Because today is Columbus Day, I am posting an archived “Mindful Monday” from October of last year. That way I can expend more energy on healing my inner child
One of the final steps in healing our wounded inner child, writes John Bradshaw in his classic “Home Coming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child,” is to stay with your loneliness. Explains Bradshaw:
The deepest core feelings of grief are toxic shame and loneliness. We were shamed by [our parents'] abandoning us. We feel we are bad, as if we’re contaminated. And that shame leads to loneliness. Since our inner kid feels flawed and defective, he has to cover up his true self with his adapted false self. He then comes to identify himself by his false self. His true self remains alone and isolated. Staying with this last layer of painful feelings is the hardest part of the grief process. “The only way out is through,” we say in therapy. It’s hard to stay at that level of shame and loneliness; but as we embrace these feelings, we come out the other side. We encounter the self that’s been in hiding. You see, because we hid it from others, we hid it from ourselves. In embracing our shame and loneliness, we begin to touch our truest self.
In “The Inner Voice of Love,” spiritual author Henri Nouwen writes this about loneliness:
It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for God’s healing.
God does not want your loneliness; God wants to touch you in a way that permanently fulfills your deepest need. It is important that you dare to stay with you pain and allow it to be there. You have to own your loneliness and trust that it will not always be there. The pain you suffer now is meant to put you in touch with the place where you most need healing, your very heart. The person who was able to touch that place has revealed to you your pearl of great price.
It is understandable that everything you did, are doing, or plan to do seems completely meaningless compared with that pearl. That pearl is the experience of being fully loved. When you experience deep loneliness, you are willing to give up everything in exchange for healing. But no human being can heal that pain. Still, people will be sent to you to mediate God’s healing, and they will be able to offer you the deep sense of belonging that you desire and that gives meaning to all you do.
Dare to stay with your pain, and trust in God’s promise to you.
I think I’ve only recently met and stayed overnight with my core loneliness and found my scared inner child … hiding out behind the rocking chair in the living room with purple eye shadow and sparkly, hot-pink cheeks … because Katherine got to it before I could. And I think I’ve only been able to approach such an upsetting and ugly place because, as Nouwen explains in a few chapters before the above passage, I have begun to trust that my experience of loneliness and emptiness is not the final destination, that beyond the loneliness is a place of love and acceptance. Explains Nouwen:
So you have to go into the place of your pain with the knowledge in your heart that you have already found the new place. You have already tasted some of its fruits. The more roots you have in the new place, the more capable you are of mourning the loss of the old place and letting go of the pain that lies there. You cannot mourn something that has not died. Still, the old pains, attachments, and desires that once meant so much to you need to be buried.
You have to weep over your lost pains so that they can gradually eave you and you can become free to live fully in the new place without melancholy or homesickness.