“Maybe if they die, I won’t feel so guilty for speaking up.
Maybe they will apologize on their death bed. Maybe they will finally say the right thing.
Maybe I will find a way to make everyone stop fighting. I’ll finally be the peacemaker I wanted to be.
I don’t want to burn those bridges. I might still need them.
I always wanted a mother.
I always wanted a father.
Maybe they will treat my kids how I wanted to be treated.
Maybe if I let them buy me enough stuff, it will fill the hole of emptiness from not having real parents.
Maybe they will change.
Maybe they will tell me they love me and mean it – just once.
Maybe they will finally see me as a good person.
Maybe they will tell me that.
Maybe things will be different if I wait a little longer.
Maybe I won’t have to feel the pain of rejection and abandonment from childhood.
Maybe everything will be better without that.
It shouldn’t have to be so hard.
I’ll just wait for them to be better, to treat me better.
It will happen, won’t it?
I’ll just wait.”
The Inner Child
The Pain is Real
There’s so much judgment out there for those of us who leave a family behind. Survivors talk to me all the time about how they are invalidated and judged for their decision. Outsiders seem to believe it is a flippant decision made to get the parents back for their minor infractions. The abuse is often minimized. The decision to leave is seen as irresponsible, disloyal and vindictive. Everyone immediately turns their thoughts to the poor parents who have forever lost their child.
But for survivors of intergenerational trauma, the inner pain is real. The inner pain is haunting. The inner child is still desperate for the loving parents they never had. And this can lead us to a stuck place. It is a painful limbo of sorts which is like purgatory on Earth. We want to leave the abuse behind, but we want to wait for our parents to do the right thing. We cognitively know the later won’t happen, but our inner parts are still holding out for a miracle. And so we wait … in purgatory.
There is a way out of the waiting though. We can bring these parts out of that waiting mode. We can give them what they always wanted. We can re-parent them.
I know what you are thinking now.
“That isn’t fair. I shouldn’t have to do that. They should make up for what they did.”
That is your inner child speaking. And they are right. It isn’t fair. They should make up for what they did. But they won’t. And you can choose to listen to your inner parts and wait. Or you can choose to move forward with your recovery and parent the parts that need it. I know this sounds like tough love, but this is me loving you with the painful truth. I want you to move out of that limbo and live the life you are meant to have.
So how do you re-parent?
- Acknowledge and accept your parts. They may have done some bad things. They may feel shame. They may feel grief. They may still have that trauma bond with their abusers. But love them unconditionally. Be patient with them. Accept them for who they are. This was the one thing they wanted from their parents. It was the thing they never got.
- Let your inner parts express. They have a lot to say. You may hear their words in your head or your manic thoughts may get in the way. But believe me, they have plenty to say. When you stop the endless mind chatter and allow yourself to ground in to your body, you will hear them. They reside with your body pain and your emotions.
- Protect them. Once your inner parts start to understand that you are the adult self and can handle life, they will begin to back off. Show them you can set boundaries to protect them. Show them you can choose a life they wanted all along. Show them that you are a different kind of adult. You aren’t like the others.
- Find out what they love and do it. Our inner parts wanted a different role in their lives. They never intended to spend their energy on constant vigilance and traumatic suppression. They were meant for far greater things. And they know what they love. Let them tell you what they love. Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic. Try to go out and meet their needs. Let them live the way they were supposed to live.
As you shift your relationship with your inner parts, you will start to shift out of limbo. Your inner parts will start to see there is another way to have their needs met and it doesn’t involve waiting around for an external person to do it. Believe it or not, they may even begin to trust you. They may even begin to respect you. They may even begin to live again. And then, so can you.
If you would like help re-parenting your inner parts, I offer one-on-one survivor guidance sessions to help you build awareness and make changes in your life.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW
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