April 19, 2022

Inner Child Reparenting: Healing My Relationship with God & Self

EPISODE 47         

Have you ever experienced a dissonance between knowing that you are loved and really FEELING that you are loved in your body? For the longest time I used to think there was something wrong with me because I couldn't really experience the love that I cognitively believed God loved me with.

In this episode I share about why this dissonance existed and how inner child healing finally helped me to bridge that gap. Inner child work was the practical healing I didn't know I needed to help me experience God's love for me - and my love for myself - in an embodied way.

Share this episode via this episode page.

How To Know If You Have Experienced Trauma
Why Your Family of Origin Impacts Your Life More Than Anything Else

00:16 - Introduction
02:36 - Our Image of God
04:05 - Dissonance Between my Intellect & Body
14:13 - Recall Memory VS What our Bodies Remember
21:49 - Reparenting my Inner Child
30:49 - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
35:06 - Conclusion
Available here.

Available here.

- As you listened to my sharing in this episode, was there anything in today's sharing that really resonated with you?

- Have you ever experienced a dissonance between a reality your brain tells you is true, and how your body feels about it?

- Write down one or two ways in which you have experienced this kind of dissonance between what your mind tells you and what your body feels.
- Write down what it is that you cognitively believe versus what the reactions of your body is telling you about what you actually believe.
- Do not reject or minimize what your emotion, or your body is trying to say to you, don't try to push it down or rationalize it away.

For full details of this reflection prompt, please see transcript.

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Have you ever had the experience of knowing that you are loved, and yet somehow not being able to believe it? And then feeling guilty that you don't believe it?

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host, Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax, and listen on to Becoming Me.

Hello again, dear listeners. Okay, so, in the last episode, I talked about three ways that inner child healing transformed me, right? I spoke about how it helped me trust my own gut, my own intuition. How it helped me to become more confident in my own judgment of things, as well as how it inner child healing helped me to grow in moral courage, right?

To be able to live with greater integrity and to act on my judgment, even as I grew in confidence in trusting my own intuition and my own gut. So, in today's episode, I want to talk about another way that inner child healing has really impacted me. And this is something that's very dear to me and goes to a very deep place in terms of my existence and my life experience.

And this is how inner child work helped heal my wounded image of God and my wounded image of self. Okay, so, what I mean by that is I have always – well, at least since I was a teenager and I began to have these experiences in prayer of being heard, of God caring for me, God loving me – I've had a relationship with God.

But I didn't know for many, many years is that I was having a relationship with God with a certain image of God, of what He's like. And that image of what God is like, was very impacted by my own life experience. That's often the way it is with everyone, right. Because God – we don't see God, we don't experience God directly.

[00:02:36] OUR IMAGE OF GOD
And for most of us – what is, who is God or what is God? God is love. So, to a great extent, our initial images of who God is, tends to be very affected by the experience of love we've received from our caregivers, our parents, and especially in our youngest days. So, and that varies a lot, right? – For all of us.

I mean, so, for good or ill, you know, we start off with having some kind of image of God which is very affected – often, very distorted by the very imperfect ways in which we have experienced love in our life. Right, in all the different places in our life. So, we have a wounded image of God. Those of us who, you know, who have faith and who have a relationship with God –

– we all have some kind of distorted image of God. And I think, you know, any listener to Becoming Me would already agree that we have a distorted image of ourselves. We have a wounded image of ourselves, right? So, we can't see ourselves as beautiful, as full of dignity as, as worthy. And that's what we're all struggling with.

And that's why we find it so hard to be authentic. So, the process of inner child parenting and healings, right – reparenting my inner child – really helped me in this way that I did not expect. And I want to begin by talking about this experience that I always had in my childhood and into my young adulthood.

And I had this experience of both my parents, as well as God. I wonder whether, you know, this would sound familiar to some of you because in my experience, a lot of people feel this way too. And that is, we know – we know intellectually that we are loved, right? We may even have people tell us that they love us.

