John Bradshaw On Healing The Inner Child
Remember the story of Adam and Eve? Legend has it they they gained wisdom from eating forbidden fruit. But what I think they really got was the insidious and pervasive "disease" of judgement.
Once they learned judgement they could blame and in turn, feel blame and shame for being "wrong". They felt naked and exposed. Their self judgement made them feel like they were no longer "good enough". They wanted to hide and isolate.
This same phenomenon is what happens in ACA families. We learn to judge, diminish and reject ourselves and others. We receive judgement, often as modeled by our caretakers. And we judge ourselves for "causing" the problems in our families and not being good enough to make everything ok. It is the only way we feel some kind of control in our chaotic homes. We believe that if everything is our fault we then have the power to fix it.
We then grow up to propagate this behavior. Judging becomes second nature to the point where many people don't even realize the extent and frequency with which they do it. Reality TV for example, is full of people judging, feeling judged, conflict and argument. And not a lot of healthy interaction. Lots of people accept this as "normal" because they know no alternative. The Judgement that is supposed to make you feel righteous, safe and invulnerable only serves to separate and isolate. There is no winner here.
"A Child Has A Right To Unconditional Love."- John Bradshaw
Perhaps the biggest challenge to Adult Children Of Dysfunctional Families is learning to be free of judgement. This means "unlearning" that early training that was ingrained in us. Not an easy task but doable.
The difficult part is that the antidote for the disease of judgement is self acceptance, empathy and compassion. These are things many of us did NOT have lots of parental modeling on. Many people struggle to express self love and are even uncomfortable thinking about it. That is a clue that your Judgement Mechanism is still hard at work!
It starts with learning to love your inner child. This is what I believe "reparenting" is- NOT more judgement and beating ourselves up. That's what immature parents do. Self nurturing, as unnatural as it may feel at the beginning, is the way out of the judgement trap that keeps people stuck.
Your inner child is always with you. You can dialogue and express care with him or her anytime. Simply asking your child "How are you doing? Are you feeling ok?" is an easy way to show empathy. You may feel the little one inside perk up when you pay them attention.
Some people keep a picture of themselves as a child in a prominent place or in their wallets and look at it often. Some even speak to their picture and tell it how special they are. Sound silly? So what? Remember, your inner "Judger" will go to any lengths to keep you from healing. It will likely ridicule your initial attempts at self nurturing and tell you it's a stupid idea. And THAT is a key that you are on the right track!
When your "Judger" tells you to do something or feel a certain way, try doing the opposite as an experiment. You may be surprised to discover alternative choices you never realized. And you may experience a feeling of freedom that reminds you of how a beautiful child feels.
The road to recovery is a long one. You may not have overnight success and there may be setbacks along the way. But you can make a difference just by trying something new today.
Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children