overwhelmed with love. And that is all internal to you.
Of course, there are outward demonstrations of our love, because our actions are driven by our feelings. But we don’t just send love to one another like a transaction.
Yeah. It’s true.
Sit with that realization for a bit because it’s only something I’ve come to understand myself in recent years. Again, one of those things that no one ever tells you.
Love is an emotion that you generate within yourself. It has always been that way. It is no different than any other emotion, yet we walk through a good portion of our lives thinking that love is something to be received.
Crazy. Mind blowing truth bomb.
I hope I’ve done a better job explaining that than the therapist did to me. Accurate message. Shitty delivery.
Yes, sit with that awareness.
Think about it some more after this episode is finished because I’m going to move on to the big epiphany that my friend experienced as we talked about our inner child. And I brought up another story.
We’ve had these discussions before. How to move toward self-love when it feels fucking impossible. I was recapping with her, not only the concept of taking on the role of parent to your inner child, but also the concept of creating ladder thoughts.
Because at this point, you may be where she was in that, “Yes, I get that love is created by me. That makes perfect sense. But I don’t know how to create it for myself. I don’t even know where to begin.”
Well, you begin with your beliefs. All of your lived experiences, societal expectations, and conditioning from all aspects of your life that have brought you to this place of self-loathing didn’t happen overnight. They didn’t happen with one sentence being spoken, they happened day in and day out. The depths of those wounds were created by thousands of tiny cuts over time.
And so now, you have to take a similar approach in the opposite direction.
Knowing that you have to climb this ladder of belief, where each rung is a new level of belief that you can actually buy into TODAY…that’s going to take time it’s going to take dedication.
We’d talked about creating new thoughts to think in a ladder approach before, so this was a refresher, kind of a “Yes, I know this, but I’m still stuck at the bottom” place.
I shared how powerful it is to write it down. Write it down over and over. That first sentence that gets you to that first rung on the ladder to climb out of that hole you’re in. Then you pick the next one. And the next one.
I said, “It’s like when I was in elementary school.” I’m much older than she is, so I’m saying, “Back in the day, and in the very rural area that I attended elementary school, there were a lot of old systems still being used.”
We had old technology. I’m talking blackboards and chalk. I can still smell the chalk dust! And I told her that while she may have seen this in movies, these things would really happen because they happened to me. I did something wrong and my punishment was that I had to stand in front of class and write on that chalkboard 100x “I will not talk in class.” Or “I will not chew gum in class.” Whatever the infraction was, it was going to be written out for everyone else to see what I’d done…over and over and over.
And hopefully through the process of repetition and public shaming, there would be no repeats of the undesirable behavior. Not from me and not from any of my classmates. It’s called, making an example!
It must have been the visualization of me being propped up in front of the class to write out what I would not do over and over that helped everything to fall into place for my friend.
She said, “That’s horrible and that’s abuse!”
Followed almost immediately by her own realization that the abuses that she had experienced as a child had also culminated over time to create the depths of the wounds she is trying to heal.
It wasn’t one thing. One event. One instance of being told, “you’re a piece of shit.”
It’s the same sentence being spoken a hundred times. A thousand times. Over the course of many years.
Written in your brain over and over in a demonstration of public shaming.
The culmination of a thousand tiny cuts that eventually create that gaping hole. Each cut on its own isn’t so painful. It’s the totality of all of them.
And I certainly can’t recreate the power of that moment of her realization for you here, but I can tell you I could even feel it through the phone. It was an epiphany.
Because from there, she went to, “OMG – this is how cults work. They don’t just show up at your doorstep and say hey, ‘wanna join my cult?’ Of course, we would slam the door in their face and they know that, so that’s not how they indoctrinate you. That’s rarely if ever how it works.
No. They do it through very sneaky programming over time. In small ways that seem innocent or innocuous enough on the surface, but the end goal is to keep ramping it up…a little at a time.
JUST LIKE A BELIEF LADDER – one rung at a time.
And if the stuff of eventual trauma and nightmares can be created in this way, then so can the healing from it all.
To do this, you have to start with something you CAN believe today. You can’t simply propel yourself to the top of this ladder of new beliefs about yourself. You didn’t get to thinking you are a piece of shit overnight. That belief was developed over time through the consistent delivery of a thousand cuts.
By someone you trusted. Someone you looked up to. Perhaps someone you respected, admired or even loved.
