Why You Need to Talk with Your Younger Self

Have you ever met a stranger who reminds you of your Grandma? Or reminds you of a mean aunt who verbally abused you? When we react to other people and various stimuli, we are often reacting to our past experiences. These clues might seem like nothing at first, but consider how the triggers of the past influence the decisions and relationships we have today. This is why you need to have a talk with your younger self.

Do you love the smell of crayons and hate the smell of dodge ball rubber? This could be your seven year old self sending you messages about how fun it is to make art and how dangerous it is to get hit with an ugly red ball. Do you love certain songs and hate others? Perhaps this is your teenage self feeling nostalgic or remembering a sad episode of your younger life.

There is meme circulating through social media telling us to stop looking in the rear-view mirror. It reasons looking back is wrong because that’s not where we’re headed. It seems like sound advice until we remember there’s a very important reason for the rear-view mirror–to protect us from backing up into places we don’t want to go.

The rear-view mirror could even save your life by avoiding an accident. If we ignore the rear-view mirror we might crash, but a smart driver understands when to look in forward and when to look in the mirror. It’s the same way with remembering the past and planning the future.

Your body and character might have changed, but deep in your mind, there is still a place where that little child resides in fear or joy and longs for love. You can’t ignore that voice because it influences your life today.

I’m all the ages I’ve ever been.
-Anne Lamott

Life is mostly going forward, but sometimes we run into situations that require looking in the rear-view mirror. To refuse to listen to your younger self is like backing up without looking in the mirror.

Elephant Girl, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13518803-elephant-girl-inner-child?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child
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One reason we need to remember our past is to make wrongs right. If you have a narc parent, they won’t help you do this. As a matter of fact they will do everything they can to discourage you from remembering the past. Their behavior is not about you, but about them because they aren’t proud of the way they treated you. They will say why can’t you forgive and forget? Why do you have to live in the past? They will talk about you to other people because they would rather lie about you than hear the truth about themselves. They will send in the flying monkeys to shame you for remembering the past.

(I’ve been accused of living in the past but I am a seven on the enneagram.  If anybody knows anything about an enneagram seven, they realize we love to think about the future and care very little about the past.) It doesn’t really matter what others say, remembering the past is a gift we can give ourselves.

For one thing it’s impossible to completely forget the past, because the body remembers what the mind forgets. There is a place in the brain that stores our memories and sometimes without even trying, a memory comes back and slaps us in the face. This is body memory.

Those of us who were belted can feel it all over again whenever we see or hear a belt slapping against something. My body has never forgotten the stinging on the back of my legs or the bruises as they formed. To even see the belt section on a department store as a middle aged woman has freaked me out.

One conversation I’ve had with my younger self is to explain how the belt was wrong. I didn’t deserve to be belted over and over in anger. This was not based on a true understanding of scripture. When the twenty-third Psalm states “Thy rod comforts me,” it’s not talking about a beating. Shepherds don’t beat their sheep.

It’s important for you to remind your little girl or boy inside they are no longer in danger and no one can harm them now. It’s okay to speak your truth and it’s okay to tell your stories. People who are angry or shun you because you choose truth don’t deserve to be in your life.

As I am writing a childhood memoir, I’ve enjoyed connecting with my younger self. I’ve learned I can love this little girl inside and protect her. I’ve had to teach her a few things like the fact she can’t eat all the junk food she wants. I’ve had to teach her to exercise more and that self-care is not selfish. I’ve had to teach her it’s totally okay to say no to projects she’s not interested in and it’s always right to avoid unsafe people.

I’m also teaching her it’s okay to put on nice perfume and get your hair done and dance with your husband and go on a road trip and take time to smell the flowers. The lessons I’m teaching my little girl are endless. I care for her like I would a real child because I’m giving her the love and freedom she didn’t get years ago.

What about you? How are you talking to your hidden child?

Here are some ideas you might want to try:

Have you reminded her how Jesus cares about her heart?

Have you helped her accept the apology she never got?

Have you discovered how she was asked to play a game she could never win?

Did one of her parents or both use her as a mirror?

What are the rules she grew up with that need to be rewritten?

Remember to make this fun, give your child the freedom to dance, rock out, make art, vote as she likes, dress to express herself and tell her stories.

It is never too late to give yourself the childhood you’ve always wanted.

10 Replies to “Why You Need to Talk with Your Younger Self”

  1. As always thank you, I always get something out of your writings. I have shared that meme myself. After reading this , I see it differently. I have so much to learn still. Something I wanted to share, I have body memories too. There are times I don’t know I am really physically hurt until I see a bruise or cut later. Anyway, thank you. I love that you link key phrases so that I, the reader, can look them up and learn more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Pam!

