If you had a child that was being bullied or abused in school, what would you do?
Would you merely listen, albeit empathetically, fob it off with, “Don’t worry, I’m here for you whatever you choose to do,” and then walk away to get on with ‘more important’ things?
No, you would not. As a parent, you would, with every breath in your body, fight for your child’s well-being and their right to be safe.
So why don’t we do that for our inner child? That child inside of all of us that yearns to be safe and cared for. That vulnerable part of us that wants to know we will take action on its behalf should someone abuse or bully us.
Yet, many, many women and men ignore their inner child day after day, year after year, with devastating consequences.
And every time we do that – every time we allow someone to abuse us, put us down or traumatize us without standing up for ourselves – our inner child crawls ever further into its shell, hurt by the betrayal of being let down by the only adult it has to care for it – our self.
This betrayal of one’s inner child leads to feelings of low self-worth and low self-esteem – which only promotes further abuse – a cycle that’s increasingly hard to escape from.
Being there for your inner child, protecting that vulnerable part of oneself, means refusing to tolerate abuse in any form. It means understanding that your feelings of hurt, of sadness, of betrayal, need to be dealt with, not pushed away.
Whether you choose to do that in sessions with a therapist or go it alone is up to you. But if you’re not willing to do it, nobody can do it for you – not the police, nor a lawyer, nor the courts.
None of them is here to take care of your inner child. You are.
If you know a friend suffering domestic abuse…
For friends who listen to the stories of those suffering from domestic violence and abuse, you should know that there’s only so much one can do as the sympathetic shoulder to cry on. Playing the part of a passive sounding-board only provides temporary relief and attention.
Once the person has unloaded their grief on you, they will go back to living their dismal lives and continue to tolerate the abuse they just complained to you about, without doing anything to change it.
Ultimately every person in an abusive or self-destructive situation has to hit rock-bottom – a place where they finally say, NO MORE! At this point, they can either choose to hit back at their abuser, leave the abusive situation or start to listen to their inner child and take better care of themselves.
No one can help us reach that place. No matter how you want them to change, remember that’s what YOU want. But do THEY want it too? You must let them reach the place of personal choice themselves, or with the help of a professional.
Once they decide that enough is enough, this is the point at which you can step in. Whether it is for a safe place to spend the night or assistance with finances or help with getting a job – it is at this point you can be the best friend you always wanted to be for them.
Until people decide that they want to change, there is nothing you can do to change them. Not convincing, cajoling, logic or reason. Until the heart decides it, the mind will not follow.
Yes, it is painful to stand by and watch someone go through the pain and anguish of hitting rock-bottom. But it’s often the only thing we can do without getting sucked into a vortex of negativity ourselves.
The best thing you can do if you have someone in your life who’s suffering from domestic abuse is to practice good self-care and take care of your own inner child, so you can be there for them when they finally decide to take action.
If you have to distance yourself for a while to do that, so be it. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by their complaints and know they don’t plan on taking action, offer to take them to a therapist to deal with their feelings.
Let your friend or family member know that, should they wish to change their life, you will be there for them. Don’t let yourself be emotionally wrecked by their toxicity and self-destructive behaviour and don’t feel guilty for choosing yourself over them.
Focus on your own feelings and deal with your own anger and sadness, so that you can be objective for your friend when they need it. You cannot help them from a damaged place, only from a place of healing.
Priya Florence Shah is editor of Naaree.com and the author of From Doormat to Devi: 10 Steps to Stop Overfunctioning in Relationships and Take Your Life Back, which shows you a step-by-step way to get back control of your life starting today. You can connect with her @PriyaFlorence
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