I love the Olympics. Other than the World Cup, it is the only sporting event I watch. I am fascinated by international sporting events. I think we should resolve all of our conflicts in this manner. Of course, we would have to even the playing field with some proper coaching and training for all.
But I digress. This morning, I saw a video in my Facebook newsfeed. As usual, Facebook always seems to know what I need to see. Or is that the universe? I’m not sure. But this video touched me in a deep way. While Gabriella’s perseverance and determination was admirable on so many levels, that isn’t what impacted me most. It was the support. I watched the Olympic officials off to the side as they followed her (later learning that one was a doctor watching her for signs of health risks). And I watched them waiting at the finish line. And I knew she would be okay.
Many of us on this recovery journey are exhausted. I often feel like Gabriella on the inside, even when I don’t look like it on the outside. Honestly, I probably do look like it on the outside. I am just fooling myself. But I have come to a realization lately. Similar to most of the emotions I feel, it isn’t that I feel this way. It is my inner parts who feel this way.
While our inner parts may feel like formidable opponents in our trauma recovery journey, in reality, they are overwhelmed. They are young. And they are always handling more difficult circumstances than their age allows. Yes. This is always true. Otherwise, they would make different choices. They are trying to control things they can’t control. They are trying to get love from people who can’t give it. And they are trying to make sense of the series of bad things they have encountered. In reality, they can’t make sense of those things.
So they walk through life with hyper-vigilance. They make plans only to have them squashed. They battle with other parts. And they watch as their bad expectations come true over and over again. But most importantly, they feel alone. They feel completely alone. They want to collapse. They want to give up. But they are sure that would mean death. That would be the end. So they keep going every day, waiting to collapse, without any hope they can.
And this is where we come in. Our adult selves are the Olympic officials walking the sidelines. We can help them understand it is okay to cross that finish line. We can catch them when they finally realize they don’t have to keep going. We can pick them up and take over. It doesn’t mean they aren’t involved, but they can take a different role, a better role. They can be who they were always meant to be. They can support the system instead of battling with it. They can offer their input to decisions made by the adult self. And as a member of a unified team, they can finally feel like they are a part of something much bigger, much more functional.
But as our adult selves, we are responsible for showing them the way. They may not know we are there. They may not see us on the sideline waiting to help. They believe they have no hope of help. They believe they are completely alone and facing a world full of everything bad. You know this to be true because you have felt their feelings. You have heard their thoughts. You have essentially seen through their eyes many times. So how do you help them know you are there to help them? Here are three steps I discuss with my clients.
- Strengthen your adult self (ego self). This comes with awareness and action. Awareness starts with knowing your parts are there. But action starts with setting boundaries to protect your inner parts, along with saying yes to what your inner parts have always wanted.
- Separate from your inner parts by writing from them. One of the best methods for getting to know our parts is to allow them to express in an uncensored way. And the unconscious is best heard through writing. So when you are feeling intense responses and emotions to your external life, try to write from them.
- Help your inner parts to understand their role in the past and today. Once you begin to hear from your inner parts, you will learn their beliefs and where they came from. You will learn more about how those beliefs are affecting your daily life. And then, you can help your inner parts to understand things differently.
Is this a short cut? Is this a fast process? Of course not. You will struggle to do these steps for years. But if you think your inner parts are on the verge of collapse now, waiting to start this journey in the hopes of finding something faster will make things worse. Help them know they can cross the finish line. Let them know you are waiting to catch them when they are willing to cross it.