Friday I attended a workshop on therapy for trauma in Tioga, North Dakota. For me it became an opportunity to deal with the current effects of a difficult childhood. At seventy-two (almost) I am still harboring strong abandonment issues. Seems like I ought to be 'over it' by now, but it also appears that what we are learning about the brain suggests that there is a timeless element to our memories, especially those associated with trauma that has occurred at any time in our life.
At the instruction of our facilitator, Dale, I jotted a paragraph or so about an event from my childhood that was the first memory I have of experiencing the emotions attendant on abandonment and over eating.
Let me digress for a moment and explain that I was born just as WW2 was fomenting. When I was one year old, my father enlisted in the army and subsequently travelled to England and France as a supply sergeant with the Allied forces. My mother enlisted as well - as Rosie the Riveter. She worked on a B-52 assembly line located in a factory seventy-five miles from my home. I was boarded with a family who cared for me for the next four years.
When I turned six, I was allowed to rejoin my birth family.
When I was seven we moved to a new home that was under construction. One spring afternoon, returning from school, I climbed down the bus steps and found myself alone at home. No parents nor sister manifested as I searched the house.
Here is where I believe my 'eating' disorder - my current chronic condition- first manifested. Frightened that I had once again been 'left behind', I pulled a loaf of bread off the counter, pulled a chair over to the cupboard, pried open a jar of homemade strawberry jam (which still today I really don't like) and slathered the bread with red stuff. I then reached for the sugar bowl and heaped a tablespoon or four of white sugar onto the mess. Climbing down, I smushed the two pieces of white bread together, licked my fingers and headed for the crawl space beneath the unfinished portion of our house. There I sat for a long time consuming the mess I had just concocted to squelch the emotional rampage that attacked my psyche.
Then, I didn't realize what I was doing, but I do recall calming down as I licked the last bits of jam off my fingertips.
I have no memory of the return of my mother and sister to our home that day. I suspect I was so full or so high on sugar that nothing else quite mattered.
To this day, when emotional turmoil attacks - especially the kind associated with a sense of being abandoned - over eating is my default reaction.
With that background, I now wish to share the next step in the process presented by our facilitator. He asked me to write a note to the 'inner child' who suffered in this moment of my past life and offer compassion and succor and proctection. I did so.
After re-reading my 'adult' letter to my 'inner child', the third step was to move the pen or pencil to the non-dominant hand and ask the 'inner child' to respond.
Tears manifested. Lots of tears. Nonetheless, it was a satisfying opportunity. I am so glad my friend, the Tioga chiropractor Sharon Kreiger, invited me to attend this meaningful workshop.
Much good has occurred. Much more good will occur as I continue to write to my 'inner child' and offer her the compassion and protection of my 'older' self.
You may wish to try the process out yourself. Hopefully, it will open an avenue for you, as well.