In the last segment, we explored the natural characteristics of a child and gave a brief overview of the five core issues affecting developmental maturity. We looked at the five main areas of the child’s needs, and how the “adult child” was impacted if those areas were not adequately nurtured. We demonstrated how the wounded or adapted inner child tends to sabotage all aspects of their adult lives and relationships.
Let’s take a closer look at the first core area: value/self-esteem. To feel our value is the ability to esteem ourselves from within and hold ourselves in warm personal regard despite our imperfections and flaws. This concept of our inherent worth is based on the realization that our weaknesses and strengths are part of our humanity and don’t define our value. A person who feels self-esteem from within radiates self-respect, which is reflected in their loving and respectful interactions with others.
It is the caregiver’s job to make a child feel loveable and precious by how they interact with him or her. Consistent loving and affirming messages to the child will impact the brain and body and determine how he develops, creating the proper chemical makeup that will nourish him for the long haul. This idea is commonly referred to as “unconditional love.” By contrast, conditional love conveys confusing messages of approval which foster dependence on other-esteem (being esteemed by others), attribute-esteem (being esteemed for characteristics), or performance esteem (being esteemed for achievements).
Anything less than nurturing in the relationship of the caregiver with the child in the core area of value is traumatic to the child and stunts their emotional and physiological growth. Depending on the nature and nurture of a child, the wounded or adapted younger self may go to either extreme: they may feel themselves to be one up or one down. Being on either end (feeling “less than” or “better than”), are symptomatic of and stem from the same underlying core issue—lack of self-esteem—and indicate that the person is relying on other-esteem or comparisons to others to establish his or her sense of worth. Actually, many people spend most of their lives fluctuating between both extremes. It is therefore no coincidence that many people suffer from unhealthy relationships which stem from this dynamic of other-esteem — these individuals do not value themselves from within but depend on others to fill their need to feel valuable and worthy. Unfortunately, these unbalanced relationships are not limited to friendships and marriages, but include caregivers with children, educators with students, and professionals with clients. Perhaps this is why there has been a recent explosion of awareness of co-dependency issues, as it becomes more relevant and rampant in our society. A healthy relationship is one that is based on two individuals who are each capable of recognizing his/her own worth and are robustly in touch with their own inherent value, regardless of the other person’s opinion of or behavior towards them. Core Relational Recovery is about applying the concept of inherent worth to the self. Recovery in this area, as in all five core issues, happens in a relational process known as the «Re-parenting strategies.»
Before we attempt to find our wounded inner child and listen to its point of view, we first need to ensure there is a healthy enough «Functional Adult” (FA) available to «re-parent.» Otherwise, the adult might easily get lost inside his/her wounded or adapted younger “self ” and blend in with their inner child’s background voice. Therefore, it is vitally important to distinguish the FA from the inner child. A good starting point is for one to become accustomed to asking oneself, «Whose voice is that?» and «Who is speaking now?» If you find it difficult to identify the FA, try telling yourself that the inner child often sounds helpless, lost, hopeless, or falsely empowered. The FA voice, on the other hand, sounds empowered and encouraging.
If one has not been nourished to develop a healthy FA, then it is necessary to grow and strengthen the FA voice in one’s mind with daily affirmations such as: «I have inherent worth, it cannot be raised by my strengths or lowered by my defects of character,» or «I am enough and I matter regardless of …» Say these aloud!
Once your FA has an identified voice, he or she can start a relationship with your younger self. This is where real relational skills are necessary. Here is an exercise that can help you get started. You want to find a quiet, safe place without distractions. Ground yourself by sitting in a comfortable position and taking deep, calming breaths. As you relax, close your eyes and find in your mind’s eye a picture of your younger self. Go with whatever comes up. Taking a good look at her, notice what she is wearing, her facial expression, body language, and what she is doing. Really see her as she is. Then you can gently introduce yourself to her and let her know you that you are her adult self. Tell her how precious she is. Let her know that she is so loveable and that she really matters. Check in with her to see if she can understand what you are saying. Explain that it may have taken you this long to find her, but from now on you will not abandon her. She needs reassurance that you will show up for her consistently. It may take some time to gain her trust, but that is normal since she has been stuck all this time. Keep your introduction to her short, sweet and light. Take a stand for her by letting her know you are her parent now and are taking her home with open arms. Her sense of value will deepen as you continue to give her affirming and loving messages. Talk to her like you would to your own child. The more you value her, the more value she will feel, and this will result in a total reality experience where your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and behaviors will reflect your inherent worth from the inside out.
Although this is may seem to just be happening in your mind and looks like make believe, when experienced in a therapeutic setting, many people notice a real shift happening inside themselves. As you go back in time and do the repair, it is normal to get triggered and feel all sorts of unfamiliar and uncomfortable emotions since you are shaking up old painful sensations that might have been frozen in your system for years. If at any time it feels too intense to do alone, seek a mental health professional who can keep you safe while you thaw.