By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
Many of the inaccuracies of your life were learned during childhood and especially the middle school years. I know it was true for me, and I have spoken to many pre-teens living it, adolescents learning that they can let it go, and adults who didn’t realize how many misrepresentations came from their childhoods and middle school/junior high years who are now learning to recover from these falsehoods by reframing their Truth.
Having had those experiences has helped to shape the type of work that I do. In fact, one of the most rewarding educational experiences I had was to teach classes of middle school students what to do if they encountered bullies. I taught them empowerment, how to use their voice, and to utilize physical, verbal, and energetic boundaries. (If you would like to learn these tips, read my article: Empower Your Child. All the concepts in this article can also be utilized by teens and adults.)
But let’s come back to those inaccuracies. What do I mean by that? Pay attention to the messages that you say within your own mind about yourself in any given day. It’s amazing how most of us would never say those things to another person, especially someone that we care about, yet we speak them to ourselves – in the silence of our minds – every single day. I’m suggesting that you pay attention to those messages, so that you might confront them with a healthier and more accurate viewpoint.
Here’s how it tends to happen: You started your life connected to ‘all that is’ without preconceived notions about others or yourself. In the beginning, there was pure joy and love. By your preschool years parents and teachers began the socializing process with messages like: ‘take turns’, ‘sit still’, ‘be quiet’, ‘don’t do that’, ‘be polite’, etc. Unfortunately, you may have interpreted this to mean that you were fundamentally ‘not ok’.
If you struggled in elementary school academically or socially you may have internalized the ‘not okay’ message further, even if no one was judging or comparing. Subsequently, middle-school comes about and tends to be especially challenging for students who are expected by others to fit a specified expectation to fit-in and be included. Those that don’t, tend to be shunned or ridiculed.
All these incidents further decrease a child’s self-confidence, become their inner dialogue, and form the later basis for how adolescents and adults see themselves.
Regardless of your (or your child’s) current age, it’s not too late to return to the truer version of you and learn to speak more kindly to yourself. Here’s a process/exercise for you to practice whenever those challenging beliefs and emotions come up. Please read all the suggestions before beginning. You may benefit from the assistance of a trusted friend or professional.
TAKING YOUR LIFE BACK – BRINGING YOUR THOUGHTS TO THE PRESENT
Recognize the thought or emotion as a reflection from the past. Now take it forward into this current time to allow yourself to interpret it from the accuracy of this present moment. The goal is to look at the event or thought while staying in this moment now; to view the past (while staying in this present moment) and reframe the beliefs about it from the perspective of this present you.
- When negative or demeaning thoughts come up, allow yourself to observe them with curiosity.
- Ask: When in my history did I experience these same thoughts that I have now?
- Avoid the deep dive back to the previous experiences themselves. Instead, stay in the present, maintaining that curiosity.
- Recognize the limited (narrow) understanding that you had at that age. Remember that children don’t have power to impact many of their events and that at any age, we only know what we know.
- Come back to the present again with compassion for this earlier self and expand the experiences that you had while you were younger (because you have more skills and knowledge than you did then).
- Imagine the current you observing or talking to your younger self and imagine how you would respond if you came across this child today. Might you embrace this younger you or sit close so s/he doesn’t feel so alone?
- Explain to your younger self that the old message was not based in accuracy. Challenge these inner messages! Your demeaning words came from the inaccuracies and misrepresentations that your younger self erroneously believed.
- Allow yourself to remember and see who you really were before these falsehoods were learned (directly or by assumption).
As you see your true self emerging, use your imagination to take this confident/strong energy of your true Self and infuse it back in time to the age when it all began. There is no need to identify the event(s) that started the incorrect messages. Allow yourself to have a vague awareness of that identified time. Then infuse your confident/strong energy (that you can access now) into that situation and into the younger self who experienced it all. Then move that confidence and strength up your timeline to your current age.
It’s okay if this sounds like imagination or fairy tale. Neuropsychologists understand that the brain and body really don’t separate what is happening from what you are imagining in your mind. Your limbic (emotional) system tends to not differentiate time (or places or people). So, if you imagine a challenging or scary situation your body will react as if it is occurring right now. If you imagine something positive, it can help to calm your limbic system.
I hope that you will read through the list again to see how this can work for you. First, challenge the messages that you have unconsciously spoken to yourself. Then, when it feels appropriate you can use visualization and guided imagery to energetically rewrite your memories toward healing.
I recently saw this meme on social media: Unlearning abuse also requires for me to unlearn the survival tactics that I learned in abuse that I now call my personality. That’s not who you are! That’s who you became based on who they were. Because pain builds walls. But healing builds doors. — The Kentucky Therapist
You have multiple avenues for changing patterns: your behaviors can change thoughts and emotions; your thoughts can redirect your behaviors and emotions; or you can let your emotions initiate the process.
It is never too late to Remember and Become Who You Really Are! Believe in yourself. Take your opportunities. Imagine and be creative. Trust in your possibilities. Free yourself of old patterns. You’ve got this
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield, MI. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties, work or school related anxiety, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders, and those who wish to Remember and Become ‘Who You Really Are’. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www.JudyLipson.com for more information.
This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to replace medical care.