Recently, I’ve been reading through some of my old journals, exploring who I was so many years ago. I used my journals to record events but they were also a place where I wrote about my fears, desires, frustrations and all of my feelings.
When I’m reading about those long ago experiences, I find myself feeling as if I’m still there—as if I’m 15 or 19 or 25 again. I’m right back there with all the emotions. My journals give me some perspective on my younger wounded parts, but at times I can feel myself judging those younger selves for not behaving in more socially acceptable ways, for pushing hard against boundaries or for not meeting others’ expectations.
In those moments, when the judgmental part shows up, my anxiety begins to rise. Most often it’s a burning feeling in my chest and throat, but the anxiety can show up as an upset stomach or a tightening in my throat that makes it hard to eat and digest anything.
I’ve worked hard to manage my anxiety. When it does show up, it can be very frustrating. I begin to feel like a fraud, because my critical part starts questioning my abilities. “How can you help others when you can’t even help yourself!”
The 15-Year-Old Rebel
My 15-year-old self has been making herself known to me lately. In my journal, she recounts all the parties she went to or wants to go to, all the boys she has crushes on or kissed, the distress she feels when she’s alone, her feelings of loneliness (although she seems to have so many friends), her constant need of stimulation, either through substance use or business.
As I read through page after page of my journals, I find that a part of me wants that 15-year-old to behave better, to be more in control, to be less reckless, to stop pushing back so hard. She makes me uncomfortable, and her wildness scares me a little. I want see her clearly. I want to feel compassion and acceptance for her and all that she went through, and yet I don’t want feel her pain or see her vulnerability and loneliness.
But she keeps showing up and she wants to be seen.
Rethinking and Ruminating
If you’ve experienced childhood trauma or childhood emotional neglect, there’s a good chance you also have some younger parts that feel wounded. They show up in our lives because they’re tired of hurting and they want us to help them heal. They show up in our dreams, they show up when we feel triggered, and they show up in our relationships.
When we shame our younger parts with expectations that they couldn’t live up to then and certainly can’t live up to now, we retraumatize them again and again. If we approach our wounded parts with judgment and we shame them with our present-day expectations, we’re sending negative messages: they’re not enough, they need to change to be loved, they need to get over the hurt. These messages are probably pretty similar to those they heard when they were struggling.
Our parts feel wounded when we judge them instead of seeing them with compassion and love.
Healing Old Wounds
We can’t change the past but we can heal. The healing happens when we can show our wounded parts unconditional love and acceptance. There are many ways to explore all of your parts. Here are a few suggestions:
Individual or group trauma herapy
Dance or movement
It’s important to remember that when we’re exploring our wounded parts, we want start with an intention to bring an attitude of curiosity, compassion and caring to that part. The goal is to accept and love all of our parts in an open and non-judgmental way.
I recognize that I sometimes find myself wishing that my 15-year-old part had behaved in more socially acceptable ways. But when I hear the judgment or fear in my approach, I try instead to welcome her with curiosity, kindness and caring. She reminds me how hard she was struggling. She had a lot of changes and upheavals in her life. I can see now that she was surviving the only way she knew how.
She’s not going anywhere and she wants me to know that. She’s a part of me. She’s my fighter, my boundary pusher, my resilience, my strength, my princess. I’ll continue to work on being with her without any expectations other than her just being one part of me.
For more insights…
If you’d like to know more about recognizing and challenging some of the expectations we put on ourselves and society puts on us, you can listen to my conversation with Dr. Agnes Wainman on the Woman Worriers podcast.
If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.
Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger, creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .