“As traumatized children, we always dreamed that someone would come and save us. We never dreamed that it would, in fact, be ourselves as adults.” ~Alice Little
I was like most people who used to hide from their pain.
It was done in many creative and different ways.
I would starve myself and only focus on what I could and couldn’t eat based on calories.
My bad decisions would lead to me making poor choices, and I was forced to deal with them. Not realizing I made any choice. This was all bad luck. This is really terrible luck.
Or, I’d stay in bad relationships with anyone and continue to suffer from the stress. Again, I didn’t see what I was contributing or how I was not only keeping my pain going but actually adding to it.
These are only a few of many ways I tried to get rid of my pain. This is the real pain. That is it. This is it. It is the core of it all.
The unlovability and wounds of inworthiness.
It is a wound from my childhood.
And my parents’ childhoods.
And their parents’ childhoods.
However, this does not give any insight into how or why it happened.
No. I am sharing my journey to remove my pain.
My life was forever changed by the knowledge that I gained.
This is something that I want you to have, because it shows us how beautiful life can be no matter the past. I don’t want you to miss out on this opportunity. Because I believe it’s possible for you, too.
Put your hands on the table. I’m a psychotherapist. I also train and supervise other psychotherapists, so I should know what I’m talking about.
But, let me fill you in on this: There are plenty of professionals who haven’t done ‘the work’ on themselves. I know, I’ve met them.
And I have met hundreds of people who don’t have any qualifications, but they have done the work on themselves. I know, I’ve felt them.
It’s all about facing your pain. It’s when you stop—or when you’re forced to stop, which is so often the case—and you’re done with running away from it.
It’s when you finally give up.
It sounds like it would be a terrible thing. But it isn’t.
It is important to recognize the pain and seek healing.
We all think we see it or feel it or know it, but we don’t.
We all know how it feels to escape from the anxiety, pain, and stress it creates. It’s the constant anxiety, pressure, breathlessness and numbness. That’s what we know.
But that’s not the pain, not the pain of the core wound. Those are the symptoms of not dealing with the wound, of not healing it because you’re too afraid to even look.
It’s fear that stops us from healing.
It’s not the process of healing itself that scares us; it’s what we imagine healing means. It’s often nothing we imagined it to look like.
It is not about avoiding the pain.
Allow me to be more pragmatic:
Are you able to recall a time in your childhood, perhaps three, five or six years ago?
Did you ever feel misunderstood in your body? How do you want it and not get it. How to be punished for something you didn’t do? How to be shouted at for no reason at all just because someone else was stressed out and couldn’t control themselves?
Are you able to recall how it felt?
That’s the origin. All the little things that happened when we weren’t quite old enough to comprehend what was happening, but it meant something about us.
The world, and the people who loved us most, reflected that there was something wrong with us. We were either wrong or flawed.
We were too young for our brains to be able to look at things from another perspective.
And believing something horrible about yourself that isn’t true hurts. Believing that you’re not good enough hurts. Believing that you’re unlovable hurts.
This also makes us feel unsafe.
It is safe to be yourself. You can love. It is safe to love.
We begin to avoid our feelings of pain and ourselves. This is how we hide from ourselves and our pain.
Because in those moments, those moments of misunderstanding, we receive the wrong message—that we are not worthy of being heard, trusted, held, or loved.
Through being threatened or punished, we are often pushed aside.
Then, we begin to do that for ourselves.
We want or need something—just like we needed it then when it was inconvenient to a parent who shouted at us and invalidated what we wanted or needed—and we deny it or minimize it.
We want to say “enough” and set a boundary with someone—just like we wanted to when we were little but were told we didn’t know what was good for us—but we don’t do it.
We want to choose what we like or are excited by—just like we tried to when we were young but were told we were being stupid, childish, or silly—but then go for the boring, reasonable option instead.
It is the pain that we carry.
We don’t stop to ask ourselves whether that’s actually what we should be doing.
By treating ourselves exactly as we were back in our childhood, we try to prevent reliving the traumas of our past.
We don’t realize that we’re keeping that usually unconscious pattern going.
