A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Inner Child Work

Me at about age seven, drawing.

I've always had a bad memory and, after enduring through an abusive relationship and psychosis, it has gotten worse.  I'm at a point in my life where this is no longer acceptable to me.  I want to remember my life or at least the key elements of it.  The few people I know, those not in a recovery program, pull away from remembering childhood and adolescence and want to leave the past in the past; it's apparently too painful to remember.  But the people in 12 Step recovery programs must face their pasts squarely when the do the 4th Step: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  Last summer into the Fall, before I had my most recent breakdown, I was working on my 4th Step and managed to partially take my 5th Step, the confession Step.  It didn't feel right and I know it's time to return to the 4th Step and try again.

In order to take this Step I feel I need to remember myself as a kid and so I've been tentatively telling myself to do some "Inner Child" work.  I've returned to two books, John Bradshaw's Homecoming:  Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child and Nancy J. Napier's Recreating Your Self:  Help for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families.  I bought these books in the early 1990s in Florida during one of my extended escapes from my abusive, love and alcohol addicted partner in order to try and reach inside myself and start the healing process.  They both focus on reaching out to the child within and reparenting that child.  I found the Napier book especially important to me.  She teaches her readers how to practice self hypnosis to find one's present self, one's past selves and one's future self.  She has a series of self hypnotic meditations that you read aloud into a recorder complete with appropriate pauses and listen back to in order to enter into a trance state for around 20 minutes a session.

I remember sitting down in a large closet for absolute privacy to record on a tape cassette recorder one of these meditations having to do with regressing to younger parts of one's self.  As I read and paused I got pulled into the trance state and my speech became more childlike as I regressed.  It was a strange feeling and yet I felt I really got to some deep places within myself.  I still have that tape hidden somewhere in the vast clutter of my house.  Recently I have recorded three meditations, one to imagine a particular safe place, one to get in touch with the inner child and one to have myself and my child self meet the future self.  The concept of meeting my future self is a challenging and magical one for me.  I still haven't met her yet, but I'm open to reaching out for whatever my unconscious has to reveal to me about her and the child or children within me.  I say children because there are different age groups within me, different stages of me.  I've met the four year old and the seven year old.

The four year old was sucking her thumb and holding her "thing" which refers to a very soft folded sheet that I would knead with my fingers as I sucked my thumb.  I sucked my thumb until I was seven years old when my mother threw away my "thing" mainly because my two front teeth were starting to buck and twist.  Besides that I was about three years too old to be still doing that.  The reasons why I did that are unclear to me right now, but I'd like to find out.  The little Katy stood on a path through a wooded area leading to a beach looking at me from about ten feet away.  She wore a short dress and her hair was pretty short, too. She was serious, but open, just there and watching me.  Later I would take her hand.

The seven year old, no longer sucking her thumb, was also serious, but no longer as accepting.  There was caution in her.  She wore shorts and a sleeveless shirt, her hair medium length and uncombed looking - she was very slim and very tan.  It was summer for her.  She stood close to a tree in the shade and watched me without speaking.  Her eyes were dark, large and soulful, nose small and round, and lips full but stopping short of a pout.  I could feel that she was bright, but wounded.  Damped down.  I just stood at a distance from her, not close enough to touch her.

I'm not ready to meet the future self because I don't even know these parts of myself well enough.  I've only done the trance work a few times so far, but wouldn't mind starting a practice where I do it once a day for around twenty to forty minutes.  Ms. Napier says it is important to go slowly and move with the changes.  She encourages changing the meditation to suit what the unconscious is directing you to look at and experience.  I'm somewhat nervous about doing this, but I think it's because it's a new and unfamiliar practice.

Of course, emotions will rise to the surface and I will have to work with the uncomfortable ones.  The future self is supposed to come forward to help with this, to begin the process of reparenting the sick children within.  I know I need this self therapy.  I have a new therapist and I will ask her to help me when I get stuck.  I think it's important that I have someone to talk to about the trance work, an outside view that might give me more clarity and direction than I can give to myself.  I need to work towards overall balance especially when I'm tipping into negative feelings and thoughts.  But really, the visions that come up are set in places of strong safety, for me, at or near the beach, my favorite childhood place.  This makes it safe to approach the dysfunction in myself that I acquired through living in a dysfunctional family system.

It disturbs me not only how out of touch I am with my childhood and youth, but how out of touch so many adults seem to be.  I haven't met anyone who hasn't been hurt as a child and adolescent, some severely so, and yet for all of us childhood and youth had many magical moments seen through fresh eyes with an open spirit.  The problem with the really bad stuff is that we let it stand out and color many of our memories and also our present moments.  Why do we have this tendency to forget so much of the goodness we encountered?  And why do we generate the one thing that we really want to disperse:  suffering, through holding onto resentment and regret or worse, hurting ourselves, as I have done much of my life, with a numb detachment?

I want resolution to all my unresolved conflicts.  Don't we all?  Isn't that why many people pick up all kinds of self-help books, go to therapy and support groups, reach out to family members, friends and lovers?  Those that get that far are luckier than the ones who wish to bury the conflicts to make them somehow disappear.  But they don't disappear.  They come up in disguised forms whenever we find ourselves conflicted with people and situations.  So I'm here to urge you to find your safe place or places inside yourself and take the risk of getting to know your beginnings, your core wounded self, in order to release a more profound self, what some therapists call the "true self".  What Buddhists might call the Buddha child within which is our unblemished true nature that sprang into life in even the most miserable childhoods.  It's always there, ready to be tapped into, but you have to commit to it and do the work.

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