Talking to myself: Healing from an abusive childhood

It’s not very often that someone is encouraged to talk to themselves. If we saw someone talking to themselves in the street or out and about, we may avoid them. But recently I’ve learned that talking to yourself can be helpful at times.

I have recently been on a healing journey from an emotional and physically abusive childhood. (You can read more about those “thinks” here: My Sexual Abuse Story and How I Forgave My Abuser and Healing from Spiritual Abuse and Forgiving My Abusers .) It has been a long process and due to these recent events, I have had to re-live many of these memories I wish I could forget forever.

I recently started seeing a therapist more regularly again. In our sessions we have been talking about the causes and effects of my depression as well as how to heal the emotional scars in a healthy way. We have been going over several exercises and in today’s thinks I wanted to share with you the exercise that has helped me the most in the healing process.

You are made of three people

Yes, this is why you should talk to yourself. You aren’t the only one home! And before you click out of this and call me crazy, allow me to explain who the “other people” are.

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Depending on your upbringing, you may feel like you are still being controlled by your abusive parents. You may still hear the “voices” that are unkind and continually putting you down. You may hear a small insecure voice that is afraid or feels like they are undeserving. This small voice is also playful and enjoys laughing. And you may also hear the confident voice when you are assigned a task at work or you are comfortable with what you are doing.

So who are these “voices”?

There are two distinct voices that belong to you. One is your inner child that is broken and the other is your “grown up” voice that learned how to “keep it together” and pay the bills. The “harsh voice” belongs to your parents or whomever abused you. However, if the “harsh parent” voice is left unchecked, it can become our own voice. It can be the voice we use to define ourselves, or commonly known to continue the cycle of abuse (becomes your own voice).

Although there may not be anyone hurting you at this present moment, the “inner child” may still feel bound to the “harsh parent’s” control and abuse.

My therapist and I discovered that this was a leading issue as to why I was having a hard time with going out of the house or why I would feel terrible about myself after I did something good. My present “grown up” self wanted to be happy and enjoy life. But my past “inner child” had been hurt so badly, it thought it would be in some kind of trouble for having fun. My “harsh parent” would call me names after I had enjoyed a day out with friends. I noticed that this was a pattern of emotions. If I had a good day, I would almost always be extremely depressed the next day and be afraid to leave my house.

The “stupid” little kid

I had a specific day a few weeks ago where I went out and enjoyed a cup of fro- yo and hung out with a friend for lunch. I came home that day very happy and spent a nice evening with Seth. It was a great day!

The very next day, I did not leave my house and went to bed at 4:30 in the afternoon. I closed all of my blinds and cried under the covers of my bed. I felt so “stupid” for having a good time the day before and called myself some very mean names. I was especially upset with myself for enjoying the cup of fro-yo. I called my self a “fat stupid little kid” and felt so embarrassed that I existed.

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When Seth came home that evening, he found me still in my bed. My eyes were swollen from crying.

After reviewing multiple accounts like this that had happened, my therapist and I discovered the conflict of the two “people” who were living inside my head.

After discovering that my “inner child” was filled with so much shame and hurt, my therapist challenged me to change the inner dialogue.

She first asked me where I learned to call myself mean names, and where I learned to “punish” myself for having fun. I worked on an exercise to recollect any memories of my parents treating me this way. I remembered many accounts that my father had called me “a fool”, names in Japanese and English, my mother’s reactions when I told her I was being sexually abused, or the times she would laugh at me for “getting fat” (I was actually chubby in 6th grade and she was the first to let me know. She thought it would be funny to laugh at me. I put myself on my first diet at 12 years old.).

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I remembered a specific memory that my father made me sit down on a pew at a church for several hours because I was being “childish”. He would get angry any time he heard me laugh (even when we were at home). I was not allowed to play with any of the kids at the church we were visiting (even though their parents were around). When the other kids came by to check on me, I wasn’t even allowed to say “Hi” to them. I just remember crying alone and wishing I could have friends.

When I was 5 years old, my best friend who was my next door neighbor started going to kindergarten. I didn’t understand why I needed to be homeschooled since all of my friends were going to school. When I asked my mother why I couldn’t be with my friends, she got angry and yelled at me.
Why do you want to go to school with those Japanese kids? Do you want to learn that we came from monkeys and go with all the bad kids?
I was very sad that I was homeschooled alone with my sister (my brother was an infant at the time).

There were many other memories that came back. Some were violent, some were cruel, and they hurt.

I began crying in front of my therapist as we began revisiting painful memories.

She then started me on an exercise that has completely transformed my life.

I started parenting myself.

I know that it isn’t physically possible for me to go back in time and do this. However, anytime my “harsh parent” would say something unkind to my “inner child” I as the “grownup” would care for my “inner child”. (It’s like inception, I know)

I would tell the harsh parent voice to “shut up” and I (the grown up) would talk to my inner child. I recently told my inner child she was free. She was allowed to get up off the pew and make friends. I also told her that,

“Sometimes the people we love the most are not good people. They say or do mean things to us because this is what they choose to do. The names they call us are not who we really are. They call us mean things because of who they are.”

I hugged my pillow for a solid 15 minutes and told my “inner child” that it was ok to hurt. I cried with her and told her that I loved her. I told her she was brave and I was proud of her. And the craziest thing began to happen…

I began to heal

Through this process, I have begun to re-raise my “inner child” into a free and brave young woman. She is allowed to laugh and enjoy life. The “harsh parent” is slowly loosing its control over my “inner child” and ultimately over myself. I will continue this exercise until my “inner child” is confident enough to stand up for herself. But for now she knows she is loved and alive for a reason.

And so are you. 

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Thanks for reading this week’s “thinks”! I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Feel free to reach out to me at any time, and please remember that you are so loved and valued more than you will ever know.

Joy

 

PS
Please know that if you have any trauma, abuse, neglect, etc. in your history, I highly encourage you to seek professional therapy to do the exercise. The coaching has helped me and I don’t believe it would be as effective without someone to guide you through this process.

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