A letter to the wounded inner child

My dearest wounded inner child. I often wondered why I felt so needy, anxious, and emotionally dependent on others in my intimate adult relationships. I always felt an imbalance between myself and others. I believed that I was the one who reached out first, needed relentless attention and care from the ‘other,’ and was left experiencing shame and frustration when those needs were not met. I believed that it would always be me who would walk toward the ‘other’ and no one would walk toward me.
I could want more time and responsiveness from the ‘other’ or for him to take more initiative to connect so I could feel valued and important. There was an emotional need to be held, heard, and seen, but even when those needs were met, it never felt enough, and I would be left feeling back to square one where I felt the same hunger and longingness for his presence. I thought that I was the one who was always walking towards the ‘other’ or had a greater need to connect, and that need was so overwhelming that it triggered intolerable feelings until it was met. Do you know how agonizing the waiting was? The entire world faded out for me in those moments. My heart would be beating so fast, my legs feeling restless, anxiety travelled to every cell of my body, and nothing could distract or provide relief until I would connect with him. When he would, it would be as if someone had covered me with a warm fuzzy blanket when I was cold and shivering. I would feel safe and warm in that instant, and my entire body would relax and let go of all the anxiety I had been holding in. But when I would not get the response soon, I would either feel angry and frustrated and demand and protest or feel hopeless and shut down and withdraw, feeling rejected and unloved. I would wish that I had dared to walk away or would make feeble attempts at walking away.
I would want to learn how to not be hungry for care. To stop reaching out and stop waiting. I would feel ashamed of my needs and keep wondering why I had such irrational feelings and would be angry at myself. I would feel this confusion and chaos within that how could I be so rational and mature in other relationships and so ‘childlike’ with the ‘other’? And then, it dawned on me that it’s you, my dear inner wounded child, experiencing all of this. You are my younger self whose emotional needs for love and safety were not met by mommy or daddy. You are the baby wailing in the crib, waiting to be picked up and held as you reach out with your tiny arms. You are the toddler running towards mama for a hug and feel sad when she involuntarily stops you. You are the tween who wants to tell daddy about the friend who is not talking to you, but daddy is busy working. You felt abandoned, anxious, alone, and not cared for, didn’t you? You learned that you could never trust anyone to take care of you. You knew that you were unlovable. And now you want the ‘other’ to make up for it. You want him to make you feel safe. You want him to reassure you repeatedly until you believe you are worthy of being loved. But why would he want to be your parent? He cares for your adult self, but how and why would he want to fill the gap of all the early years or make up for the parental love deficit?
It’s not the ‘other; whose unavailability makes you feel such deep anguish and pain, but his unavailability triggers the same primal emotions. Your mind and body remember feeling the same when you were young, and you had to regulate these feelings on your own, and you were uncertain how to, and you still don’t know how to.
So firstly, know that you have nothing to be ashamed of. You deserved to be loved then, and you deserve it now. Your need isn’t the problem. It’s just that the ‘other’ cannot fulfil it. No matter how hard he tries, this adult cannot compensate for years of your parents abandoning you. That trauma did not happen to you, little one but happened inside you. So, today, I want to tell you that you are loved. You are worthy. Your needs are genuine and deserve to be met. Don’t be ashamed. I love you, my dearest wounded child. I am here for you.
The Adult.

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at zaramaqbool@yahoo.com or her official website.

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