Why reflect on my childhood?
Posted by Simon Parke, 20 March 2017, 1.26pm
Why do we reflect on our past? What benefit is there?
We need to be clear on our purpose otherwise we drift into further denial and repression.
We do not do it to blame our parents… even if they were appalling.
Blame is not the goal.
Instead, we do it to ponder the influence of our parents, whether in help or in damage.
And we do it to note the childhood messages we received – both spoken and unspoken - which still live on in our (supposedly) adult bodies.
And most of all, we do it to feel a little of what our little self felt in our most vulnerable and forming years.
Because when we feel we heal.
It’s our little self we have responsibility towards, not our parents.
So blame, no…but accuracy and feeling, yes.
This is not an easy journey. People need to feel safe to make it.
The ego is reluctant to allow access these feelings and makes good excuses for not taking part.
The sad truth is this: the last thing your ego wants is you gaining an accurate understanding of your narrative.
And it has many tricks to send you off piste.
Perhaps it conjures up dark phrases like ‘self-indulgence’ or ‘navel-gazing’, reminding you of the starving in Ethiopia.
‘What do I have to complain about?’
But the most common trick goes something like this.
‘Yes, my childhood was difficult. But I mean, my parents married young and things were tough for them. So it’s quite understandable what they did to me.’
This sounds rather reasonable, doesn’t it? Like the Ethiopia thing. Oh so reasonable! Perhaps even rather noble?
But it’s naked avoidance.
Our primary task here is not to ‘understand’ our parents or to ‘parent’ our parents with our compassion or to put everything into some head-explaining, feeling-numbing ‘context’.
We’re just running from ourselves in a bleak re-run of childhood survival.
Instead, our task is to feel.
You say your childhood was difficult. So what difficult feelings did it leave you with? And where are they now?
These are the only questions, because you can’t say goodbye to something until you have said hello to it.
And when we feel, we heal.
On a recent retreat, after considering childhood messages, one of the retreatants spent the evening explaining to a friend how she’d had a very good childhood, so had no difficulties to ponder.
She then went to bed, and at 2.00am, woke up in tears. The wheels had well and truly come off her narrative.
Her ego could no longer hold it all in, and free from the lies, her feelings were spilling, which she found frightening because she liked to be in control, always had.
She did have some very damaging aspects of her childhood to acknowledge.
I wasn’t frightened for her, however…more relieved that the denial was over.
She cried for much of the next day but left at the end of the week cautiously aware of a new and wonderful chapter in her life. And laughing a lot.
This wasn’t about blame.
It was about understanding her childhood with accuracy…a childhood which explained so much of her subsequent and much-troubled 42-year journey.
Ultimately, we reflect on our childhood to reach the feelings of our vulnerable and forming selves.
Because only feeling brings healing.
And that is our birth right.