Dr Margaret Paul’s work has been a huge personal catalyst in the last couple of years. She’s one of my favourite writers and therapists. I got to know her work in 2018 and I have listened to her audiobook about inner bonding over and over again. Inner bonding is a guiding process to help you connect with your own emotions and needs. In other words, it helps you getting out of your own head and into your body.
Margaret says we suffer when we abandon ourselves and choose to adopt controlling behaviours whenever we face fear or pain. Instead of holding a love-based attitude, we react and engage with reality from a place of insecurity. This kind of attitude generates negative outcomes such as self-hurt and unhealthy relationships. We often assume that if we are hurt, then others must feel it too AND yet shower us with the love and attention we need to stop feeling so bad.
I don’t need to tell you this is a very unhealthy way to live. I used to be in this place all the time. In fact, if it wasn’t for the countless nights listening to Dr Margaret Paul I would still be writing about the poor me and what bastards my mother and father are for not providing me with the love and attention every child should receive in order to grow up as a healthy and secure human being. I was complaining and crying all the time on the blog, pitting myself and blaming my parents for my unhealthy behaviours as a grown-ass adult.
It certainly took me a long while to make peace and become the loving adult my inner child needed. There are plenty of lessons I haven’t mastered yet of course, but I’m happy with the fact that I no longer sit here and write relentlessly about what my mother or father did or didn’t do, according to my fantasies and ideals about parenting. I ended up realising that people can only give you what they have and the only aspect you can change is our own response and attitude.
Whenever I was upset about something my parents had or hadn’t done, I would eat my emotions and punish my body. Overeating was a well-known source of comfort to me and the only way I had available to cope with negative emotions. Once I identified the root cause of my eating compulsion though, I reached a conclusion – I had to heal my child-adult wounds and stop blaming my parents’ behaviours and decisions for my own frustrations. As soon as I substituted my compulsion for self-loving thoughts, I stopped binging food and both my attitude and perception of my parents improved.
I believe self-abandonment is common among people who are highly sensitive and whose emotional needs weren’t sufficiently met in their childhood due to neglect, abuse or absence of one or both parents. Such experiences can lead a child to feel unsafe and unlovable, which is psychologically very distressing and traumatising. The lack of love, attention and presence gives rise to adults who don’t know how to soothe and calm themselves. Instead of learning positive coping strategies, these adults often engage in one or more of the following sources of self-abandonment: living exclusively in the head, harsh self-criticism, addictive behaviours, and abandonment of the inner child.
Living Exclusively in the Head
I used to be a very mind-oriented person. I was impulsive, but I would stick to my own head most of the time. I was disembodied and I didn’t own my body. I can’t say I overcame all my body issues, but I’m fairly more comfortable with the fact that I have legs, a torso, and two arms. Bodybuilding helped me a lot with this and I feel much more grounded in my own body. Now I’m not only my thoughts but also my sensations.
I was always very good at this. I still am. If I cook something, I’m the first person to address the problems and limitations of what I did. Thankfully, it’s not as bad as it used to be, but I used to have mean thoughts about myself and I secretly compared my body with other women’s bodies all the time. It was pure self-torture.
For most of my life, I’ve been an overeater. Food was my addiction and I always told the same lie to myself: just this time, tomorrow I’ll be good. I would eat without being hungry. I would eat watching tv shows or youtube videos on my laptop. I ate to numb discomfort, pain and negative emotions. It was a way to stop feeling or thinking so much, but it never really worked for more than a few seconds.
Abandonment of the Inner Child
At 30, I still wanted my parents to be responsible for my pain and overarousal. I thought they were supposed to make pain and problems stop. Whatever struggle or issue I had, I always hoped they would offer me solutions or advice. Sadly, not all parents are able to do so. Many people don’t even know how to handle themselves. I expected my parents to be superheroes and eliminate my discomfort with their wisdom, but guess what… they are human beings like myself and the only thing I can do is to learn how to be there for myself and heal my child-adult wounds, so that I can give more to my children in the future.