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Do You Really Deserve to be Punished?

By Phyllis Stein
July 19, 2009

False beliefs about deserving punishment can keep us from taking care of ourselves around critical people. Learn to keep your inner child safe by healing these beliefs.

When I was a child and I did something that was "bad" enough, I was hit or spanked.  I did not question it.  I was told and believed that I "deserved it."  I decided long ago that it is not acceptable to hit a child or anyone else; that I would never do it, and my inner child has every confidence that I would NEVER allow anyone to hit her now.

Other times, I was simply yelled at.  Again I did not question it and believed that I had done something to "deserve" it.  It took me a bit longer to realize that no one deserve to be yelled at either, that it is no longer something I would do, and my inner child knows that I would never made her stay there and listen to someone yell at her.

Mostly though, I was shamed and blamed.  I did not question that either, of course.  It has taken much, much longer to realize that even if I have done something that someone does not like, even if they are "right" about it, e.g., I was late after all, they do not have the right to shame and blame me.  I do not have to listen to it.  I might be willing to have a conversation about it, but shaming and blaming me is out.

I find that this is a huge issue for many people.  When I ask them to tune and ask their inner child how he or she feels when someone is shaming and blaming them (on the inner or outer level), they say that they feel like they are being beaten up.  If I ask them if they would allow someone to physically beat their child, they usually say, "No, of course not."  Yet they are allowing their child to be beaten up by believing that it is okay for someone to do this when they are in the "wrong".

So let's address the false belief here.  Even if someone is "right" about something, if someone on the inside or outside has a "legitimate-seeming" criticism (e.g., you are overweight, you should take their advice and you don't), that does not mean that they have the right to beat your inner child up, just as whatever you did as a child did not give your parents the right to hurt you.  Your parents were blaming you for their feelings because they did not know how to take care of their own inner kids.  It was never about what you did. Your wounded self learned it from them.

Keeping your inner child safe then means taking the job of never allowing anyone to hurt him or her, not to hit, not to yell, not to shame and blame.  It means refusing to engage in conversations with people who are telling you what is wrong with you and trying to make you feel bad enough so that you will change.  It means gently and compassionately stopping your own wounded self from trying to make you okay by doing that on the inner level.

On the outer level it means setting a boundary.  A boundary is not about trying to change someone else, it is about taking care of yourself.  It is about noticing that your child is getting beaten up and saying "I will not have this kind of conversation with you.  Can we talk about something else?" and being willing to hang up the phone or leave if the beatings do not stop.

Mostly though it is about knowing, on the deepest level, that NO ONE has the right to do this to you.  Even if they get upset with you for refusing to allow it and try harder, even if they threaten to leave you, you do not give them the right to do it.  You do not sacrifice your child.  Your inner child never deserved to be punished, to be beaten in any way.  Your child needs you to say that starting now you are totally committed to learning how to make sure that this never happens again.         


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