It could be a significant other, it could be our parents when we were younger. You know, we are told, right? "I love you. And you know, you can always come to me if you're in trouble". Sometimes, we're told explicitly, or we implicitly believe – or maybe we choose to believe that well, of course I have to be loved, right? My parents love me

And yet, and yet – it's like our body doesn't agree. It's like something very deep in us does not act in such a way that matches a belief – a real belief that we are loved, that we are loved, for example, unconditionally. This connects with my previous episode, you know, talking about how our body has a kind of knowledge, our gut and our intuition has a kind of knowledge that's different from our intellectual knowledge, right?

And sometimes, our intellect tells us one thing or reasons with us in one way, but our body in our gut – it tells us something different. And the way that we are brought up – for many of us – we've learnt to be disconnected, have become disconnected with our bodies, from our bodies.

And we no longer have an embodied way of knowing. We just trust our intellect, which actually can sometimes be very faulty. Especially when it doesn't take into consideration – when it doesn't include all the data in ourselves; including our emotional data, what our body feels – all these are sources of information.

So, what I've been learning about neurobiology of relationships has given me a new understanding about the science of why this is; why this is that I can know something in my head, but I feel different. And I feel so guilty about feeling different. So, even before I learned about the science of why it is that, you know, my intellectual knowledge and how I actually feel in my emotions, in my body doesn't match, I had already grown to realize that there was a big difference between believing something in my intellect and knowing it in my body, right.

So, for example, if I say this statement; I know I am loved. Okay, so, in the past, I often say this to myself. It was almost like a mantra that I say to myself because I need to hear it. And I tell this to myself regarding my relationship with God. Okay, so, this was a big one. Because I know that I am loved by God.

I know by faith, in terms of like, you know, by intellectual ascent, at least as I am taught, I choose to believe that what is said about God is true. That He loves me unconditionally, right? That I know I am loved. But when I pay attention to my body, even as I say, "I know I am loved" – my heart rate is, you know, race racing. Could be faster than normal.

My breathing could be shallow. My breathing is like, you know, when I'm stressed or anxious, right? – My muscles are tensed. I am not relaxed. So, it's like, I can say, "I know I am loved", but my body does not know that it is loved. My body is not echoing, is not agreeing.

Now, in times like retreats or sometimes in powerful prayer experiences, or when I take the time to calm myself down, for example – or when I'm really in the midst of a deep prayer experience, I can experience a change in my body as well. In fact, I often do, right. I will feel energized, released. I feel held. I think, you know, some of you may know exactly what that feels like as well.

If you've gone through a powerful prayer experience before – let's say with God, or, you know, or remember a moment – it may not be with God, but with another human being whom you feel very safe with. Your body relaxes, right? If you feel really safe with someone, if you know – really know that you're loved by someone in that person's presence, you are relaxed.

But more often than not, for me, these experience of, you know, of really being held, of being loved, even by God – they were often fleeting, right? So, they can exist in times of prayer, in times of retreat. But when I returned to my day to day living, it goes back into the default mode of striving. You know, it's like this programming in me is so strong.

I am what I achieve. I have to earn my right to be loved. You know, people will not approve of me or love me unless I give them a reason to, and I can't help it. It's like this programming extends to God as well, even though explicitly, right – in my mind intellectually, I know that's not true. But there is a different law operating within mem right.

And it's like, my body is not on the same page as my mind. So, what I realized though, it's like the memory that my body holds of needing to earn love, is far greater than the experience that I have experienced, right – as a whole person, of being loved without conditions.

So, there's more experience in my body of being loved conditionally – or maybe of being emotionally abandoned when I do not fulfil expectations or, you know, just as an example – than of really being held and being loved. So, let me start with describing my reality, okay – my experience, lived reality before I began to have significant interior integration and healing.

Okay, so, I have had several significant, powerful, personal experiences of God's love starting in my teens and twenties and into my thirties. Okay, so people who knew me knew that I was a person of faith and that God played a significant part in my life. I longed to deepen my relationship with God. It fed a hunger in my soul. There was a never-ending pit though, in my being, which never seemed to go away, no matter how much I sought God, right.

