A number of the clients I see in my practice did not have good enough parents. Their parents fell short of meeting the mark. In the absence of having good enough parents, when no other adult steps in to help the child, the child suffers. This failure is common enough in our society.
The pain that some of my clients suffered as children was immense. They may have been abused. Bullied. Neglected. Tormented. These children had no one to protect them. To comfort them. Hold them.
And then they grew up. When they reached adulthood, these individuals were handicapped because they had learned that being close to someone could be dangerous. And so many choose, reasonably, to keep a safe distance between themselves and others. As adults, these individuals are isolated.
As we work together in therapy, we discuss how there is only one person they can truly count on to be there for them no matter what. Only one person that will be there for them consistently. That will never leave. And that person is themselves. This fact is the same for all of us, no matter what our childhoods were like.
It can be quite powerful for my clients when they discover that they have someone they can turn to for comfort that wasn’t there when they were children. That person, of course, is their adult selves.
When they were children, they were alone. They suffered alone. But today, when pain comes up, their adult selves can offer support. They can comfort the child. They can say, “Hush, child. I am here now. I know you are hurting. I will hold you. I can see your pain. I am here now. Hush, child.”
They can do this by putting some comfortable pillows on the couch, pulling up a blanket, and cuddling with the child (that still exists) inside them. They can hold a pillow over their bellies while they curl up. They can say, “Hush, child. I am here now. I will hold you. You are no longer alone.”
When they begin to do this – to offer compassion to the child that they were, that had no one – they discover they can give themselves a great gift. When they offer themselves compassion, they discover they can also soothe themselves.
They will feel the child’s pain as they offer compassion, but when they realize that this pain is not too great for them to tolerate, and that they can offer the child real comfort in this pain, then the child is finally no longer alone.
This concept, of being able to be there for themselves in a way that no one was there for them as children, is life-changing. The ability to sit down, hold the child they were in their arms, and say “Hush, child. I am here now. I am sorry I wasn’t there for a long time, but I am here now,” is life changing.
A client recently sent me an email about the experience of discovering she can soothe herself when she is in pain. She wrote, “After visiting with Patti, I came home exhilarated. It was so exciting to experience what I did. The journey of being with my little self… I could not sleep because the experience was so profound.”
This client had closed her eyes in my office, gone inside to find her child, and comforted herself as a child for the first time.
— Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta