Me, My “Inner Child,” My Depression and My Dad
Let me just start by saying I was not a touchy-feely, self-help-book kind of girl. I was more of a You-want-a-piece-of-me? kind of gal. Comes with the profession – journalism – and the more time you spend in a newsroom, the more refined your sass. So, when I came out of my last major depression and my therapist suggested I do some “Inner Child” work I rolled my eyes, thanked God for our confidentiality agreement. No one would find out about my “Inner Child.”
It seemed really silly at first. REALLY silly. I drew pictures, wrote letters with my left hand from my “Inner Child,” went through boxes of old picture and visualized my “Inner Child.” I have very few memories of my childhood. But after a couple of months of working with my “Inner Child” weird stuff started happening. Memories struck like lightening – totally out of the blue. I could suddenly recall the tile and and door knob at the swimming pool. I could see myself as a 6-year-old with long pig-tails, ridiculously short bangs and my favorite red check dress with the black velvet ribbon around the waist. My sister helped me remember the library with the creepy stuffed bald eagle.
My therapist insisted this was necessary work and that the memories were there and would come out when my inner child felt safe and comfortable. We finally got to a point where my “Inner Child” started dealing with her own “issues” – such as my father’s alcoholism and how he treated my mother. My father never hit or yelled at my mother but he was sarcastic and seemed to enjoy cutting her down. He was not affectionate. I never looked up to him like some little girls do to their fathers. He was not the hunter-gatherer kind of dad – not my hero.
I had a lot of resentment against my dad. He was a sloppy drunk. The kind who thinks he’s really funny when he’s drunk and would fall asleep in the lou. My father wasn’t around when I did my “Inner Child” work. He had died of cancer of few years earlier. I thought I had made peace with him. I apologized for being a not-so-good daughter at times. But I was still mad.
My therapist asked if I had any pictures of my father when he was a boy. My dad grew up in the depression. An only child, adopted by an older couple in a small, rural northern Wisconsin town. That’s about all I knew about my father’s childhood. He never spoke of it, or his adopted father, who had died before I was born. I don’t even know my grandfather’s name.
I found a picture of my father when he was about 5-years-old. There was a little girl in the picture, too, and a wagon. Here comes the freaky part. My therapist said she wanted my “Inner Child” to talk to the little boy in the picture. I rolled my eyes. I did not want to do this. This seemed really, really stupid. But these were the kinds of deep resentments that I needed to get rid of, she said, as part of getting mentally fit and avoiding another major depression. Because I will do ANYTHING to avoid another major depression, I did it.
I closed my eyes and summoned my “Inner Child.”
“What do you want to say to him?” my therapist asked her.
“How come you weren’t very nice to me?” my Inner Child asked the boy.
“Because that’s how my dad was,” he said.
I couldn’t breathe. I had never considered my father’s childhood. He never, ever spoke of it.
“I just didn’t know any better,” he said.
Instantly, all the hostility I had towards my father was gone. Decades of resentment vanished. Everything made sense to me. There was a reason he had never spoken of his father. I felt so sorry for that little boy and so much love for my father. He had done the very best he could. He was the best father he could possibly have been.
Today, I have a really great relationship with my dad. Even though he is dead, we’re very close. When I close my eyes and think of him I feel a warm embrace, like someone has wrapped a very soft blanket around my shoulders. I ask his advice on men, which hasn’t worked out too well. But my inner child and I have a father who loves me. That’s all that matters.
Stapleton, C. (2011). Me, My “Inner Child,” My Depression and My Dad. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 11, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/depression/2011/06/me-my-inner-child-my-depression-and-my-dad/