I often get this visual in my head when speaking to clients about their inner child parts. The visual is of an adult with it’s back facing the kid, and the kid is desperately pulling at their coat tails, trying to get the adult’s attention. Please hear me. Please see me. Please believe me. But there is no response from the adult—they just keep walking, back turned, oblivious to the child’s needs.
Why are we so intent on others hearing us and our stories? Why do we feel the need to explain and have others understand and validate? What happens if they don’t?
My specialty areas as a therapist include working with adult children of narcissists, and folx recovering from religious trauma and cult abuse. These are individuals who have spent most of their lives not being heard by the very people that were supposed to care for them unconditionally. They have been raised in high control environments and the stories they’ve been told may have been used to exert power, to create psychological doubt so that the narcissist becomes the “expert”, or may just not be true at all. So when emerging from these systems and taking stock of the emotional destruction it makes sense to want others to understand what we’ve been through. Our side of the story.
And we have to begin work so that we can be okay with others not knowing our side of the story and be resigned to the fact that may never know.
How do we do this? Well, it’s easier said than done. And it’s better done with the guidance and support of a mental health practitioner that understands the nuances of high control systems. We need to stand in our own truth. Try and stay grounded in our authentic self, and practice using our voice, divorced of any expectations or outcomes. We have to help ourselves learn how to emotionally disengage so that the narcissist’s lack of reactions or changing of the story doesn’t affect us in the same way that it once did. This will create emotional space so that after some recovery time, we don’t need their validation and we are okay with others around them perhaps not knowing or understanding our side of the story.
I will leave you with the words of my favorite Mary Oliver poem, “The Journey”…
“But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly recognized as your own.”
Be secure in your own voice and in your own story. Tell it to those around you who can understand and will unconditionally listen. Tell it to yourself and begin to believe what you hear.