It took me a long time to know what it meant to show up for myself. It took a long time to hear the messages from my own inner parent. My theory is that unless we’ve had someone in our lives treating both us and themselves with unconditional love, we simply don’t know what to say because that language hasn’t been learned. We hear loving messages from others, but there’s no inner resonance because that language isn’t one that is familiar. Or, because the walls of protection that we all construct at various points and for various reasons are so thick, the words don’t easily penetrate. (All this to say we need external models as we’re building and strengthening internal resources…more on that another time.)
There’s also the belief that growing up means we shouldn’t want what we longed for and needed in childhood. That we should somehow separate ourselves from our childlike fantasies and playful spirits, from our basic needs even. Instead, we think we must sever ties, cut ourselves off from the parts of ourselves that are seemingly too young or too immature or, sadly, too vulnerable.
But, is it possible to be the parent and child simultaneously? Said differently, can we be both the holder and the held?
YES. 1000% yes.
I can remember the day when all this knowledge (that I’d been learning for years) finally sunk in. I was making myself lunch, something I can be rather grumbly about because I just don’t feel like it (thanks, ego). I want quick. I want easy. And even though making lunch doesn’t really take much, resistance makes it seems like preparing lunch for 10 people about to leave for a hike. Too. Much. Effort.
But, I did it anyway (another important adult lesson).
After preparing the meal – and this is where the real learning is – I sat down and ate it as the child. Having food made for me is one of my most favorite things. It one loving action that gives me the warm fuzzies. And – how wonderful! – I could now do this for myself instead of pining for someone else to do it for me.
This is just one example of what it looks like to work and connect with the different parts of yourself. In this case, it’s the inner adult and the inner child. For many of us, we long for something from someone who isn’t available to meet our needs. Yet, when we learn to do it ourselves, we can stop waiting. We can stop denying and shaming ourselves and take the short road to satisfaction because we don’t have to detour through other peoples’ stuff (because it’s other peoples’ stuff that keeps them from showing up; not because there’s anything wrong with you).
And this also means that we don’t have to give up wanting what we want, needing what we need. It’s just that we learn to turn to ourselves instead of wait for it to come in from the outside. We get to be both the adult and the child, the caregiver and the care-receiver, respectively. And this makes all the difference on the healing journey.