Taming my Angry Inner Child
I do okay until He shows up. He is my angry, street fighter 14-year-old self. He shows up in a rage, demanding to be heard, insisting he is right, and demanding control. He wants to hurt and punish you for how you have caused me to feel.
When I started to be able to identify that 14-year old in me and name him as an entity that is separate from my current self, then I could begin to deal with him. He is me from the past and is about the past hurts and insults and shame that I endured. He gets triggered by things in the present but it feels like my past. What do I do with him when he shows up?
I first need to be aware of him and take ownership of who he is. Then I need to meet him where he is and respond to his real needs. What that 14-year old needs is validation, love, and discipline. Validation that yes, what happened to him back then was unfair, painful, and just wrong. He did not deserve to be treated that way and it was not his fault.
He now needs to experience love, respect, and reassurance from my present, grown up self. He needs to feel the love that he should have experienced back then from a parent who could make him feel safe and valued. The people who were supposed to love him didn’t seem to know how or to even want to. No wonder he is so angry and sad.
My 14-year old also needs to be disciplined like any child. Discipline is a part of love that teaches him that is it not okay to rage and stomp and demand to get his way. It is not okay to hurt people because he feels bad or upset. He does not get to be in charge just because he is loud and overwhelming. When I let him be in control he destroys relationships and makes me and everyone around me feel miserable.
So what do I do when I feel that intensity of his anger rising up in me and threatening to take over my mind? When he wants to scream, and swear, and condemn whoever set him off? The answer is to stay present and make my adult self be in charge. I need to describe my thoughts and feelings rather than discharge my emotions like a shotgun. It feels good in the moment to discharge my anger but it never makes anything better. When I am describing what upset me and what is going on inside it keeps me in awareness and allows the adult to stay rational. The adult may need to take the child on a time out, for a walk, or just stand and tolerate the feelings instead of acting on them. The adult self can also set boundaries and give appropriate feedback, such as “what you did really hurt me and that is not okay. Please don’t speak to me that way anymore.”
I also need to teach that child within how to forgive those who hurt him. He doesn’t want to because he thinks that forgiving means letting those people off the hook. He thinks it makes what they did somehow okay. I need to help him see that forgiveness is for us, him and me. It is the only way to experience peace about what happened and be free from the grip of resentment. Forgiveness means he has to surrender his demand for justice. It means letting go of the hope that someday those who hurt him will take accountability and say they are sorry. That does happen sometimes when we tell people how they have impacted us. But many times it does not happen and we have no control over that. We don’t have to confront anyone to forgive. We just have to decide to forgive and let go. This begins a process of consciously forgiving every time the resentment and anger comes back. We will forgive as many times as we need to in order to heal emotional memories of our wounds.