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I believe we just don’t have one inner child but many.  I personally have experienced, a few very young parts that are unable to articulate the hurt they feel or even what they believe. All they know is that they hurt. I have older parts that have taken on the shame and the belief that they are bad and wrong. Some are angry and rebellious. Some want to stay very still and not move or branch out or do anything that will put “me” at risk.

I am not talking about multiple personalities, at least in my case I am not. I do not lose time, I do not become another person or identity. I do feel younger, more vulnerable, more unsafe, more sensitive and wounded when I am triggered by something in my adult life that sends me back to a time and place where I could protect myself, or felt rejected and unloved. In that moment, I totally identify with the part and cannot see myself as separate. Sometimes I am able to say, “oh, my little girl is up” but many times when I feel triggered, I AM HER at least in the moment.

This is both a gift and a very tender time for me. I always get huge results and shifts when I am able to process afterwards:  what happened, why was I triggered, how old was I when I reacted the way I did, what the wound was and how I can now take care of myself in a way I could not before. 

I don’t always get to process. Sometimes days go by and I am still feeling triggered and out of control inside and most of all, fearful.  It is like the remnants of trauma stay with me and I am still jarred by the experience of returning to that traumatized state.  This is a very internal process that occurs and not something that others can see. If you were to see me on any of those days, you wouldn’t be able to tell what is happening within me or what just happened the day before.  I have a very strong protector mask on board that allows me to move in the world as if all is okay. This part had a lot of practice growing up when I had to pretend that everything was well even when my world was collapsing all around me.

Today as move from survivor to thriver (and I still teeter back and forth), I am learning how to use my resources, to call upon them to help me see what I cannot see in the moment. As a person who has experienced repeated trauma as a child it is very important for me to have people who can remind me of the truth of who I am and sort of pull me into the present time which for me holds safety, love and support.

Unfortunately when I feel young, I feel totally ungrounded, lost, afraid, and unsafe and I do not remember my tools, or my resources. Fortunately these periods are lasting less time these days and most recently I was able to reach out within a few hours and get what I needed. I must admit that there have been times of great isolation in which I did not reach out and paid the price of falling deeper into depression and fear.  This is a price I am not longer willing to pay and so as I find myself doing the right things for me, I can’t help but think about what those things were and why they worked.

So here is what I have come to know about my needs when I am triggered. I hope that you will use it and add on to it, or tweak it for your own healing path. I am confident though that these are solid and very important resources in the life of anyone who has experienced abuse as a child.

When we are triggered we need:

An anchor, someone who makes you feel safe, grounded and here. Someone who can bring you back with words or with touch to the present moment.

Someone who can be with you and your inner child…and help you process what is going on for him/her. How old is she, what is she feeling or was she feeling when you were triggered, what does she need now?  This someone is preferably a therapist.

An inner parent/nurturer who can let this inner child know it is safe.  This has taken me a long time to develop since my own parent was not nurturing or loving. I now have a soothing loving voice that lets my inner child know she is okay (this is usually after I am out of the triggered space)

A way to process afterwards when you have some distance: art, writing, music, talking etc.

Patience and compassion for yourself no matter how you acted when you were triggered.

A few people you can reach out to, even if it is brief contact to encourage you and support you and give you the sense that they have your back. You need to know people have your back.

Ways to show your inner child and yourself that you can protect yourself now, that you can love and nurture yourself. Depending on the trigger, and the wound…you will now need to somehow restore your body.  In a recent session, I was able to use water to cleanse “the badness” my inner ten year old felt she carried with her everywhere.  I used my hands and the imagery of water to cleanse her.

These are all very important and as you get to know yourself more and your healing path, you may find others to add to this list.

Some of you may not have these resources and will need to find ways to heal and soothe the wounded child. I highly recommend that even if you don’t have these resources now that you begin to create them for yourself.

If you don’t have a therapist find one. If you don’t have supportive people around you…it is time to look at how you have closed yourself off and how you might open up even just a little to people who are on a path and conscious (no sense in opening up to the wrong people and getting retraumatized).  If you are not aware of that nurturing parent within, it may be time to start thinking in that voice and practicing it when you are not triggered.

I have worked very hard to create what I need in order to heal. I didn’t trust anyone for a very long time. I was fearful and closed off and then I decided, I needed and wanted help. 

We are the experts of our own healing journey…it is entirely possible to take our healing in our own hands and provide that little girl/boy all the support they needed then but didn’t get. I truly believe we have the power to do that now.