And how much I longed to be loved by Him, and no matter how many experiences I may have had of Him loving me in return and Him speaking to me, that hole – there was this endless pit, bottomless pit. It never went away. That emptiness that was inside me – you know, there were moments when it felt like quite, almost like a hopeless – not exactly hopeless. But you know, I just felt like, oh, is this never going to go away – the sense of emptiness, this feeling of hollowness inside me.

And when I was younger, it was the same thing in my lived experience, you know, with my friends, with my parents – I rationally, cognitively knew that they cared for me, right. They must love me. But my heart and my body somehow, did not receive that same knowledge.

There was a dissonance which I could not explain, and which filled me with guilt. And when I was really in trouble – and this has actually happened, there was an incident in my life where I was really in trouble. And I intuitively did not go to my parents for help because something in me knew that I would not be received with the emotional connection and acceptance that I needed, right.

I felt terrible about feeling that way. I remember I was pretty young. I had just turned 20 and I felt guilty about not being able to go to my parents because my mind told me, “They’re your parents, you should be able to go to them and tell them anything. They will receive you and look after you".

And I couldn't explain why I just couldn't do it, right. There's something deep in me that said, "no, I have to keep this to myself. I have to figure it out myself". So, my intellect couldn't explain why I felt that way, but I knew. Now more recently, like I said, as I listened to podcasts like The Place We Find Ourselves by Adam Young.

Right, as I learned more about attachment, relational attachment – as I learned about complex trauma, I actually discovered the science behind why it is that we feel this way. Why is it that even young children can instinctively know that they can turn to their caregivers for help when they are in trouble, right.

And parents will not understand why. Because from the parental point of view, I do love my child. I would understand why they don't feel safe to come to me. But it seems like this is happening, you know, in a lot of places and in a lot of families, generation after generation. And if you want to learn more about this, I will share some links in the show notes of today's episode.

So, anyway, coming back to the topic at hand – that was my lived experience, right? And all that time, I did not know – I did not understand the neurobiology of attachment. I did not understand the science behind why my body knew something that my mind did not. But now I've learned that memory, including traumatic memories of disconnection, right? –

– So, traumatic memories where my emotional needs were not met. I was not attuned to, especially when I was young, when I was very vulnerable and needed that emotional attunement really, really greatly. When those times and experiences of disconnection, they are not repaired, right – so, when there's a rupture and they're not repaired, all that memory is stored in our bodies.

So, there are many things that we may have no recall memory of, right? So, there's recall memory where we can actually remember – when we talk about remembering things, we actually are referring to recalling things, right? We're calling something out from our memory. That's only one kind of memory. So, there are many things we may have not any recall of, but which our bodies remember. And these memories that are stored in our bodies, they come back to us in the present day as reactions to certain stimuli in our environment, you know, which may bring us sub-consciously back to the experiences of past disconnection – of being abandoned, of being in pain.

Right, so, often when we say that we're triggered, actually, that's what happens – something in our environment, and the situation that we find ourselves is connecting with a memory in our body that we may not have conscious recall. But our body is remembering something from the past in which this was a very – this felt like a very threatening situation in which we were not loved, or we were left alone in our pain.

So, what has this to do with inner child healing? If you recall in episode 43, which is the first part of my conversation with Dr. Jean Cheng. She defined our inner child as residing in our bodies, right. She says, our inner child resides in our bodies and is very linked to our feelings, to our emotions. Our inner child is the part of us that remembers things that our mind does not. We could say that our inner child is that part of us that remembers things that our mind does not, right?

And it was my experience that when I began to connect to my inner child, I began to remember that emotions I felt when I was much younger. And those emotions helped me in my, you know, as an adult today, to recognize what were the wounds that I received when I was a child. Okay, so, this – a lot of this also came up or, you know, in sessions, let's say with the special director who was facilitating my inner child work or in, you know, later on with a counsellor, the therapist.

