Learning to nurture my inner child


Many years ago, after some years of hard work and building trust with a wonderful therapist, Del (now amongst the dearly departed in my life), she helped me get to a place where primal terror lived in me and prevented me from having any real sense of identity and self.

She asked me if I could see it, which I could, and asked me to describe it. This was indescribably hard, it was repelling me with incredible power, such that I did not want to see it, only the love and trust I had for Del enabled me to withstand the waves of darkness that were pushing against me. I stood in the storm and looked and saw that the terror guarded a room, and that room had a door. The whole thing was not just black it seethed darkness, This was pre Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’, but Gandalf’s , “You shall not pass!” would not have been out of place there.

I visited it many times over several weeks and became familiar with it and it is as visually clear to me today as then. I knew what had to happen, but building towards it was slow, yet the day inevitably arrived. I think we both knew, I sat looking at Del and she kept silent as I closed my eyes and stepped towards the room. The darkness parted around me, no longer terror, and I entered the room and described what I could see. It was entirely bare and light coloured, not white, just light. On the far wall was a box of muted colour, unremarkable in every way and Del asked me if I could open it. I approached it carefully, uncertainly, but I really wanted to know what was inside.

As I lifted the lid, clouds of colours poured out of it and I could see nothing for a while, but peering into the colour I saw the shape of a small child. I reached down and lifted the child up and cradling it in my arms I just looked at it, I don’t know how long for, but all the colours were coming from the child. I remember opening my eyes and looking at Del and saying, “It’s me”.

It is hard to describe the sense of knowing that filled me. This was the child I had hidden a very long time ago in my childhood. The child I had made safe, protected by terror that I had used to seal him away from harm and now I was scared, afraid that I might not be up to the task of caring for him. But it was the start, what I call ‘big Keith and little Keith, back together again, home to myself. That was the beginning.

I remember a conversation with Del and realising that the mind is kind, in its way, it protects us from trauma, something we have no control over. My life is full of holes, even now, where I have no idea what’s there or what happened. That used to really mess me up, but I am more comfortable with it now.

Last week, in therapy with ‘H’, I realised I had some unfinished business to do with little Keith. As I walked away from my session, I thought I was ready to take back some of the stuff that little Keith has carried for me. This was a new thought, a new development, something I’d not seen before. I’d just had a tearful session, revisiting old pain. Driving home I was leaking tears, not least from the awareness that I was ready, big enough, to take back some of the burdens of little Keith, like picking up pebbles from his soul. As I neared home, another thought entirely came. He had something he wanted to give me, a gift. This was not a one way street.

I have always been a serious guy, over the years I have tried to learn to play, but it doesn’t come easy to me. I have kites and a camera, I’ve learnt to mess on, joke and banter, but I do not just let rip playfully. Over the years I’ve been fascinated by children playing, the sheer abandonment with which they can attack a pile of leaves, and of envying them that exuberance for life, free of care. I think it is a mark of profound adult ignorance that the primary place of play is not well understood, respected and protected. In educating children we risk depriving them of their primary source of learning about the world they have been born into, play, and adulthood without play is pretty dull really.

If I am to emerge from my many years of isolation and cave dwelling reclusiveness, I am very sure that play is absolutely central and essential to this. Even the thought of play contains, for me, thoughts of joyful abandon, letting go, release, loosening the grip of too heavily applied control over my own life, easing up, learning to just be. And I think I have done enough work, in preparation, to learn some new tricks, even if I am an old dog now. Depression is oppression, it feels like pushing a boulder uphill with my forehead. I’d kinda like to get rid of that bloody boulder, I’ve been shoving the damned thing a long time now and it has never done me a bit of good. But I like hills well enough, even if I puff quite a bit these days.

KOG. 09 March 2017

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