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October 8, 2019

My Inner Child is a Spiritual Warrior.

We’ve been through quite a journey, little me and I.

I think I can finally say that I’m growing on her—the adult me, that is.

I know this may sound confusing, talking about a child version of myself in the third person, but it’s important I separate me then from me now. We’re not one and the same—at least not yet.

My mind created this split when I was about seven years old. I started to really feel the effects of childhood sexual abuse around this time and was dealing with the dysfunction that comes with a parent who’s battling addiction and mental illness.

I was lost. I was overwhelmed. And at some point, I completely shut down.

I put my wounds in a shoebox, taped it shut, bubble-wrapped it, taped it again, and then hid it in the back of a closet. Then, I moved a couch in front of the closet so I’d have no way of getting in there. But that wound, that little hurting me, was still in there asking to be let out and heard. The performer, the golden child, the “strong kid,” would walk past that closet and that couch and plug her ears to avoid the desperate screams of the wounded kid. “If I ignore her,” she thought, “she’ll eventually go away.”

This, as many of us know, couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Because I wasn’t ready to access and work on healing that wounded part of myself until adulthood, that little girl had a lot of power over me in my teens and 20s. I was split. Half child. Half adult. One in my body (the adult), the other in my mind (the kid).

But here I am now: a 30-year-old woman living a full, colourful, beautiful life, with a passion for presence and appreciation of all things in “the now.” No, I’m not always mindful of the moment, but as a yoga teacher, I’ve literally made it my life’s work to try to be more here, now, and less there, back then.

The double digits have been challenging for my inner kid. She used to really not like responsibility…at all. In fact, she bloody well ran from it. That wounded, younger part of me felt so burdened by the responsibility she took on for other adults when she was small that she created a rotten association with the “R” word. I know now that my parents did the best they could with what they knew at the time, but little me didn’t get that. It all just felt too much.

I created the belief at a young age that responsibility meant overwhelm. It meant shutting down. For a long time, the adult world of paying bills, showing up for work, and doing household chores could be met with an inner eye roll and a little middle finger. “Not happening,” mini-me would say. And, for a long time, I let her run the show.

It wasn’t until I started going back to therapy a few years ago that I realized she was completely in the driver’s seat of my life. And there I was, wondering why I felt so frustrated with my self-sabotaging, small, childlike behaviours. Aha! It all finally became so clear. My inner child was trying to get my attention, and I kept ignoring her. So, she’d throw temper tantrums to disrupt my adult life and bring me back to her playground. After all, it was more fun and safe there, wasn’t it?

When the adult me was in control, I’d show up for commitments as planned, do amazing work in my community, and face my fears. When the kid me was in control, I’d cancel those same plans, isolate myself from the world, and feed into my fears. It really was like living a double life—a split life.

The sexual abuse that I experienced as a child and many other familial traumas severely impacted my relationship with my body and my sense of safety. It didn’t feel safe to be in my own skin back then, but it is now. This is the work I’ve been doing with my inner child, to help her stand up strong and remember that we (me then and me now) are spiritual warriors. We just forget that sometimes.

I’m more aware of when she’s trying to get some attention and control these days. I don’t condemn her. I don’t shame her. I don’t ignore her.

I breathe. I close my eyes, and I envision her in my mind. I put my hands on her shoulders. I hug her. I tell her, “I love you. You are safe. I’ve got you now.”

My inner kid trusts me more these days. She’s negotiating with me. When I close my eyes and go to her in my mind, she’s standing there ready to listen. She looks at me in the eye. She’s not running around frantically or hiding in the fetal position in a dark corner. She’s ready to start shedding some of that pain.

I took her to a safe space in my visualization not long ago. We walked hand in hand toward the sandy shores of some wondrous ocean. She breathed, she relaxed and looked up at me, sighing, “finally.” I sat there on a chair with this feeling in my adult body and cried. “So that’s what she’s been waiting for,” I thought. “For me to bring her here. To safety. To peace.”

I keep building trust with my inner kid by practicing healthy boundaries in my adult life. By saying no to the people, places, and things that take my power away or drain me in some way. I avoid overextending myself. I listen to my gut when it tells me that a certain person or situation is unsafe, and I just don’t go there. So now, my inner kid is kind of like, “Oh, so you can handle this. You are safe now. I guess I’ll let you take the reins.”

I didn’t get to this more peaceful place without a lot of work in therapy, yoga, meditation, prayer, journaling, and just plain crying. And “the work” isn’t done.

But the goal is clear:

To bring my inner kid home.

To bring her into my heart.

To hold her hand and lead her away from the periphery and into the centre of my being.

To integrate her.

To transmute her fear into love. Into faith. Into joy and curiosity and gratitude.

And we’ll get there. One small step at a time.

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author: Eryl McCaffrey

Image: Eli DeFaria/Unsplash

Editor: Kelsey Michal