Friday, February 3, 2012

Creating a Nurturing Voice Within

Since I began reading Beverly Engel’s Healing Your Emotional Self, I have remembered so much of my childhood that I had forgotten, specific events and interactions with my mother that really affected me then, and somehow through the years, got lost in the chaos of my mind.  I feel sad when I think of these times.  It’s as if I can feel and smell and see my frustration and anger and complete confusion. 

Chapter 9 opened my eyes to the extent of which I self-deprecate.  I recently shared with you the details of my self-sabotaging behavior and the mean inner voice that constantly judges and shames me to the point of purposely making negative and often dangerous choices in my life.  The remaining half of Chapter 9 focuses on how to properly care and love yourself despite your caregiver’s lack of nurturing that you experienced growing up.  Until reading this chapter, I hadn't connected the dots between my mother’s lack of nurturing me as a child and my lack of nurturing myself in adulthood.  But believe me, there is a connection, a connection so defined that I think I would have saved myself a lot of pain had I realized it sooner.

My mother was all about immediate gratification.  She would lash out when she felt angry, stay in bed all day when she felt depressed, or take on countless projects when she was happy.  She was all over the place every day.  I saw her overindulge in eating and with men – specifically, her relationship with her long-time, on-again-off-again, drug addicted boyfriend.  She would either smother him or ignore and abandon him, much like she did with me.  When things with him were good, her needs were met and she was happy.  When things with him were bad, her needs were unmet.  Her job or children or friendships or health played no role in what she needed for herself.  Her needs, and the meeting of her needs, were based around circumstance; my needs, and my mother meeting these needs, were based around circumstance.  Love and acceptance and compassion were given to me when my behavior was deserving of such, when I was good and when I had “made” my mother happy. 

Binge drinking, overspending, overeating or under-eating, obsessively taking on a project, judging and shaming myself for every mistake and flaw…these actions are the result of the negative inner voice in my head, the inner voice which developed from my childhood experiences, the inner voice that relentlessly tells me I am not good enough and that I must prove my worth to others.  According to Engel, I must create a nurturing, mothering inner voice.  “Creating a nurturing inner voice can help to soften and balance the negative introject.  It is like giving to ourselves the responsive parent that so many of us did not have (159)”.  So what does creating this internal mother involve?  Engel says (159)
  • Consciously create an intimate connection with yourself.  Ask yourself “How do I feel?” as many times a day as you can think of.
  • Bring up a nurturing but strong inner voice, one that is deeply connected to the inherent strength, goodness, and wisdom within you (your essence).  If you find that it is difficult to find a nurturing voice, adopt the voice of someone you know who is nurturing but strong.
  • Whenever you find you are criticizing yourself or being hard on yourself, consciously switch to this more nurturing voice. 
Creating and listening to my nurturing inner voice is what I am working on now.  I’m conditioned to consult my circumstances and how I feel about those circumstances to find out how I not only really feel about myself but who I really am.  My negative introject speaks up loud and clear about all of this and I soon find myself putting into action the shaming words I hold inside.  I find myself admonishing anything and everything about me, such as I did on my way home from the gym this past Sunday morning.  I was replaying the events of last Friday night’s drunken argument with my boyfriend and Saturday’s aftermath of me staying in bed all day and ignoring him.  I judged and shamed myself for a few minutes until I finally asked myself, “How do I really feel?  How am I feeling right now in this moment?”

My answer was drastically different and more positive than the thoughts that were running rampant in my mind.  This is what I told myself:  When I do inner work, I experience outer conflict.  Alcohol lowers my ability to reason, further distorts my already distorted reality, and as a depressant, alcohol depresses me and arouses feelings of anger and the need to defend myself.  These facts led to Friday’s argument.  I am making the most of today by exercising and taking care of myself.  Today, I am okay.  Right now, I am okay.

It’s been difficult to talk to myself in a loving way.  It comes and goes – I’m building myself up and then I’m shredding myself to pieces.  Most times the thoughts I have toward myself I think are true.  I haven’t yet found my value in simply being me.  I don’t see what’s so great about me and who I am.  These words are so sad to me – just saying them and writing them stirs up something inside of me.  How can I possibly begin to act in nurturing ways if I cannot speak in nurturing ways?

I have no choice but to wait.  Take each day one step at a time, one word, one sentence at a time until an inner dialogue of love is established within myself.  My words will become actions and my actions will become words. 

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