This conditioning doesn’t have to have occurred in childhood, either. While my ‘writing on the chalkboard incident’ was a childhood memory (and one that my friend immediately identified as abuse), I really didn’t think anything of it back then. It’s just they way classroom management worked. We all experienced it. Everyone in that school did, anyway.
The deeper cut for me was with the therapist as an adult. Someone I didn’t even know, but I respected and trusted enough to be comfortable relaying my truth. It took me awhile to trust another therapist, because somehow, I walked away from that session thinking I had done something wrong with my thoughts.
Whatever it is for you…and for many of us, there are so many layers and so many players, or actors in our movie, just focus on the outcome. If the outcome from a thousand cuts is that you believe you are a piece of shit, what is the next thought you can think to move one rung away from that?
If in reaching the top of the ladder, you would say, “I am perfect and worthy exactly as I am,” we need to come up with rung by rung, thought by thought to work up to that, because “I am perfect and worthy exactly as I am” will not even be close to feeling authentic for you.
Pick a thought that you can believe today.
Maybe it’s: “I am a human being.” Can’t really argue with that one. I am a human being.
Start with a statement that you can buy into.
Say it out loud. Write it down. 100 times. On paper, you don’t have to try to find an old school blackboard and chalk!
But honestly, writing adds a layer of intention to that thought, whether you know it or not. If you’ve been journaling about your problems and your struggles and your pain, while it may be a necessary part of your process, it’s also further imbedding those memories into your subconscious mind.
It’s time to switch it up. It’s time to look forward. No need to check the rearview mirror, that’s not the direction we’re going. We’re going forward.
Then you take the next rung and you tweak your statement just a little bit at a time.
“I believe that the human body can heal.”
“I believe it’s possible for me to heal.”
“I believe that I can heal.”
Come up with up with your own statements. One at a time. Keep at the one you pick until you truly feel it before you move to the next one.
Meet yourself where you are. Give yourself the compassion that you deserve through this process. If you’re not ready to love yourself, acknowledge that it’s okay if you don’t just yet. Congratulate yourself for simply being willing to do the work that it takes to undo the years of painful memories that you’ve been carrying. To unravel.
Remember that you didn’t get here overnight and you’re not going to get there overnight. Remember that it took a thousand cuts to arrive at where you are and that it will take a thousand acts of focused self-care to turn that corner.
Just don’t quit.
This is attainable.
You can do anything.
Because you are amazing.
Keep going, because you’re going to reach the top of that ladder and from that higher peak that you’re now standing on, you’re just going to kick it away, because you’re not going back down.
You may have been betrayed in this life by other humans whom you respected, admired, and even loved. It’s time to become the parent to your inner child because only you know what she needs the most. And quite honestly, you’re the only one who can meet those needs.
Yes, you can. You are capable. And you are worthy.
Okay, that was a lot, so let’s recap:
- Many of us carry the pains of our past in the form of an inner child who just wants to be comforted, to feel safe, and to be loved. Whether or not the events that hurt you happened during childhood or adulthood, it’s the child inside of you who needs your attention today.
- Love is an emotion that you generate within. It cannot be magically transmitted to another person. Any love someone else feels for you comes from whatever they have generated within themselves. And so, if it’s possible to create love for another person inside of yourself, it’s possible to create love FOR yourself.
- Any abuse that you have experienced in the past is just that, the past. Any beliefs you have formed about your own self-worth as a result of these experiences can be changed. I recommend that you create a new ladder of beliefs, starting with one simple thought at a time that you repeat over and over, either verbally or written (both would be fantastic), each thought becomes your daily mantra until you believe it. Then move on to the next thought that you can buy into today.
- I can’t tell you what those thoughts should be. No one can. You make that determination for yourself. You become the parent to your inner child. She needs you and only you can fully and completely meet her needs. Because you know her best.
“It’s your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.“Jelaluddin Rumi
Seriously, I don’t care if you are the slightest bit interested in yoga, but I do encourage you to look up Child’s Pose and give it try. It really is like physically giving yourself a hug, it feels amazing, and doing something like this will affirm your commitment to actively participate in your own healing path. If you’re currently seeing a counselor or therapist, that’s wonderful. Keep it up. Just don’t neglect this inner work too.
Above all, don’t forget that you’re moving forward on this road. That is your direction. You’ve got this.
This post is a partial transcript of my podcast, What Lights You Up – Episode 30. I invite you to enjoy the full episode and subscribe on Spotify or Apple!