Dysfunctional families are dysfunctional early on. We may not realize it early on though because we have no other frame of reference. When we look back at our lives, we are unaware of getting stuck in some of our childhood fears. I talked a bit about this in my last post ~ Dissociated Identity as a Coping Method for Mental Health
Feeling the feelings is very scary especially if you don’t realize when you are facing them with the fears of a child. I used a cave analogy a little while back in a post about how navigating recovery is often like trying to feel your way through a pitch black cave with a faulty flashlight.
I had another image of the cave this time looking at it from the outside. It just flashed through my mind a few weeks ago; I was sitting on a picnic blanket in a beautiful field of wildflowers on a breezy sunny day. It was quiet and peaceful and I was all alone. I was surrounded by food and was using both my hands to eat, while I stared wide eyed in fear, into the mouth of the cave.
Something about that whole image bothered me, and it kept coming back to me over and over again in my minds eye. My wide eyed staring at the mouth of the cave seemed logical, I understand the fear or hesitation that I have about going in there, but the chipmunk eating (which I figured was just nervous eating) was what didn’t seem to fit right. The way that I was using both my hands seemed odd to me. When this image had flashed in the back of my mind for a couple days straight, I noticed that my shoulders were bare and that I had a little sundress on. I looked a little closer at this image in my mind and I realized that I was about six years old in this scene, sitting by myself in a beautiful felid facing the mouth of a pitch black cave which represented my faulty belief system.
Although I have faced many “fears of the unknown”, for some reason facing the cave this time was really scary until I realized that I was six; in my mind, I was trying to face this fear of dealing with more false truth and belief system stuff as a six year old!
I think this is a good illustration of the process of recovery. We usually think we are facing things at our current adult age, but the things we are facing that happened when we were children we seem to face with the same mindset we had as children at the time of the incident which formed the false belief.
Realizing that I am facing fears of a false belief that I adopted when I was only six helps me to be gentler with myself. I can use self talk to reassure my inner child that she is not alone. Becoming aware of my mind/age also helps me to understand where this particular fear started; I was around six when my mother started to teach me about sexuality. Our mother daughter relationship had some faulty foundations. Another benefit of realizing my mind age is that instead of looking at my fear of dealing with yet one more thing from the standpoint of an adult and reprimanding myself for still having these issues, I was able to realize that I am facing this with the thoughts, fears and understanding of a six year old ~ a six year old who was being taught that her looks and sexuality would serve her in a world that she was not ready to live in. I developed fears about not looking good enough, and because I was also sexually abused, I developed fears about looking too good. I was able to understand the confusion that still exists inside of me. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief because now that I know I am facing the cave as a six year old and I have been through this process before, I know how to re-parent myself and begin the process of getting me and my six year old self through it.