The most obvious example I can give you from my life is that I didn’t grow up surrounded by emotionally available adults. So obviously I didn’t become one either. I wasn’t emotionally available to myself, and I didn’t choose emotionally available partners in my relationships.
This allowed me to recall my childhood memories over and over, but I still didn’t understand why I was feeling depressed, worthless and unloved.
The only way I managed to continue the pain was by not being open to my emotions and by selecting partners who would judge, reject or ignore my feelings, just like my parents.
However, I ended that cycle.
When I was in pain, I broke it.
This was what I did when it became a problem.
When I felt disappointed that I didn’t get the grade I wanted on an important university assignment, I stayed with that disappointment.
I didn’t talk myself out of it. I didn’t talk down to myself and tell myself what a useless waste of space I was. I didn’t pity myself or blame my lecturer. I didn’t numb myself by binge-watching Netflix and eating chocolate.
Non, I was not disappointed.
I felt like I was right there with my three-year old self. I decided to stay with her.
I didn’t shout, mock her, invalidate her, leave her, or make her wrong for feeling how she was feeling.
She was my partner. I witnessed her sadness. She was in pain. It was clear to me what it meant, so I continued my support for her.
I didn’t push her away. I didn’t push the pain away.
What’s the surprise?
Then it began to speak to my ears! Then it was clear!
It wasn’t scary or weird or awkward or crazy! It made perfect sense.
I had to be able to hear and understand the message, as well as to give it to my children.
Just like I parent my children.
“Of course, you feel disappointed. You have put so much work into this, and you didn’t get the result you wanted. I get it. I’m here to listen to you. I want to understand you.”
It calms you down. You feel calmer. Truly.
It helps you to relax. It’s such a relief!
It’s finally happening! Finally, someone doesn’t turn away from me like I am the biggest threat they have ever encountered. I finally have someone who looks at my situation with empathy and compassion.
I use all my emotions for this.
If jealousy is present, I will be there to support it. I’m not shaming it, not judging it—I’m just here to listen, to soothe, to understand, and to act on it if it feels like that’s what it needs.
So I turn toward the pain, the feeling; I try to understand what it’s all about and see if there is anything it needs from me, something more practical.
Do I need to tell my lecturer about my disappointment to get feedback on my work to improve for next assessment?
Can jealousy make me remember that I’m worthy and loved? Or does it need me to choose something beautiful for me to wear because I’ve not really paid that much attention to my appearance recently? Or does it need to speak to my partner because he’s much friendlier with other women than he is with me?
Most of the time, the pain is trying to remind us that we must do something for ourselves.
By not facing the pain, by not tending to it, we can’t know what it is that it needs us to do—and it’s always something that’s good for us.
We go on without what we desire and need. The pain gets louder, like the screaming toddler trying to vent her frustrations in an effort to be understood, held, soothed and cared for by their parents.
It’s time to stop doing that to ourselves.
It was something I used to do many years ago. I am a completely different person now. It is a different way that I live my daily life. My attitude about myself and my life is completely different. I can no longer live without the things that I desire and need.
That can’t happen as long as you use up all your energy to run away from the pain.
You are invited to heal by the pain. It invites you to stay and listen, to find out what’s really going on below all distractions and symptoms.
Is there a feeling you need to feel this way?
Is there a pain we need to see and understand?
What do you need to do in order for the core wounds to heal?
It can be healed by you. Only you can make it better. However, you must stay strong and continue to support it.
Unlike other people, you don’t walk away. You don’t say no to yourself. You don’t go against yourself and make yourself wrong.
It stays with you. It is there. It needs what you give.
And that’s when it heals.
About Marlena Tillhon
Marlena has extensive experience as a psychotherapist and success coach. Her focus is on helping people heal from inner traumas and to break down unhealthy patterns that hinder their ability to achieve the success she desires in life, work, and relationships. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook and receive her free training and gifts on her website.
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Tiny Buddha’s post The Childhood Wounds Everybody Carry and How You Can Heal Your Pain originally appeared on Tiny Buddha.