What Lies Between
For about a week now I have been meaning to sit down and write about a very unexpected realization.
I have read a lot of books and listened to a lot of talks and done a lot of exercises and begun new healthy and mindful habits in these past 3-4 years… And whenever I think I have gotten to the end of my resources…that there might be nothing else to help cross this last distance to get back to ‘me’, I am presented with another insight.
I didn’t expect Susan Anderson’s ‘Outer Child‘ to be helpful because I was afraid that it was just another layer, another piece of work, another piece to add to the overwhelm of how much work I need to do, another thing to remember as I creep through confusing or difficult days… But even just reading the intro to her book was revelatory and even freeing for me.
As I have gotten closer to my ‘inner child’, to ‘seeing’ her, feeling her, listening to her…I have noticed this hard presence inside, an obstinate presence, a woundedness, a constant complaining pain that I can not ever seem to get a break from…like in bad dreams when I am trying to move but can not. The deeper I go the louder the pain is. I have not been able to get really close to Inner Me. Something inside is…wary of comforting my Inner child, dishonest, feeling ill-equipped… Even angry, resentful, like an abandoned dog that is so scared all it can do is snap and growl.
As Anderson’s book, “Taming Your Outer Child” began to describe Outer Child behaviors…my behaviors…I was able to attribute those behaviors to a part of me that I have a really difficult time with, that I am driven by but do not feel in control of…I know it is not my inner child doing those things because she is too young. She doesn’t care about money, or other people, or logistics. I know that my inner child is just sitting quietly, pretty much always just waiting for attention and for me to create a safe, welcoming place for her to come out and play and love innocently. She is behaving herself in the corner of my mind.
The books asks, “What makes you break your diet, or run up your credit card, or be attracted to the wrong people? You know these aren’t healthy things to do, you know you’re sabotaging your own interest, but sometimes you just can’t help it!”
I know that my adult self is not doing these self-sabotaging things, but she is letting it happen. She is feeling overrun…tired, like she wants to give up because there is too much of a mess to clean up, too many chores to do all by herself, and she doesn’t know how to take control of her own self under demanding circumstances… [sounds like my mother]. My adult self didn’t learn to be a mom. Didn’t learn to listen to her ‘responsible’, mature inner voice… She followed my mother’s lead. No information on how to be an adult in my house. On how to take control of things that I am responsible for. My mother passed responsibility on to her daughter…to me.
And, what stands in the way of my taking responsibility for my life is my Outer Child! My having deferred to the growing girl who seemed so ‘mature for her age’, so intelligent. In my mind she is that part of me who by the age of 9 was saddled with too much responsibilities, had so much baggage from her early years, and had developed ways to keep her feelings and other people at a distance so that she could please the volatile people around her and still TRY to be a kid. My Outer Child is me in what is usually referred to as that 2nd cycle of life, from the age of 7-14. For me she is a little girl who learned that she had to be an adult but did not teach her personal responsibility or accountability. My Outer Shantelle learned to freestyle it; take what she thought worked and use it. She had been learning that she was the only person who cared about her feelings, her health, her experiences of the world, but she was still reeling from the loneliness, disappointment, impossible struggles that come with trying to be a self-sufficient person when you are dependent on people who are not dependable, trustworthy… She has gone off the deep end at this point — gotten so caught up in trying to manage my life, my adult life, and I have let her. And she has gone crazy, and her opportunities for play and growth were left behind…
[don’t laugh — I always wondered why, for the longest time, I was so interested in watching Supernanny…]
Yes, my Outer Child is a pretty capable little person, but she has had no routine, no practice or opportunities to truly focus on her own processes. She has been overwhelmed with fullfilling the unrealistic expectations of others (which became her own), and baggage that no one noticed she needed help with. She thinks she is supposed to carry it all, and she thinks that in order to get through life you can not allow learning, feeling, playing to come first. If you do you will die. If you do someone will think you do not have what it takes to make it in this hard world. You will disappoint and not be rewarded even the small bits of praise that you have received in the past.
My Outer Child is my next focus. Even before getting into Anderson’s book I know these key things. That I, as the adult Shantelle,
1) must take responsibility off of Outer Shantelle’s shoulders.
2) I must allow Outer Shantelle the freedom to play and explore, learn at her own pace…no rushing her or calling her home to do work that is not hers…
3) I must also give her caring and consistent guidelines and structure – limits that will keep her safe, AND limits that will not saddle her with undue guilt or anxiety. I am the one who is responsible for HER. And I am teaching her how to be responsible for herself, slowly, kindly, explicitly, consistently…
You know those unruly tweens/teens…? That’s what I have my hands full with for the near future… My own personal responsibility, and patience, guidance, and love for an unruly tween… No longer will she lie between me and Inner Shantelle, she will be able to be who she was meant to be, and be happy with us.
Posted on November 13, 2015, in Addiction, Adult Children, codependence, emotional abuse, emotional sobriety, Inner child, Outer Child, Parenting, recovery, Relationship, Teen, tween, withdrawal and tagged personal growth. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.