In my practice of returning to my inner child, I’ve started to learn more about the somatic experiences in my adult self. The tightening of my jaw, furrowed brows and my collapsed posture all mimic my fear responses (or fight/flight response) of my inner child whenever I heard Dad storming upstairs ready to beat the living daylights out of me, or when I sheepishly walked down the hallways at high school, hoping bullies like Jeff and John wouldn’t notice me. All those moments were terrifying. I’ve never really acknowledged how much my heart raced every day at high school, listening to the crowds in hallways jeering me for no reason other than boredom, and mindless thrills. My heart pounded through my chest when I sat down in a classroom filled with bullies who had no business being there. Heck, most of them didn’t even have a pen or paper to write with. Teachers were merely their babysitters, putting up with their obnoxious remarks. Some teachers even checked out and just kept talking through the noise. They probably figured, what the heck. If they don’t want to listen and learn, that’s their business. I’m still doing my job!
I got my fair share of getting shoved from behind, knocking me down to the floor, and having bullies like Jeff and John overcrowd my space to scare the crap out of me. It worked. I was a target, and it was easy entertainment for them. I was quiet, meek and had little to no self-esteem. How could I growing up in a physically abusive home, with no role models to encourage nor support my development? I was often told to shut up, you can’t do that, stop talking, you’re worthless. At school, I walked with a collapsed chest, head down. Bullies like Jeff, John and others like James and Samir in my older years, looked at me with disdain. For no reason, they didn’t like me very much and made fun of me and robbed me of my dignity. I couldn’t tell anyone about it because I had no one to tell. I also could not articulate in words what was going on. I wasn’t even aware that my heart was racing, and on high alert Every. Single. Day. Both at home and at school. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t know how to. I wanted to fight back, but I wasn’t brave enough to. I wanted to shout, but I was too scared to stand alone. I was living in fear.
I carried this shame throughout my adult life. It carries into my relationships, often feeling on guard, defensive and high alert to fight back. After all, that’s all my inner child could do; protect myself because there is no such thing as safety for him.
I’ve started becoming accustomed to using my internal resources when I feel an onset of tension in my body. The tension, or somatic experiences is this buildup of energy inside me that I can’t let go or release. I breathe, I ground myself and I feel the tension, yet often times that energy of my stored trauma remains in my chest, jaws and forehead. One of my resources includes embodying different parts of my adult self (ie the Confident Mental Health Speaker in me, or the Compassionate and Kind me). It’s a process but well worth the effort to bring me back to a state of equanimity. When that energy is released, it feels so rewarding. It literally feels like I was holding onto my breath for days, and finally can let go and relax.
I’ve struggled over the years on understanding forgiveness. I’m starting to grasp that it’s not about letting the bullies and abusers from my past off the hook. What they did was horrific and unacceptable. Forgiveness is not holding onto my pain. Holding onto my pain compromises my peace. Why would I give up my peace in place of anger, defensiveness and shame? Letting go, however can feel undermining to my experiences of being bullied. I think there’s a middle ground which I see as acceptance. By accepting what happened and letting go of the physically stored trauma, I can unburden my spirit, and leave it with the infinitely spacious Universe to look after. I can breathe again when I let my tension flow out to the Universe and give my physical body the rest it needs from holding onto the pain. I’ve endured so much suffering and it has been difficult. Now it’s time to grieve for my inner child and allow him to emerge from hiding. He no longer needs to curl up in fear.
Forgiveness is allowing what happened flow out to the Universe. It’s about not giving my power of peace to the hands of others who hurt me. Afterall, they had zero awareness of what they were doing. They were ignorant and lacked judgment. They lacked the education and self-awareness. They were also more than likely dealing with their own pain. They needed to own their own shit, but were incapable of it. Instead they chose to let out their pain by hurting others, namely myself. I was their outlet. It doesn’t make it OK at all, but it’s too great a burden to bear for anyone to take the blows of other people’s suffering. I relinquish myself of that responsibility.
The pain I sometimes still feel trapped inside me is mine to look after. It’s my body and spirit that I need to nurture and care for. That pain is energy that I can move to eventually release gently to the hands of the Universe. I can be free and not be on high alert all the time. This is the beginning of forgiveness.