We all have a child within – the child we once were. The pain of today that is most difficult to carry often goes back a long way – it touches that child. How we relate to that part of us is a good model for how we can move forward with the pain we experience in our adult lives.
Compassion For the Child Within
instantly. A women on the “ACT for the Public” list serve (I’ll put the link below) struggling with depression was writing recently about her time in a homeless children’s shelter. Lonely and abandoned, she told the story of being forced to eat something that the house mother knew literally made her sick, and then being put in a linen closet for the night when she threw up. Her story was so sad, but it was filled also with words of judgment about that little girl. What I said in my post was to use her posture toward that child within as a guide. Although the content would differ from person to person, the questions I found myself asking I think are of some general applicability, so I will repeat them here. I asked her to think about her relationship to the little girl within and asked: “Without acceptance is she being told by you to stop being afraid or ‘weak’? Without defusion is she being told by you to shut up and pretend? Without a transcendent sense of self is she being told by you that she might indeed be as worthless as her treatment? Without flexible attention to the present moment is she either being ignored by you or stared at like a damaged object? Without values is she being told by you to create safety for all the grown ups instead of the other way around? Without committed action is she being told by you to take care of herself even though she is the one needing care?” When we do unhealthy things we step away from the child within. When the black dog of depression is being fed, the child within is terrified. When the alienation story gets thick, the child within is abandoned. When theanger goes inward, the child within is also a focus. From an ACT perspective the only way the child part of us can be listened to, respected, loved, cared for, and allowed to play is if the grown up part of us chooses a vital and self-compassionate path, that acknowledges pain and yet carries it forward into a life worth living. It is sometimes hard to find a place to do that for ourselves. If that is the case, there is an alternative. Imagine yourself as a child, and a time when a hurt you are feeling now was first being felt. Do it for that child. Steven C. Hayes University of Nevada Author of Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life (the link to the ACT for the Public list is:http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/ACT_for_the_Public/join)