In last week’s issue, we took an honest look at what it means to live in one’s reality. We discussed the different roles children take on when it is unsafe to have their own identity. We differentiated between an FA living in reality (having a keen sense of self, being present while seeing the bigger picture) and an adult who is still living in an altered state of reality carried from childhood. We observed how our inner child develops its own voice when we are feeling safe and valued, naturally developing a sense of self.

Expounding on our reality (core issue #3) brings us directly to the next core issue: Self-care. Before we can attempt to know what our needs are, we first need to know who we are. The roadmap to caring for ourselves wholly and responsibly begins with the journey of valuing ourselves, protecting ourselves and knowing ourselves.

Children are born dependent (see Family Room Vol. 2 Issue 14 for the nature and characteristics of a child). We naturally seek care and attention from our caregivers from the moment of birth. As we developmentally grow and our needs change, a parent’s role in providing for us shift. Ultimately, it is a parent’s responsibility to guide us into adulthood, until we’re eventually able to be independent and care for ourselves.

An FA knows their needs and wants and takes responsibility for them. They are able to be interdependent and ask for help from others when they need. They live in an active self-care mode that’s uniquely tailored to their body, mind and spirit. They go after their wants from time to time, as it brings them joy. They are living mostly from a full cup, and they give from overflow — not lack. They bring an aliveness and sense of abundance to their relationships, and when both parties are interdependent, it feels like a blessing and a joy to be in the relationship.

On the other hand, when a child’s needs are not met emotionally, mentally or spiritually, their growth will be stunted around the core area of self-care. The child will likely develop a “need-shame bind” and grow into adulthood carrying shame for having basic human needs. This can manifest itself in the “adult child” in one of two ways. They will either be anti-dependent – having no needs or wants, or the opposite: too dependent on others. When one’s needs feel like a burden to carry, a person can go to either extreme, and both are symptomatic of the inner child being wounded and “malnourished” in this core area.

Oftentimes, when children experience relational trauma growing up, they unknowingly bury their true self and their needs. They will have a hard time knowing and expressing their needs and wants and will often find ways to satisfy themselves as a substitute for their real needs. This is often how addictions are born and take on a reality of their own somewhere down the line.

It is vital to bear in mind that no one (that I know at least ;)) is a perfect FA all the time. Recovery is not about reaching a destination. It is about being on the journey of healing. Awareness of your inner child, FA skills and reparenting strategies will keep you on the journey.

You can keep deepening your bond with your inner child by continuing the exercises we’ve been doing, working through your mind’s eye. Find her in your body. Notice where in your body you hold her. When the mind forgets, the body remembers. The inner child speaks through the body, and we can honor it by listening. Paying close attention to our physical sensations is fundamental to our self-care and essentially guides us. Ask your inner child and the accompanying physical sensation how old it feels. Ask it/her, «If you had a voice, what would you say?» Listen and hold her truth sacred. The body holds the wisdom we need to care for it. The more you allow your inner child to speak, the clearer her voice will become. Reassure her that it’s okay for her to have needs. Give her permission to take up space in the universe. Consistent reparenting, i.e. affirming, nurturing and guiding, will satisfy her needs and slowly fill the developmental gaps.

We often wish we came with a manual of operation, specifying for us how to live our unique life. I’m often blown away with how each one of us actually does have just the right guide. All we have to do is tap in to our inner wisdom, and the expert within takes us just where we need to go.