So, when memories of my younger days kind of come back – and now I have the understanding with my knowledge, the knowledge I have now. And as an adult, I can make connections, right? And I can understand the source of my triggers, for example. So, one of the wounds my inner child received long time ago was learning that my own needs do not matter as much as others.

Okay, I learned that my own needs do not matter as much as others because I'm supposed to be selfless. I should always put other people first. You know, I should always prefer others to myself. And I internalize it – or as a child, I internalized it as I am only a means to an end, to making other people happy or to helping them.

I am only a means to an end – my purpose, my value only lies in letting other people be served. So, I learned to, you know, so-called love and to give and to offer, but there was a distortion in my loving and my giving because this love and service was not being given from an abundant place, right? I was poor.

Within myself, I had no store of love. I could not love myself. I did not know how to love myself. I did not really feel loved for being me. I only felt that I could be loved if I was useful, or I was helpful to others. And I did what I was supposed to do if I was a good girl. So, subconsciously, when I gave and when I loved others, I expected other people, well, to be grateful for the sacrifices that I'm making.

You know, I mean, I'm doing this really hard thing. I mean, to me, it's hard, right. I mean, even maybe at times, I don't allow myself to think that it's hard because that also is wrong. Somehow, I'm not supposed to find loving people hard. I'm not supposed to find sacrificing something hard. I should be able to do all of this with a smile and be selfless.

And I should be able to solve without ceasing, all right. But what was really happening is then, when I perceived a lack of gratitude from others, I would get so deeply upset because I felt like I was giving until I was empty. And there was nothing else for me to give, and no one was giving back to me.

So, I was serving and giving and hoping, right – someone else will pour into me because if I can pour into myself, if I'm not supposed to think of myself or to care for myself, and I'm only supposed to care for others – well, who's going to care for me? So then, you know, it's a very painful, lonely place to be in.

And I cannot say that I experienced abundant life, right. But when I caught myself feeling resentful, right – or upset that people wasn't giving back to me, I would recognize that again, that this is not right. Because I wasn't able to give without counting the cost, you know? And so, I ended up going to confession to confess about not being loving enough about being selfish.

You know, basically I was confessing to being human. And there were times when the confessor, the priest would tell me, "Ann, you're human". And I did not understand what that means. I mean like, yeah, I'm human. So, but how am I supposed to do this? How am I supposed to love others without counting the cost?

How do I offer something I do not have myself? Where do I receive if I am not supposed to ask? Can you tell, I mean, just by listening to me narrate this – can you tell how detrimental this kind of living is to having an emotionally healthy, spiritual life? It's not for lack of desire, right? I really desire to have a relationship with God – a deep relationship with God.

I really desired to be able to love others, but I could not. And I did not know why I couldn't do it. And then it all is led to scrupulosity because then I start nit-picking every shortcoming as being sinful. And I always felt that I was not good enough in God's presence – even though cognitively, I knew that His love for me was unconditional.

My lived embodied experience was of being alone of being abandoned and loved conditionally. Even though my cognitive knowledge was that I am loved unconditionally. So, there's a gap. There was an incongruity and it made me suffer and doubt – not God's love for me, okay. Because I didn't doubt that, you know? So, I was thinking, well, God loves me, right.

But I can't feel it. So, there must be something wrong with me. There must be something wrong with me that I cannot experience God's unconditional love for me. And I'm willing to bet that what I just said probably sounds familiar to some of you, because it's not that uncommon to feel that way. That if I can't feel loved, there must be something wrong with me.

So, this is where – so, this was my lived experience before all that healing, right, the integration. And inner child re-parenting, right, played a big role in helping me to come out of that place that I was in. And it let me experience myself in a new way. Okay, so, inner child work taught me to become present to myself.

Right, so, I had to view my inner child as like a real person – as someone else who was me, right. And I learned to view her emotions as valid. Okay, so, my inner child, I call her – you know, her name is a Little Ann, right. Little Ann. And when she has something to say to me, I learned to listen to her without interrupting her – without telling her how she should be feeling instead. I don't try and reason with her, how she should be seeing a situation. I learned to let her tell me how she sees the situation.

