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Today, notice what you do to avoid painful feelings. Do you stay in your head instead of in your body? Do you keep your breath shallow? Do you get angry, withdrawn, judgmental? Do you use food, alcohol, drugs, sex, spending, gambling, work, TV? Today, compassionately embrace and learn from your feelings rather than avoiding them, and see how you end up feeling.

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The Roots of Our Abandonment

By Sheryl Paul
July 14, 2010



Two experiences at our local rec center illuminate why it's so easy to abandon ourselves.



There are some experiences in life that visually illuminate the concepts we talk about in Inner Bonding. Yesterday, at our local rec center, two such experiences shook me to my core and made me wonder, as I often do, “Why is our culture so messed up when it comes to our attitude around raising children? And if anyone wonders why we so easily abandon our inner children, just spend some time at a rec center.”

Yesterday was the first day of engineering camp. Everest was excited as a few weeks ago he had soared at Lego engineering camp and we were hoping that this week would be a similar experience. Since we’re home schooling, we haven’t had much practice separating from mommy, so I’ve always had a discussion with the instructors before I sign up for the class that I’ll be in the room as long as Everest needs me. If that’s not okay, we don’t sign up. By the third day of Lego camp, Everest was so engaged with the class that he didn’t mind when I left the room. I was hoping this would be the same.

We arrived on time and sat for thirty minutes before the teacher got started. Everest was patient; I was less so and Asher (our fifteen month old) was jumping out of his skin. They finally started and once I sensed that Everest was comfortable, I told him I needed to leave for a few minutes to let Asher run around. He reluctantly agreed. After about five minutes I came back to check on him and he seemed fine, so I left again. I repeated this three times, and on the last time I gave the teacher my cell phone number and said, “If, for any reason, Everest needs me, please call.” She smiled in authentically and said, “This is really for mommy, isn’t it?” To which I responded, “Well, Everest is okay right now, but if he needs me, please call. We homeschool so this environment is new for us and he might need me.” In hindsight, I should have been even clearer with her, but that’s the wisdom of hindsight.

I left with Asher and walked through the rec center in search for something that might occupy him. I had seen a small kiddy playground when we parked and, as I approached, realized it was attached to the childcare room. I walked in. There were three caregivers there and about ten children. I had no intention of leaving Asher for a second, but I thought he might enjoy the toys and play structure while waiting for Everest.

I immediately zeroed in on a little girl about Asher’s age who was crying uncontrollably. An older woman was carrying her around trying to soothe her but she was inconsolable. After a few minutes, one of the younger caregivers approached the older woman and said, “Put her down next to her brother and sister. Maybe she’ll calm down with them.” I asked what was wrong. She said,“Oh, she’s just a newbie. They all cry like that on their first day.” My heart broke for her. Every fiber of my being wanted to page her mother and demand that she leave her exercise class and pick her child up immediately, in every sense of the phrase. The girl cried and cried, her eyes swollen and red, her face scrunched up in an agony that only a mother’s arms can soothe. As soon as the woman put her down, she stretched her arms up to be picked up again. The younger woman walked over, shook her finger at the little girl and admonished, “No carry! No carry!

My heart broke again. I started to shake inside and couldn’t bare it any longer. With Asher securely in my arms (where he spends at least 80% of his life), I left. Something inside told me to check on Everest. I hurried across the length of the rec center and, seeing the door shut to the room where the class was being held, felt a jolt of panic rush through me. I opened the door and found a room of twenty kids screaming and yelling in chaos and my little Everest standing in front of the teacher, tears streaming down his face, hiccupping, asking her to please call his mom. I took his hand and led him out of the room, but not before asking the teacher if she had tried to call me. With her in authentic smile she answered no.

Once outside the door, I asked Everest what happened. He said that it was too noisy (he’s always been extremely sensitive to sound) and that he asked the teacher to call me but she refused. He said he tried to leave but she shut the door “so I couldn’t escape. I tried twice to leave and find you but they wouldn’t let me and they wouldn’t call you.” With rage streaming from head to toe, I walked back inside, grabbed our stuff, and left. 

I called my husband as soon as I got into the car and burst into tears. He shared my anger and we both spent the rest of the morning having conversations with various directors. Everyone diplomatically heard us, but I’m not sure that any actual changes will be implemented. 

Here’s the real issue: we live in a culture that thinks there’s nothing wrong with leaving babies and young children alone to cry. We value independence over secure attachment and condone actions like letting babies cry themselves to sleep (to learn how to self-soothe) and leaving kids to cry on the first day of school (instead of slowly habituating them to being away from their primary caregiver). We communicate the belief that when kids are upset they have to “get over it” and find their own internal resources.

And then we wonder why our culture is rife with addiction, depression, anxiety, insomnia, uncontrolled anger, and child abuse. We wonder why we grow up with holes in our psyches, with the very external dependency issues that these child-raising philosophies are meant to avoid.

The consequences of these experiences are the core work that we address through Inner Bonding. Every single one of us was undoubtably left alone to cry and long for our mother or caregiver. It’s just the way things were done back then.These days we can talk about attachment parenting and co-sleeping to help create more securely attached kids, but for anyone who’s on this site reading this article, those terms didn’t exist when you were a child. You were alone in your crib, arms outstretched and soul aching for your mother. You were dropped off on the first day of school and cried for what seemed like a lifetime until you ran out of energy and shut down in order to survive the system.

We were all abandoned at some level in some way, but the beauty and power of Inner Bonding lie in our ability to re-parent that abandoned child, to pick her up with loving arms and hold her for as long as she needs to be held, to witness her tears, to listen to his grief. We can’t change the past, but we can diligently work to heal ourselves so that we’re no longer broken, no longer left alone in the corner of a room, no longer crying out in the night.

***

Sheryl Paul, M.A., is regarded as an international expert in transitions.In 1998, she pioneered the field of bridal counseling and has since counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, "The Conscious Bride" and "The Conscious Bride's Wedding Planner," her websites, www.consciousweddings.com and www.consciousmotherhood.com,and her blog, http://conscious-transitions.com. She has appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top television, radio, and newspapers around the globe. Phone and Skype sessions available internationally for all types of transitions and ongoing counseling.

 



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