I tell this story because it’s one my inner child never got the chance to tell.
Her reclamation story.
Her story of how she was able to come through me as a near 30-year-old woman. I, her keeper, now.
I tell this story not to blame, play victim, or act out fear of the perpetrator, but as an example of the stories we hold in our bodies and nervous systems. How events in our later life can trigger similar feelings once felt in the body of the child we once were.
Healing is so wise in these ways. It always finds a way to make itself known.
We can see it as punishment, of course. We can wring our hands in despair, asking how could we have caused this event. Or, maybe, just maybe, we can see it as divine orchestration. Our own inner wisdom orchestrating needed events to bring about a different balm for the emotions we can now allow ourselves to feel, when as a child, maybe those feelings got stuffed so far down in tidy, neat, but full-to-the-brim boxes labeled, “Everything I’ll deal with at a more convenient time.”
It’s funny, because the “more convenient time” never really comes. But we can and do become more available, ready, and prepared to welcome those feelings—allowing an expansive awareness of those feelings if we so choose that path.
I had gone to help a friend pack her belongings after a tragic accident and passing of her recently ex-partner. Here I was, an adult, helping my dear friend pack up her life belongings into a few suitcases and boxes, unsure of where her next home might be.
I was alone in the garage for a brief period of time to finish wrapping a picture, as her dog scurried about around me. My friend had gone inside for a few moments. Her dog, one who has its own valid stories of trauma, walked past me, as I kneeled vulnerably on the ground, wrapping the picture. In a split second, she growled at me and lunged at me with teeth bared, biting my knee as I jumped upright in terror.
I entered the fight/flight/freeze/fawn response at this time, no longer in control of my actions (or inactions) consciously. I froze. I could barely process what was happening, let alone do much about it. My limbic system was in full control now, amygdala hijacked by fear.
She leapt toward me again in attack, as I stood frozen in time. This time, her teeth luckily grabbed a hold of my sweater, pulling it off me. At this point, my more conscious frontal cortex came back online and I used a large box to push her back toward the door and swiftly closed it once she was outside.
My whole body was shaking. My heart was pounding in my frozen-feeling chest. The tears were coming down my cheeks fast. The bite had left a mark, drawing some blood, but not deep enough to cause alarm.
In those few moments, vulnerable and afraid, I felt like time had clicked backward to when I was much younger, perhaps five years old. For a few moments, I was no longer the near 30-year-old woman capable of protecting herself. I was utterly helpless, vulnerable, and terribly frightened like a child.
Shame came in to steal the show after that. I felt shame of the fear, of the vulnerability, the helplessness. I felt ashamed of the fear I was housing in my own body that “clearly the dog could sense, and I was to blame. If I didn’t house that fear, the dog wouldn’t have attacked me,” or so the story went.
That’s the beauty, mess, and wisdom of healing as an adult. We begin to see the picture play out a little more clearly. For many of us, we have endured childhood trauma, whether it was overt or more covert. Remnants of abuse, neglect, or gaslighting of our own feelings or experiences by caretakers or others linger in our field until some event triggers them and we are perhaps more ready and available to bring healing presence and love to them.
I’m not saying I have the answers as to why horrible, frightening experiences such as these happen. But, I do know this much by now on the healing journey. We can choose to stay a victim or we can choose, now as adults, to empower ourselves through our own perception of these challenges and willingness to embrace all feelings that come with it.
The truth is we are all vulnerable at one point or another, whether now, or when we were children. We have vulnerable parts that remain within us. We have fearful parts to our biology and wiring.
But we need not shame ourselves for housing this fear. Shame, perhaps, is the manager of the more intense fear and vulnerability we feel, as an exiled part of self (see Internal Family Systems for more information on the different parts of self).
Fear does not make us wrong. Fear does not make us an embarrassment.
Fear makes us goddamn human.
Maybe, these events in adulthood ricochet deeper healing than we even know, just by us being a witness to all of the parts of ourselves surfacing, not needing to make ourselves wrong in that process—by being gentle and so incredibly kind to the one who endured the terror and fear. By even saying, “Thank you shame for trying to protect me. I can be with my fear now safely.”
These feelings are just as holy and valid as all the other “prettier” parts of us. They are just as worthy of our loving care and undivided attention.
Our inner child can be soothed, comforted, and loved now, with total and complete permission to feel what we maybe never allowed ourselves to feel or be witnessed by others in feeling.
Maybe, the wisdom of life does in fact orchestrate the needed events and healing we need. Whether through trauma, death, crisis, or deeply moving moments of love and care, healing finds us. It taps into the wounded parts of self within, and this time, we can and are able to maybe experience something different—more safety in what we feel, more permission in what we feel, more surrender and allowance into what we feel, more willingness to be held by self and others in what we feel.
Maybe we can bring those inner child wounds into present time or just be with them more fully when they bubble up to the surface. Any and all feelings of fear, grief, pain, aloneness, and vulnerability. We can acknowledge the shame we took on from the world around us and kindly dismiss it from its duty of self-protection.
We all have this inner wildness. The raw and primal fears. The untamed landscape within. This wildness is a part of us we perhaps disowned and projected onto the outside world. The forgotten nature of our own wildness within. Forgotten of our own worthiness of tenderness, care, comfort, and love, even in the primal animalistic urges, triggers, reactions, and stirring of deep-seated fears.
That is the journey of remembrance. Of re-union with self.
All of it is you. You are the universe knowing itself. And, all is welcome. The wildness, the vulnerability, the humanness, the emotional array of experience. Nothing needs to go anymore. And all just needs to stay, right here, so present to it all, with infinite tenderheartedness.
This is how we return home.
By coming just as we are, we integrate the inner child within. We heal by remembering that we are love, and in that remembrance, unconditional acceptance for whatever and however we feel is effortless.
We come home by trusting and following the wisdom of the heart. Step by step. Feeling by feeling.
And knowing and remembering that by allowing each feeling, we are already healing.