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The Child Within

ChildWithin_headerIn  seconds I can be there. I smell the classroom, my Hello Kitty erasers, Elmer’s glue, and the dusty chalk smell that always hung in the air. We are doing the dreaded multiplication game from hell. My palms start to sweat, my heart pounds and my chest tightens. I HATE this game. My internal voice is screaming, “I am horrible at math!”  Combine math with public humiliation and there you have it. This awful game we played in fourth grade made me a math phobic for life. We’d have to stand up and give the solution to a multiplication table on the spot or we lost for our team. The sighs of disappointment from team members for my wrong answer were nothing short of social suicide. Out of this, a tiny scar was born for me. We all have scars from certain times of our lives… a time we were made fun of, a time we messed up, a time someone let us down, a time we were embarrassed, a time someone important told us what they thought of us (good or bad). Childhoods, history, and incidents create indelible marks on us. We can work as adults to counter or challenge these marks and change the power they have over us, but we all carry them and struggle with them to some degree. Some of us have some seriously deep wounds to deal with. In a relationship it is crucial that we get to know our partner’s scars and vulnerabilities.  Knowing the inside of someone takes time and energy and a willingness to be vulnerable. You know the feeling you get when someone sees something private of yours –  your sex toy, your lingerie, your journal? It's that kind of discomfort. In a real relationship you share what is least comfortable  –  one another’s true feelings and issues. It means exposing your wounds despite how scary that process may be. More importantly, it means providing a safe, soothing reception when something is shared with you. Lots of times in life there are bad days –  moments when one of us comes home a little beat up by our day or the world in general. We talk about it and we share our feelings. We don’t just talk surface…we talk about it in the framework  of each other and what we know intimately about one another. thechildwithin 1-31-2015 2-13-16 AMHe storms through the front door, fresh from a phone call and raging angry about feeling disrespected by a co-worker. I just listen and reflect. I have the privilege of seeing him through different eyes.  I know why he detests disrespect based on childhood stories... it never sits well with him. I can come in as the soother now, able to give him what he needs, because I see and understand his child within. No matter how grown up we are, we are just a sum of our history –  a fair amount laid down in the developmental years of childhood and young adulthood. We are constantly evolving (or not) growing (or not) into beings that have dealt with those wounds in a positive, healthy way (or not). In a relationship our job is to be the sounding board for such emotions and, more crucially, the one that challenges their baggage. By challenging their baggage I mean our job as a partner is to counter our partner’s negative history or self talk – by pointing out reality and the present – thus taking away the power that the “scars” of their past hold over them.  Your relationship begins healing when this happens. Loving someone means loving all of him (or her) and seeing perfection in their imperfection. It means lifting them up and reminding them that they are not their wounds. It is our job, as partners in life, to lift them up with our love. We can do this by pointing out the good in them: strengths, attributes, talents – through compliments and reassurance. One of my favorite songs ever is by Van Morrison.  “Into the Mystic” talks about coming home to someone like they are a safe harbor. I consider this to be the most important glue that holds a relationship together. Once you are someone’s safe harbor you’ll be the place that person wants to keep coming back to always. And, if you do it right, you’ll be one another’s safe harbor for life.