Written by Sheryl Chan from A Chronic VoiceWe all have an inner child who’s trying to get our attention. When she’s well cared for, my entire being experiences a sense of calm and wellness.
I never realised that I had an inner child until my psychologist (let’s call her Rita) guided me to her. Now some of you are already thinking, ‘what a quack’ or ‘what rubbish’, but do a search on Google. You’ll see that it’s a popular method used in psychotherapy.
My inner child was (is) a hot, screaming mess! Boy did she know how to whine, and she’s ever fearful, always panicky. My chronic illnesses and the trauma I had to deal with over the years must have magnified her fears. She doesn’t handle stress well and starts to shiver and go mental at the slightest hint of it. It’s never difficult to ‘tune in’ to her voice. She’s always there, mostly crying and whining about something. But there are those good days where she’s quiet and content, humming and minding her own business.
Then I have this adolescent whom we call ‘the angry girl’. She’s the grumpy guardian of my inner child and would question me, the adult, whenever I mixed things up for us. She didn’t appear loving at all but protected my inner child with a fierce passion. She lived to protect the innocent. Nobody was going to hurt my inner child, especially not me! She would question me, applying logic and fact to her arguments against my actions. But as Rita pointed out, “what logic?” It was often warped and twisted to suit her in a fit of fear or anger.
We spent many months working on the both of them. Befriending angry girl and gaining her trust wasn’t easy at all. My inner child was happy to tag along, as long as she got her cuddles and reassurances. It took a while before angry girl allowed me to approach my inner child without too much suspicion. I am happy to say that she’s been quieter of late. She spends her time stalking in the background, protecting both of us now.
One surprising realisation that dawned on me, was that I was the adult, the one in charge. I had the power to make decisions for us all, and they had to listen to me at the end of the day. If the angry girl thinks that she’s the logical one, I as the adult made more sense. If the inner child is hysterical, I as the adult could soothe her. The angry girl would only scream at me and block my way, making everything worse as a result.
I am still a work in progress, and always will be. But I’m grateful to Rita for having brought my awareness to it. One thing that worried m, however, was that I’d start to lose my grip on reality, and develop split personalities (pardon my ignorance, DID people). But she said that I was fine as I could differentiate between my selves with clarity.
I would say that my inner child represents my true self, and she’s frightened down to her very toes. She has endured much suffering, while pain and expectations have broken her spirit. As a result, she’s fragile and lacking in confidence. Yet she is quick to put her trust in people again, and it doesn’t take much to keep her content. She’s friendly and happy when she isn’t in panic mode. She is like an innocent child in a field full of spring flowers, full of wonder. When she’s well cared for, my entire being experiences a sense of calm and wellness.
I’m not quite sure who angry girl is, perhaps a manifestation of my protective mechanism. One that may not be the most advanced technology, so to speak, but is still standing despite constant battering. Like a wooden shield up against solid metal maces. She’s not always right, but she manages to keep us alive, somehow. She is quick to analyse everything, including emotions, and processes them in a split second. I often respond to an emotional bid by feeding it into the analytical path first. This results in an emotional distance, where I’m safe from feeling hurt. I find it difficult to feel for the sake of feeling, unless I’m watching or listening to something sad (then the tears come flowing)! (I’ll blame my inner child for this ;)) Affection and physical touch is the only way I know how to connect with others, without first judging the intention. Which can be warped, if you think about it.
And as for myself? The adult me? She is the wise and sensible one, the firm voice who keeps the home intact. She is the key to empowerment, the true protector, the dignified woman. She tempers emotion and approaches logic with humanity. Above all, she is resilient.
Sheryl Chan is from Singapore, a sunny island in Southeast Asia. She lives with a host of chronic illnesses which include Lupus/SLE, antiphospholipid syndrome, Sjögren’s syndrome, epilepsy, and more. She has a gore-tex band for a heart valve, and has forgotten how many surgeries she has had. She wants to reach out to others who are suffering in their own way, to let them know that it is okay to feel frustrated, sad and lost.
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