Not everybody believes that our childhoods affect our thoughts and behaviours as adults. Some of my clients casually say, “Oh…my childhood was fine…I don’t think there is anything to talk about…it was pretty normal.” Whether or not your childhood was “normal” is not the only thing I’m concerned about. Our wounds as adults often come from something that happened to us as children. Were you upset by something your grade 3 teacher said? Did the class bully hurt you in some way? Did your basketball coach make you feel like you weren’t good enough? Did one of your parents ever say something hurtful that made you cry? Listen, hopefully your parents, teachers, and coaches tried their best to always do what was right for you. Unfortunately, no one is perfect and while they may have tried their best, you did not completely escape flawed caregiving; your parents did make mistakes. Afterall, no one is perfect. But the focus here is what did you in the face of these mistakes. Chances are you did your best to move on. But as a child, you did not have the mental faculties and emotional resources to work through the hurt. “Oh, my teacher called me stupid. But it’s ok. It’s not about me. This is her issue. She’s just going through a rough divorce,” said no child ever. So…what did you really do in the face of your caregivers’ mistakes? Well, it’s something called, internalization. As children, we unfortunately internalize the hurt and personalize it, often attributing blame to ourselves: “Well if Miss Brooks called me stupid, I must be stupid.” It sucks. And what sucks even more is that we keep this blame, guilt, and insecurity into adulthood causing bad habits and patterns.
So what do you do to mend childhood wounds?
You must do something called re-parenting. Given the fact that you, now, have the mental and emotional resources to understand the behavior of previous caregivers, you must revisit offenses made by them. From your loving, compassionate, understanding, and insightful adult perspective, you must now comfort your, then, self. It might look something like this, “Yes, Dad did not come to your important play-off game. It sucked and he should have been there. Unfortunately, he was on the verge of losing his job and he could not get out of a commitment he made to his boss. You definitely have the right to be mad, little me, and you should tell him that you are mad. But, he was going through a rough time. He would have been there if he could.”
Essentially, your job is to use your adult understanding, compassion, and conflict resolution skills to correct unresolved offenses made by your caregivers. Try it out! Use a journal. You might get very emotional, but you’ll get a ton of relief!