Right, so, instead of reacting to shut her up or to teach her how to repress her needs, I started to let her tell me freely how she feels, without interrupting her, without judging her. I learned to become present to my inner child's fears of being emotionally abandoned. If she did not behave, I learned to listen to her when she tells me that she's feeling forced to do something that she doesn't want to do.

I learned to give her the emotional attunement, right – attunement that she did not receive when I was a child. So, you know, really validating her for emotions instead of telling her she shouldn't feel this way. I learned to just, I learned to be a parent – a loving, attuned, emotionally attuned parent to my inner child.

So, this is the process of inner child parenting, right – what I just described. And as I learned to be present to myself and to listen without judgment and to juts, you know, hold myself – I began to heal. I also began to experience, actually, a healing of my image of God. Why? You might wonder why – why is this, you know, learning to be present to our own self –

– how does that help heal our image of God? So, I mentioned at the start of this episode, that we tend to have projections of God based on our primary caregivers, our parents, for example. After all, how they loved us were our earliest and deepest impressions of what it meant to be loved. Right, so, God tends to take on the same traits, both the best and the worst of our caregivers.

As I reparented my inner child, my body began to experience a very different way of being parented. Right, my body began to experience a very different way of being loved, right? So, I began to parent myself, my inner self with that kind of loving attentiveness, patience, compassion, non-judgmental presence to just listen – really listen and hold the truth of my experiences first.

And that made my body feel a certain way. I felt held. Okay, I felt seen, I felt heard. So, this meant that my body began to have new memories. It began to, you know, create new memories of what it felt like to be deeply listened to, you know. To be a shirt that I would never be emotionally abandoned, even if I behaved badly or failed to meet expectations.

And over time, I began to have a deeper experience in my body of how it feels to really be accepted without conditions. This transformed my ability to experience God's love for me too, because I began to experience His love in my body and not just as a cognitive belief or a fleeting emotion. Because now my body has experienced what it feels like to be loved and held.

I realized that's exactly how God holds and loves me – the way that I was learning to reparent myself, that cannot happen without grace anyway. You know, that was how – that was how God loves me. He doesn't cut me off. He doesn't tell me no; you should do this. Instead, He sees me, He hears me. He loves me.

And then, because he loves me and because I receive that love, you know, then I can respond. I can come out of just being fearful, of being afraid or being upset. I can come out of that and then be, you know, be loving too. So, I mentioned earlier that bottomless pit, right – that endless abyss – I began to feel that a biz began to close up and become smaller.

You know, finally it seems like there's a bottom to that hole. And when I receive love – when I receive God's love for me, when I receive my love for myself, when I receive, let's say, my husband's love for me – it no longer was just going to this hole and disappears, you know? It began to fill up. I felt my core identity becoming more whole, more solid.

It wasn't so hollow anymore. And I began to have a much stronger ability to experience joy and delight and just being myself. You know, in the past, for so long, I don't remember feeling joy or delight in being myself because I was never good enough, or I was too much, you know? How can I delight at being me?

But now, I could experience God's delight in me as I delighted in my inner child. I began to see how daring and spunky she was, how straight-talking she was, how creative she was, when she was allowed to be herself. And I realized that she, right – my inner child, you know, that's me. That's how I can be if I am securely loved by God and by myself.

So, as I experienced God's delight in me, it became easier for me to believe in my body, right. That I was precious. So, now this belief is not just in my head. I really, in my body believe that yes, I am precious – that I had dignity, that I was not just a means to an end. That my value did not lie in just what I could bring others, but in being God's beloved; these words – these words, you know, these things that I was taught – they are no longer just empty words.

I knew what it meant. I feel what it meant – that I am God's beloved. It changed the way I relate it to others profoundly. I realized that I was no less important than anyone else. And that any choice to sacrifice my own wellbeing for another – it needs to be freely chosen in order for it to be life-giving to them and to myself. If I were to sacrifice myself purely out of duty or obligation, or out of fear of being rejected if I don't do it, my act of sacrifice, you know, it cannot bear good fruit. Because it's not really loving.

