Preface: I am going to write this post as if no one has ever or will ever roll their eyes. Including me. I will set aside my self-deprecation (I’ll try) and let my most eager, earnest, innocent, and wide-eyed self come forward.
Introduction: Some of you may not know me or most certainly may not know my methods as a healer/therapist. I am clinically trained as a therapist. I began to transition away from that label in the last year but that is my background and has greatly influenced me. My main method of healing is to find the origin of the wound and work with the part of the self that is involved. That is often an Inner Child part. Meaning the younger self that had the experience. Sometimes what steps forward in our psyche isn’t exactly an Inner Child but something else; like a shrewd, critical voice or a bully, or a troll, or fairy creature. Anything! I’ve seen many different forms come forward, its pretty interesting actually. These are all parts of us; they make up who we are. They all have a part to play. They all have meaning and motivation. And they must be paid attention to or they will run amok.
This is what I teach to others and what I use for myself. When I first got to Arizona we were at Buckeye Regional Park. Ohhhhh, I loved it. It was so much of what we were looking for. And it allowed for us to commit time to meditation every day in a peaceful, natural setting. There is a romantic notion, for me, around what that will look like. And a lot of the meditation is peaceful and inspiring. It also started to bring some deeper layers to the surface. I’m sure it wasn’t just meditation but the intention I had made to leave behind an old way of life and move forward. And that means a cleansing process is in order.
I was sitting on this little hill…
down the little path that sticks out from the solar panel. And I was feeling a great heaviness and a sadness. Old stuff. Yuck, dark stuff. Oh, this again. Its a familiar, dark traumatic memory. I’ve worked on for years. At first there was some despair, ‘will this ever be gone? Will I ever be free of this?’ I sat in that for a bit. And then the thought came, (as it often does in meditation. I get great stuff, intuitive stuff.) ‘this is another layer coming up to be released. And, yes, there’s more’. As the day went on I was deeply contemplative about this. Digesting it all. I was thinking about all the ways this traumatic memory comes up in my life. How I avoid, freeze, deny in certain situations. And I thought, ‘Of course there’s more, Emily. That behavior isn’t normal. This isn’t punishment, this is to help liberate you and make you more whole’. Okay. Yeah. I see it. I see the ways I still “get by” rather than thrive. Okay. Yes. I will keep going forward.
So I sit and I go inward. I find the inner child that needs to be heard. She is 12 years old and full of anxiety. This symptom is one that I have worked on since I started my own healing and recovery. I carry a tremendous burden of anxiety. Over the years, I have whittled away at it significantly: through consistent yoga practice, meditation, years of intensive therapy, overhaul of nutrition (caffeine? Yeah, no.), and lots of down time. I see that this was a critical time for this particular symptom. What I know from my training is that 12 is an age that you will commonly see anxiety when they’ve been traumatized. Its part of their developmental process. They are still dependent on their parents for ideas, approval, house, food, and money. And what their peers think of them is very important. They often haven’t reached that place of independence. The turning point is usually adolescence where most of us look at what we’ve been through, feel the injustice and say, “Fuck that! I’m not listening to you anymore!” Adolescence is where the individuation starts to happen. We are then capable of surviving without are parents so now we can get angry. Fear of damaging that link between us is not the priority. Where it was everything before, now we realize, ‘I don’t need them like I did. I don’t need/want their approval. I could possibly make my own money. I can drive now. I’m leaving this house soon!’ We are liberated from that bind if it was one that was stifling or insufficient.
So that takes us back to my 12 year old. She was still consumed with, ‘Oh my god who’s mad at me? Do I fit in? But I want to be myself? But you’re too different. What about mom, is she okay? Is she mad at me? What did I do? How can I fix it? Its not my fault! Doesn’t matter, fix it. And Dad, what’s happening there? That’s on you’ Later, she would find anger and independence (this allows for us to push those demands and those burdens off of our person), like I said, in adolescence. But she didn’t have that yet. She was just crushed by the weight of this. And each of the traumatic events she experienced lodged this deeper and deeper into the foundation of who she was. As if it was a strategy used to cope (which is exactly what it was) with what was in front of her. These strategy are never perfect but usually work enough. Especially when you have no other choices. And that’s the shitter of being a kid. You are powerless over so much. Adults pull rank on you every day. They drop their shit on you every day. And if you’re a parent reading this don’t just think about your kids, THIS HAPPENED TO YOU FIRST. You were a kid too. And that’s where you learned what you learned. And on and on. My 12 year old self often knew that she was not in the wrong, that it was unjust. But also knew that didn’t matter. She knew she was on the losing end. Hence the anxiety. She was actively going against herself, everyday. Denying what she knew to be true so that she could survive. I fully believe that anxiety is always that. When I do the inner child work, I talk to them, understand them, and look for the solution. I realized that she and her pain were located on the back part of my heart. The sensation was anxiety. That was her. That was her signal. That’s how I would know she had been triggered. So I did what I normally do and tried to hash it out with her. Trying to make her feel safe, giving her whatever she needed. I couldn’t quite get it but was determined to stay with her. So that’s what I did for days, just hung with it, waiting for the solution to present itself.
