Sessions number two and three from my Working with the Inner Child therapy were about getting into the role of the father and the mother and voicing everything that comes through: their words, messages, lessons, ways of punishment and rewarding, etc.
In the session when I had to “be” my father I could barely find any words he had said to me when I was young. I was remembering messages from older years very clearly but I couldn’t get back to the early years of my childhood.
During the session, feeling my inner child, I felt distance at first. Like my dad wanted to say something but he kept it inside, and there was all this silence. I felt love and compassion but also withdrawal and sadness.
Enacting my father, I felt like the words were getting stuck in my throat. I couldn’t possibly say what was on my mind to this little child. I loved her but regretfully I didn’t express myself.
Later on, thinking about the session, I remembered that in my early years as a child I didn’t really spend much time with my dad. When I was little my mum had kept me away from him and my dad has kept away from me because of her. He was trying to avoid conflicts with her and possibly took a back stand in my upbringing at the time.
Thus, in moments of distress, I needed my dad to do something, to take a stand for me – like restoring the justice that had been undone (in my world), or fixing what needed to be fixed, ensuring a happy and fair ending to whatever the trouble might had been.
But that didn’t necessarily happen and I had to deal with the feelings on my own, trying to make sense of my reality and the world around me.
This has stirred many feelings in me – of confusion, loneliness, guilt, of being misunderstood, being alone in the world, being different, odd, weird, not fitting in; feelings of injustice, unfairness and wrongfulness; of having to fight for what I value, to defend and protect myself; of anger and aggression. Later on in life that has transpired into roles such as being the rebel, fighting authority, supporting the opposing and not-so-common views, siding with the weaker and the underdog, being the loser, the scapegoat.
Whereas some things may be parts of my personality, others are acquired and untruthful to me. Nevertheless, they have impacted my whole life.
In my later years as a teenager when my mother wasn’t around we became very close with my dad. His fatherly advice to be an independent, self-reliant, strong girl still echos through my mind on daily basis. I also was a housewife, a wife and my own mother. I would be responsible and take care of our home and my dad. Later on in my life this transpired into roles such as the carer, the nurse, the omnipresent fixer and solver, the peacemaker, taking up an enormous responsibility for what often wasn’t mine to deal with. I also had high standards about myself and others, and thus prone to disappointment, self-criticism and criticism of others, never be satisfied and constantly obsessing.
Again, some of these could be personal traits and I’ve obviously been very susceptible in particular areas.
Back to the session, at first I had troubles getting into the role and finding words. But when my therapist said I can also express things that weren’t said out loud – I had a breakthrough. My dad hasn’t spoken very much but the thoughts and the energy were there. I was able to give voice to what had been unsaid during my early years.
My dad was clearly regretful for not taking a full part in raising me up but in order to keep some sort of normality in the home, he would avoid getting into conflicts with my mother. He would retrieve and busy himself up with his interests and hobbies. At the same time, unconsciously he would develop a sense of guilt and would blame himself.
Unfortunately, that would lead to lots of missed opportunities for us to bond at that very early stage. Later on we would still bond strongly but not entirely healthily.
Looking back, now I understand that what I’ve needed all my life is not advice on how to be a strong, independent, self-reliant girl. What I needed was a father who can be there for me when I wasn’t – when I was falling apart, when I was a mess, when I was in distress and pain.
A safe harbour to take me in during my wildest storms – to shelter me, comfort me and give me the strength I was lacking. And through the eyes of the little girl – a knight to protect me and fight the dragons that I couldn’t fight by myself, a champion to restore the peace in my world and piece together my broken heart.
During most of my life I have felt the burden of having to do it all by myself – to be my own champion, to fight all my dragons by myself, to piece my broken life by myself.
This also explains why at many times in my life I have felt so bad about myself – because often I was failing to be this strong girl. I wasn’t brave enough and I couldn’t mend my world.
In my eyes, through my dad’s lens, I was a failure.
In summary, the full picture:
Due to our family situation, dad couldn’t be a father in the full meaning of the word. Unconsciously he has developed a sense of guilt towards me (and blame towards himself). When I was grown up and we had a chance to develop a close relationship he was trying to make up for the lost time. Thus, his teachings about being strong, independent and self-reliant.
We have a good relationship and I’ve soaked up these messages with my whole being. All my life I had tried not to disappoint my father and really be this super girl. And in my moments of weakness, not only I’ve automatically hid my feelings from almost everybody trying to figure it all out by myself, but I’ve felt this immense shame that I couldn’t live up to his expectations.
Of course, none of us have intended any of this scenario. This is a typical example of a dysfunctional family. And I’m sure there are many people in similar situations.
I’m happy I’ve taken on this journey, stripping all the layers down, untangling myself from unintended harm.
Soon I hope I’ll fly again free.1