I'll be like an empty gong. And as St. Paul says, I can do all these incredible things – even give up my life, and it would be nothing without love. Right, and in the past, I couldn't do it with love because I didn't have it in me. And when I do all these things, if I sacrifice myself, not out of love, but out of fear, quite opposite from bearing good fruit – it binds people to me and it harms them, as well as myself.

So, for most of my life, I've had a "Messiah complex" because, you know, I felt that, or what I learned was that loving people was kind of like fixing them. That's why I feel that it's my duty to rescue others or to help anyone who is need, or, you know, or who is in pain. And that failing to help them or fix their problems or fix them was selfish. Failing to meet any need was a failure.

And so, you can imagine how often my attempts to love people, hurt them and harmed them, and then hurt our relationship. And all that I was trying to do was to love in the way that I knew how. So, when I learned to just be with people or to be with myself – to really listen, to understand the need without trying to fix the person – first of all, me – I began to be able to extend that to other people and let them walk can journey at their own pace, right, and be ready to accompany them.

So, inner child healing helped me to find contentment and peace as a creature without trying to play God. It helped me to become more compassionate, to learn to suffer with others, without trying to rescue them so that they can make their own journey – so that they can in their own way, in their own time experience the liberation that I am experiencing as God heals me.

As far as I can tell, anyone who cares for others or mentors other souls, need to know this kind of anchoredness in our identity in order to love well – to love in a way that sets other people free to be the persons that God created them to be.

So, here are the praxis prompts for today's episode. One: Listen – was there anything in today's sharing that really resonated with you?

Two: Ponder – have you ever experienced a dissonance between a reality your brain tells you is true, and how your body feels about it? For example, knowing that you are loved by someone – so, cognitively believing that you're loved by, you know, a person, and yet, finding that you don't feel emotionally safe in their presence.

Three: Act – I invite you to write down one or two ways in which you have experienced this kind of dissonance between what your mind tells you and what your body feels. Write down what it is that you cognitively believe versus what the reactions of your body is telling you about what you actually really believe.

So, for example, if you've been told by someone that you can always go to them when you need help, and you can really believe that they mean it in all sincerity, but instinctively, you know that you can't go to them when you're in trouble. Maybe you can note that down. And instead of trying to convince yourself to be rational and to disregard what your inner self or your gut, your body is trying to say to you, I invite you to sit with that part of you that is telling you that you can trust what your intellect is trying to convince you about.

Right, so, sit with that part of you that's saying, "no, no. It's not true. I don't agree with what my mind is saying". Can you sit with that part? Just be hospitable and breathe. Just allow that emotion or that physical feeling in your body to be present. Notice how that emotion feels in your body.

Like maybe, you know – is it warm? Is it cold? Is there any like tingling sensation, you know? How does that emotion feel in your body? And maybe notice where that emotion is located in your body.

So, for this exercise, all I invite you to do is to simply not reject or minimize what your emotion, or your body is trying to say to you. Because so often, when there is that dissonance, we actually shut our body up. And we, you know, we just want to go with what our logic tells us. So, don't try to push it down or rationalize it away.

Just let it be. Even if you don't yet know how to listen to its wisdom, just letting it have a place in your body without rejecting it, can be progress.

Now, if you found what I just said, or that quite easily done, then I invite you to go one step further and listen to what does that emotion or that feeling in your body? What is it saying to you? Why does it feel that it doesn't agree with what your mind is saying? Just maybe ask that question and see if anything bubbles up into your consciousness. Sometimes it does in the most unexpected way.

Yeah, so, that's it for today's episode. This was one that goes very deep for me. It comes from a very deep place in my experience. I hope that it blesses you. And I hope that you also hold it sacred because it's my sacred story. You're very welcome to share this episode with others if you feel that it will bless them – especially for those who are struggling to believe that they are loved.

[00:35:06] CONCLUSION

Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. 

The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at becomingmepodcast.com and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy becoming!