Have you ever experienced your life going along really well — when all of a sudden it seems to come apart at the seams?
When our unconscious self, our inner child, senses unfamiliar situations and we’re relaxing our defenses, this inner child rings the alarm bell. Your child has only one thought in mind and that is to keep you safe and out of harm’s way. The only way our child knows how to do this is by responding with the same brilliant defenses that helped you stay sane and survive childhood. However, you are no longer a child and the reactive alarm bell can sabotage what you created.
The reactive responses to perceived threats are all variations on the theme of fight, flight or freeze (play dead). Today we know that these reactions actually get in our way, stopping us from have a fully loving life. However, this little saboteur does not reason with our adult mind, but responds with a child’s emotions.
When we begin to get the love we have always deeply desired, we don’t know what to do with it or how to respond. We may have little or no actual experiential basis from which we can draw appropriate responses. We don’t have a clue how to “be” when faced with this “love.” Not knowing what to do is frightening. So our little saboteur feels unsafe and rings the alarm bell.
When we get the love we want, it touches on the longing inside of us and we feel the painful sadness of all the times we did not get this love. Feeling this sadness is uncomfortable and getting what we have for so long desired is scary. So our little saboteur feels unsafe and rings the alarm bell.
When we start to get the love we want, we naturally want this all the time! However, our experience of childhood may be full of loss, disappointments, and lack of love. We feel fear that this love we desire so deeply may leave us (perhaps like it has in the past). So our little saboteur feels unsafe and rings the alarm bell. And creates the very thing we were afraid would happen.
When we get the love we want we are reminded that we have needs. This may bring up times when we were told it was not OK to have needs and were shamed for having needs. We learned that we can distract ourselves from feeling these real needs by telling ourselves that we don’t have them or even telling ourselves that we hate being “needy”. Feeling ashamed at needing, we push away our fulfillment.
When we get the love we want and are coaxed into changing and letting down our “guard,” we feel the fear of giving up the old and familiar without assurance of what the future will bring. We experience our changing as standing on the edge of a cliff and being asked to have faith that when we jump it will be warm and soft and safe at the bottom. We are not at all sure we can trust this. So our little saboteur feels unsafe and rings the alarm bell and says NO WAY!
For all these reasons it is difficult to hang onto the wonderful feelings of a love filled life. When frightened our inner child-self naturally gets defensive for protection by ringing the bell. We must reassure our inner child and let it know it’s needs and feelings are being heard and acted on. We must continually assure our little self that we are not ignoring it and we are committed qualified adults who love it and will keep it safe. Perhaps, in the past we didn’t protect it as it wanted. We can acknowledge our mistakes and recommit to caring for our inner self. Then, our inner child can begin to develop trust in us. The child will see that it is no longer in the old environment, but one that is safe, protected and full of unconditional love. It can then learn to heal and forgive and accept the love from inner as well as outer sources.
We can and should have frequent conversations with our little inner child selves. Allowing them to express their needs, feel important for the insights they offer, and allow them to play. Take them to a movie, or arcade, or walk along a lake or the beach, etc.
We must pay attention to our body’s signals, which tell us that our inner child may be feeling unsafe, like the feeling of fear in the pit of your stomach, or a rigid stiff neck. We can make agreements with our inner child before the stiff neck is necessary. Ask your child to show you an agreed symbol that reminds you that you are ignoring your heart where your inner child resides. For example, a color or symbol could be used.
We can ask our partners for an honest reality check of what, if anything, is going on. And with this knowing, begin to feel safe again.
We can ask for and get held by our partners and honestly talk about how scary it is to finally get the love we always wanted. We can ask them to reassure us that even if we don’t do it perfectly, they will still love us, and they have NO intention of leaving us.
We can help each other understand more clearly the triggers that sends our inner child into defense mode and try and find new ways to talk about these triggers, diffusing them, rather than just reacting.
We can initiate caring loving behaviors with each other and our inner selves; and allow ourselves to have more fun and joy. Nothing soothes a child more than feeling safe enough to have pleasure and be playful.
Then we are able to realize that the “breakdowns” that occur after our “breakthroughs” to loving relationships, are only the calls for help from our frightened inner child, and NOT a sign that our relationships are hopeless!
Addendum: Ah, what one can learn in nearly thirteen years from one’s saboteur. I have experienced many of the Little Saboteur’s self-protecting behaviors in myself and others like: running, hiding, pretending, withdrawing, pushing others away, anger (as protection); all the while realizing that there is a darker side to these “protections.” This is the side were others are intentionally harmed, usually unconsciously, by my actions.
For example: Pushing others away that care deeply about us, hurts them, AND they maybe innocent of wanting to harm us. They only wanted to love and be loved. But when we are involved in a fear-based conspiracy with our little saboteur who’s been with us since childhood we can’t see this. We think our actions are only defensive. We do not see the harm we inflict.
Our saboteur must be guided to see its actions are actually hurtful to self, because inside we know the harm we’ve caused and this guilt lessens and destabilizes us. But being blind we think we need stronger protections, not realizing we are the source.
Our little saboteur shoots us in the foot and thinks the wound comes from others.
Guide this inner-child, help it feel safe and teach it of the self-destructive nature of its ways. Tell it you are no longer a child and cannot be harmed as when you were a child. There is nothing to fear. You will be fine, even if you get hurt, you will be OK. The little one doesn’t understand this, you must teach it courage, to trust, and to risk loving or you will remain empty. Tell the little fearful voice inside all will be OK. When you hear the alarm bell again, choose to allow without reacting. Eventually, it will lessen and you can live without the fears that like Pavlov’s dogs we’re driving by the ringing of the bell. You created the bell and simply don’t need it anymore.