I have been fascinated by this phrase – the little girl, or the little boy who grew up to be you. Think about that little kid, the one who ran around playing, going to school, trying to figure out how to get along in your family. That little child is still in you, still trying to figure out what happened, and how to negotiate the path before you. You carry that precious little person everywhere you go. The problem is, you don’t always take care of that child.
I used to meet with a small group of men on Thursday mornings. We met to talk about our inconsistencies, not the problems with the world, or with our wives, but the problems we brought into the mix. How can we be more true to our principles? — I remember telling them what I felt inside. I felt that I was a six-year-old boy in first grade, being hurt and confused, and trying just to get along, to meet expectations, to do well in a place where things were never quite clear. Guess what? They all nodded in agreement. We are all still trying to figure out what to do next, making mistakes, and hoping we won’t be punished or ignored.
Later, I would learn a technique that addresses the pain I feel every day. These were the pains of embarrassment, rejection, lack of self-confidence, and a hundred other things that keep me from having peace in my soul. This technique brings out the little boy who grew up to be me.
Take an average counseling session. Say that a woman is struggling with self-confidence at work. Her boss criticized her, a colleague puts her down in subtle ways, or she is nervous about a big assignment. Something happened last Tuesday that made her feel awful, either angry, afraid, or made her feel like giving up.
It takes 45 minutes to tell the story and begin to work through what happened and how it made her feel. This is how we talk therapy, what we call counseling. There is comfort in just getting it all out, and in finding validation. You are not crazy. It did happen, and it should not have. You are more than what they say you are. That is true.
And underneath all that, there is the little girl who grew up to be you. We can take what you felt last Tuesday, when you were put down by yourself, or by others — and we can find the moment in your childhood, the moment when you were put down and first felt so inadequate. In that moment you were astonished by how inadequate you were. Someone who was supposed to love you, they let you know that you were no good at all. It was crushing.
That little girl – the little girl who grew up to be you – she is still there inside. She has worked all her life to live up to expectations, to be good enough. And last Tuesday when someone criticized you, she was awakened, and she was hurt. She is right there, sad, and angry because she has tried so, so hard to meet expectations.
Let me ask you to do one thing. Be kind to that little girl. Love her. Pick her up and give her a hug. Smile at her. Look at her in the eyes and tell her out loud – “You are so pretty, so smart, so good. I love you.” You can do this with a teddy bear, any stuffed animal. Put your little girl out there and hold her close.
From this little boy who grew up to be me, to the little kid who grew up to be you – God bless your little heart. There is more to therapy than this. We can find not only validation for what you feel, but we can change how you feel in those hurting places. We can find meaning.
Written by David Hall, LMHC
-Retiring from emergency medicine, David Hall returns to his first love, counseling. His passion in life is to heal people from their trauma caused by life circumstances and from painful emotions.