    We are all learning every day. It’s not been easy to negotiate what we are dealing with sometimes with broken relationships so I am glad to share what I have learned and sometimes I share while I am learning.

    Blessed healing for you!

    Cherilyn

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  3. Very sage and balanced and totally spot on – thanks again!

    I am also finding that actively re-parenting that little girl inside is key to mending the residual internal hurt and protecting my adult self. When I was a teenager going through emotional and physical abuse (that had been going on since I was a toddler) I also found that believing in a loving God was a form of re-parenting: God thought differently about me than my biological parents, was happy to have me, was supportive and guiding, said I was a beautiful divine spark (as opposed to an ungrateful demanding argumentative opinionated selfish worthless brat etc), said my life and how I lived it was important, and made it very clear that the way I was being treated was unjust. That was very powerful when I was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen.

    When you said “the body remembers what the mind forgets” – this struck a huge chord with me. For thirty years my body was remembering stuff that was somehow hidden from my mind. I had nightmares that had me waking in cold sweat and could never remember what they were about, and wondered if I had an adrenal tumour or sleep apnoea or hypoglycaemic episodes (looking for a physical explanation for what seemed to be a purely physical problem), until last year I started getting the “footage” to go with the anguish, and then I understood.

    Pam was commenting that sometimes she doesn’t know she’s physically hurt until she sees the bruise later. I also had a strange relationship with pain – I seemed to have a “soldier on even if your leg is broken” setting – I often was confused about whether painful sensations were real, or I was somehow making them up. When I was ill I often wondered if it was real or I was making it up. In part that’s because in my family of origin the closest thing you ever got to being nurtured and noticed is if you were physically ill (unless that was a result of abuse). So I would wonder if as a result I had some kind of Munchhausens, or if my body had some way of feigning illness. It was hard to know what was real. (In retrospect I think the reason I was frequently unwell is because of the stress.) I’m still having to teach the little girl inside of me to pay attention to cues from the body that say it’s time to slow down, or stop something, or do something differently, and that the cues are real and not “attention-getting behaviour”.

    You asked about how your readers re-parent their inner children. The first thing I learnt to do when the footage came back with the nightmares is to pretend the adult me was getting into a TARDIS (husband is a Dr Who fan and it’s gotten into my imagination too) and going right back to that time and place with that little girl in whatever situation the nightmare was about and talking to her and being her grown-up friend and protector and “big twin sister”, commenting on situations and countering the scapegoating and abuse and neglect and pointing out that the adults had big problems (as opposed to the little girl was the one glaring problem).

    These days I get loads of repressed memories back looking at childhood photographs, and my husband and I will take time sometimes to look at them and will talk about what happened, and that’s also very helpful and affirming. And we’ll notice the body language and lack of confidence and how thin and pale I was, and both of us just want to reach out across time to that child and take her home with us and give her love and care and nurturing and acknowledge her good qualities and celebrate who she is and be her launching pad and clap and cheer when she grows up and lifts off!

    Thanks again for your super blog. 🙂 All the very best to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. …and a PS (because this site is such a significant catalyst for reflection for me)…

    You said, “When we react to other people and various stimuli, we are often reacting to our past experiences.” I think it’s so interesting in retrospect that I spent decades trying passionately to right wrongs in this world, and looking back on that I kind of see that as an extension of trying to right the wrongs that happened to me. I could do it for other people before I could do it for myself. At one point I spent years working professionally with children, acutely aware that many of them were facing hidden issues of not being loved and appreciated, or being bullied, or ostracised, or having noone to talk to about the things that worried them. All those particular things had happened to me, and I knew there were plenty more awful things that had not, that other people faced. I always thought of children as people and fully human, not underlings – unlike how my parents thought of me, or indeed still think of me today (they don’t even know me, but they think they do).

    So in one sense I was healing the little girl in me by trying to be a thoughtful and compassionate adult to the children in my care, and taking them seriously, and by not abusing the power I had over them. That then begs the question, is there such a thing as altruism? (one of my teachers with a psychology bent didn’t think so) One the other hand, what I did was healing for others as well as myself (people tell me regularly) and there is this Buddhist (and Christian) idea that everyone is interconnected. And it really is also true that if you have problems, helping others is a good place to begin (gives you perspective, and you might learn to help yourself too along the way).

