When people talked to me about their "inner child" I would look at them quizzically. I didn't really know what they meant, possibly because my inner child has been very repressed, but also because now I’m an adult and there's enough distance between who I am now and who I was as a kid to distinguish the two.
It has become clear to me lately I've been letting my inner child run the show. I'm defining my inner child as the voice inside my head that likes to throw tantrums, that says, "NO!" the way only kids — or adults imitating kids — can, the voice that would have me shirk responsibility to play instead, and the voice that's really scared.
I've realized all (or most, anyway) of my issues about safety stem from my inner child, and with good reason. I know I've been very blasé about this, how I often mention it in passing, but both of my maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Let's have that sink in a bit. My grandpa was in a concentration camp, narrowly escaping death numerous times, often because of someone else's whim. When the Russians liberated his camp, he was so emaciated he could barely stand. My grandma lived in hiding for years. She was in a ghetto and then hid in a farmer's cellar who kicked her out once she had no more money to bribe him with.
My grandparents were attacked and persecuted for being who they were — Jewish. After the war their fears didn't disappear and in fact were passed down. My mom still gets nervous about telling people she's Jewish or that she does yoga and meditation. She has that lingering fear that she will be harmed for just being her. And I? I carry that fear with me too because of my childhood.
I've said this so many times people are probably tired of hearing it, but I grew up someplace where the KKK was active. These people burned crosses in the yards of other Jews. Many of the townsfolk where bigoted and racist, trying to kill the black student that went to our high school. I didn't realize how deeply this affected my psyche, but it did. I was scared to be myself, to let people really know me because I've been afraid they will hurt me. Physically I mean. It's not just the Jewish thing, it's the vegetarian thing too. Kids at school used to tease my brother mercilessly about what he ate — they even threw bologna at him as a "joke."
Notice I've mentioned family members but nothing specifically about me. That's because I was always shielded. Through the grace of God or I don't know what, I have never come to harm for being myself. (OK, so I was bullied a teeny bit in middle school for like two weeks but after one trip to the guidance counselor that was resolved and now we're friends on facebook.) I have never been hurt in that way but my inner child is so scared that I will be. It's gotten so out of control I have trouble sleeping at night. That is, until recently when I realized I've been letting my inner child call the shots.
I've had to tell little Rebekah it's safe to be her. And I've had to remind myself my grandparents were survivors. They survived and even thrived — my grandpa started his own business selling clothes in Manhattan. I'm also a survivor, I'm a thriver, and it's time to employ my logical mind. It's time to be an adult and look at the evidence. Hell, there was a break in and I wasn't home and none of my stuff was taken. I'd call that being pretty darn protected and safe. In the spirit of reparenting my little darling, I gather her up, let her cry, and ask her to remember while the world may look scary, she's safe and I've got her.
I dream of a world where we all take care of our inner children. A world where we reparent our inner kids if necessary. A world where we love and approve of ourselves and a world where we know we are safe, loved, and protected because we are here. We made it.
Another world is not only possible, it's probable.