I talked about it with Jeff and with friends. I greived. I came into acceptance that more work was needed on this area. Then a totally different situation presented itself. It came up, between Jeff and me, our evening routines. I tend to be wiped by evening, no energy except to shove food in my mouth and watch tv. This is challenging for Jeff because he easily is seduced by tv and it interrupts his evening meditation and wind-down practices. It interrupted by evening meditation too. I had been trying to reason myself into the evening mediation for a year maybe. It is one the fundamentals of our training with Yogananda. Morning and evening meditation for 30 mins. And frankly, is it that much to ask of me to dedicate an hour to the thing I proclaim to be of utmost importance in my life? No. It felt like a very doable requirement/suggestion. But I could not get myself committed to the night time routine. Guess who was running that show? My teenage self. All the way. I realize this as Jeff is pushing a little about me not meditating at night. She rose up in a rage ready to light herself on fire just to prove a point! That’s how she likes to communicate. She’s making up for lost time. You see how that’s a perfectly reasonable next step in the developmental process? The teenager comes in to avenge for the injustice done to the 12 year old and all those ages that came before. And we give so much shit to teenagers for being “moody” and “defiant”. They’re just done with the “yes ma’ams” and “no sirs” and “whatever you want!”.
Anyway, my teenager reared up ready to light herself on fire. And I realized that she had been running the show in this particular area. And that I willingly climbed in the back seat and let her take the wheel. She was so goddamn insistent and terrifying and seemingly immovable! And she had such good points! “This is all I have! This is the time I get for myself! I deserve this!” Yes, but the rest of me knew that she was indulging. That’s the deal with the teenager. That’s why the development shouldn’t stop there and why I was better suited for leadership in this establishment. I understood discipline and she didn’t. What she had been showed of discipline before, by her parents were over things she didn’t care about and didn’t value. So it became, “Do it because I said so”. Teenager just loved that. My spirit came in with warrior energy already. I knew the feeling of fighting to the death for my freedom or my cause. The teenager bided her time and thought, “Oh you just wait. I will show you.” And she did. She raged through a lot of life after that. Did a lot of stupid shit in the name of independence but also paved her own path. You know, the one that helped get me here today. My teenage self has many gifts. She inherently doesn’t understand discipline. She always leans to the impulsive, feel good in the moment. The indulgent. Its my job to teach her discipline. And its different/harder than working with the younger parts. They don’t fight back like she does. It’s like real life,you know? It’s easy to love young kids. It takes something different to appreciate your teenager.
So Jeff challenges her, inadvertently. Luckily, I feel the fire rage inside me and I tell him, “My teenager is really up right now”. I don’t remember exactly how it all stopped but he heard me. I was able to come back to the conversation with him later. I told him about my internal struggle with the meditation and that I needed help. “How can I help? I’m not sure what to do when it happens”, he said. “Yeah, me neither, yet. But you listening helps. And just being aware that she is very rebellious” says me. So I sat with it again. This time I got an idea in meditation, I was talking with my teenager a little. Many of my little ones were present; like a little committee. A compromise! Okay, yes. This felt okay in body. No revolt. I talked respectfully with my teenager. They appreciate that. They just take a little stronger hand. If you let them know that you really see them, that they’re struggling but without shaming them, you’ve got em. So I told her, “Listen, I know you really like that time at night to watch tv. I’m not going to take it away from you. I’m not going to shove someone else ideas or values on you. We like that time. We watch tv. Its fine! But, our meditation can not be replaced by anything else. Nothing works like it does. It needs to be there. And I’m tired of not following through with what I intend to do. Its wearing me down. And the tv watching does not fulfill this need the way meditation can and does. Its not wrong but it doesn’t do what you want it to. You think you’re treating yourself but then we wake up the next morning with regret. So here’s what I think we should do. Before dinner and before we can watch tv we have to do 15 mins of meditation. Then you can do whatever you want without this monkey on our back”. It was a deal! I felt such relief in my body. This was the right choice. We needed a compromise. We needed a goal we felt we could actually reach. But all the while still moving forward. And the grown up me feeling more a sense of integrity. Dignity. I can do what I said I would do, finally.
First evening rolls around and I actually a little excited! I tell you, I can turn anything into a game. I sit for meditation and I realize: this is the what I can do to deal with that dark memory that surfaced (at the beginning of the post). It is seemingly unconnected, in my mind. But I’m sitting there with my younger selves (12, 7, 5) and their message is clear: “Do what you said you would do”. And when I do that the anxiety and the heaviness lifted. That clenching and breathlessness anxiety feeling at the back of my heart lifted. And my teenager knows, the limits have been set clearly, what is expected. How she can get to what she wants.
Weeks later, I’m still in awe of this discovery. ‘If you’re feeling anxiety, make sure you’re doing what you said you would do’. I now see the play happening between the parts of me that want to stand by her word, don’t like dishonesty vs. the rebellious teenage part. Extreme in either direction doesn’t work. Which sounds so banal as I write it. But I said no eye-rolling, so I won’t. Both sides of me have to be attended to. I’ve kept up with my morning and evening meditation and I feel like SUCH A WINNER! Every time after the timer goes off for that 15 mins I say, ‘YES! We did it’.
I’m very curious the reaction people might have to this. Especially those that have never been exposed to Inner Child Therapy. I talk about this for a living, so feel free to ask me any questions or if you just have things to share, feel free! Thanks for reading.