    I am STILL learning about the relationship between current reactions to people and various stimuli… most recently, that since I’ve actually stopped caring what my parents think, or if they think badly of me, that I also have stopped caring what people in general think of me, or if they think badly of me, in direct proportion. It used to be that each time I was with my parents as an adult after leaving home, in my twenties, thirties, even into my early forties, that things they said and did would painfully rip the scab off the huge childhood wound I had inside, and I would be drowning in pain. I used to have to recover from visiting them like recovering from a flu, it had such a physical effect on me. I learnt to taper off my contact with them, and eventually resolved to no longer visit them at all – although they are welcome to visit if they like (but they are so used to the universe revolving around them that I think this is unlikely to happen, and to be honest I kind of don’t care either way anymore).

    It’s a funny feeling not to care, when I used to carry the world on my shoulders. It’s not entirely icy or anything, I would be concerned if they got hit by a bus or something, it’s just that, as my husband said, you’d not hang with these people if they weren’t your family, they can be them and you can be you and you don’t have to keep trying to reach out or think that somehow magically they will like you, or you will like them. (I think even Martin Luther King was saying, “You should love your enemies, but it would be insane if you liked them.”)

    Like you said, self-care is not selfish… and it’s always right to avoid unsafe people.

    Good to read your blog. God bless, sister.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Andrea,

    I can relate to so much of what you wrote. I am never sick because when I was five I got the mumps and my mom disappeared. She didn’t like sick people so it was hard for her to take care of me. It was very scary to get sick and feel like I was ruining my mom’s day. My dad took care of me and he was very kind, but my mom still came down with the mumps giving birth to my sister. All my life, my mom pointed to me and told people, “This one gave me the mumps!” This, along with the fact that my mom is constantly worried about germs and washing hands, gave me the feeling it was my own fault for getting sick. I felt so much shame that I swore at five that I would never get sick again.

    My mom gave me food and that was how she loved me. If anyone was hungry, they got empathy from her. But if they were sick, just get away.

    I listened to a talk by a psychiatrist who says people who imagine illness got attention for being sick, while people who have eating disorders of all kinds often got them because they want to experience the love they felt at their mother’s breast as babies which might be the only time they felt love. Both of these situations are about needing love.

    This is of course not to blame our mothers for everything, but it’s good to understand how these things affected us.

    I hope you can continue to nourish and nurture your child inside. I have found art to be a great help in that way.

    May you experience all the love you deserve!

    Cherilyn

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  6. Hi again Andrea,

    How beautiful the way you gave back to the world in helping children! I love that! Reminds me of the saying, “Be who you needed when you were younger.”

    I also love that MLK quote. What a prophet he was!

    I watched a show about Chefs on Netflix and the first 2 Michelin Star chef in the US said this as she described her food which is served with nostalgic poetry:

    “Memory is very important. It’s a vehicle to get to know who you are inside.” -Dominique Crenn

    I have to agree with her.

    I am also glad you have a husband who is supportive of you in this journey. My own has been a pillar in my recovery!

    Peace and freedom to you!

    Cherilyn

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  7. Thank you for sharing so much depth. You have really touch me. I think people are very mislead to tell abused people forget the past. I used to wonder why I go so angry and almost feel wounds open up again when I’d hear that, then God showed me that to forget is denying the past and also, where is your testimony then? Even in forgiving, I have had many reasons to resent, Christ has been gently saying to me, just let me have those resentments, they are too heavy for you, forgiveness is for me to not carry the shame and guilt anymore, and I don’t have to reconcile or trust them. But triggers are a big issue, they come out of nowhere. This article has opened it up to a new level. I want to so much enjoy my days now that I feel so free. My husband tells me to draw again, I’m still allow myself to feel joy they raped me from. Yes it is spiritual rape. I think of the story of Joseph and how he overcame, and many others. God is that same God for us. I do believe the biggest step is it happened within the family not to be afraid of cutting them off anyways. In the eyes of God is not spirit thicker than blood. Do I want to stop my growth and healing with the Almighty because of a blood family member because he tries to manipulate and say I’m a man of God? You will know them by their fruit, all I felt was pure darkness.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Lisa,

    You said, ” I think of the story of Joseph and how he overcame, and many others. God is that same God for us.” This is true, but people have to make their own choices and that includes abusers. When we have done all we can, we can leave it with God. It is my prayer too to someday be able to say “What you meant for harm to me, God meant for good.” Not there yet, myself.

    I read some where that this saying about blood being thicker than water actually meant those you go into battle with who fight with you as blood, so it was not meant to mean family.

    Peace and freedom,

    Cherilyn

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