What does it mean to connect to your inner wild woman?
This is the question to which I am always in search of, though drawing ever closer to, the answer.
When I arrived at The Recover Clinic, in one of my very first groups (Core Group), we were asked to name 3 things we knew to be true about ourselves, that made us who we are, that defined our core, without our Eating Disorder.
I remember sitting there, desperately searching for something positive to vocalize to the group. I couldn’t. The three things I knew about myself: I was a liar, rotten and filthy deep down to my core.
To really believe those things about yourself and to have to speak those words out loud left me feeling vulnerable and afraid. I had come to realise the extent to which I hated myself and that I have always been afraid of who I am.
I have been at Recover for coming up to a year now and I can truly tell you that, for the first time in my life, I no longer believe those things to be true. The word filth no longer leaves me feeling exposed, as though through that 5 letter word, the world was able to see into my soul.
How did I let go of all that self hate and loathing?
The answer is not straightforward. The road has been long, often leaving me more vulnerable, more frightened and feeling even more isolated from the world. But the change has come and this fundamental shift has happened thanks to the words of wisdom, continued support and unconditional love shown by each therapist, Emmy, Lyndsay and the clients at The Recover Clinic.
I will share with you three differing concepts, all of which I believe to be interlinked. Furthermore, I believe that to connect to one is to connect to all.
1. The Inner Child: How much hatred and blame can you put onto a child version of yourself?
The first concept that had a profound impact on me was that of the inner child. I was sitting in Women’s group, when Lyndsay, one of the therapists, asked us all to pick up a pillow and to hold that pillow on our lap envisaging that we were, in fact, holding our younger self. Our child self.
The concept behind this, I believe, is to try to connect to the vulnerable part of ourself. It is often the case that people suffering from an eating disorder are shrouded in shame, filled with feelings of anger, fear, and are unable to show any love or compassion towards themselves. So, to work on the inner child gave us an opportunity to view ourselves in a different way, to see ourselves as vulnerable rather than how we viewed ourselves in the here and now.
The hope was that we would look upon our child self from a place of nurturing, of wanting to protect and reassure that child within us. It allowed us to see that the child within us does not deserve to be spoken to the way we have been speaking to ourselves for so long. In fact, we need to nurture, encourage and reassure our inner child. After all she just wants to be loved, nurtured and kept safe.
The idea then, is that to connect to this part of yourself, to see your vulnerabilities as you would see a child’s, will allow your inner woman, your adult self so to speak, to stand up and protect that child part of you that feels inadequate, frightened and vulnerable – these feelings, to name a few, are those that often come alongside an eating disorder.
I have to tell you, although the concept seems straightforward and sound, I was unable to do this. The idea of holding and loving even a 2 year old version of myself filled me with anxiety, with dread. I hated even the child part of me, she too was not deserving of my love and compassion. I was ashamed of her as I was ashamed of myself.
When did the change come?
I had to work backwards, I took myself right back, I imagined a baby, a newborn baby, and it was here that I was able to let go of some of my anger, my feelings of shame- no newborn baby can have done anything that was deserving of the cruel way in which I spoke to myself. So I had a way in, a way in to self-compassion and love. I loved the newborn version of myself; from there I was able to work upwards, realizing that my child self at 2, at 5, at 7 is also innocent and deserving of love.
Today I realize this is true, not only of children, but of all humans. Each and every one.
So there it was was – my first hurdle, and one that I was able to overcome. The inner child work is a key component, a building block, the foundations, so to speak, for my journey from fear to love.
2. You are good at your core
The concept which is at the root of Core Group here at Recover is that everyone, no matter who they are, are good at their core. Every human is deserving of their own love and compassion.
You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affectionGautama BuddheIt is only through years of repressing feelings, of not having our needs met or indeed meeting our own needs, of choosing fear and not love and any other destructive behaviour, that we have lost this insight and connection to our true self.
It was not too long ago, maybe a month ago now, that a client shared an analogy, a visualization with me, that I have held on to. This incredibly powerful analogy has allowed me to believe that I too am good at my core. (A huge shift from months gone by in which, as previously stated, I felt that if I was to reveal my core, I would reveal a black, oozing centre that could be described as nothing more than dirt.)
I viewed my core as something damaged, a broken vase, that even with the most skilful of menders, would never quite be complete again, there were too many fragments missing. I was shattered into molecular sized pieces; so to be asked to turn inward to find safety was impossible for me.
Where did the shift come from?
How was I able to turn inward and not be shrouded in darkness, in filth? An amazingly inspirational and insightful patient shared her view of the core, something so different, so pure. She asked me to visualize a ball, a ball of bright light, indestructible, whole and complete. Then, she asked me to imagine layers upon layers of dirt, these layers representing all those years of repressing feelings, ignoring traumas, harming ourselves, our eating disorder.The layers are so thick that, indeed, when we are asked to turn inward, all we can see is black, the dirt, the filth that I depict as my own core.
Yet… With each day, with each step on the path toward love, a step away from the path leading to fear, we are able to scrape away, layer at a time, the dirt that has encased our core for so many years. At times, it can feel scary, as though we have to keep digging into the dirt into the dark, with no clear sight into where we will end up, but you have to, through the continued support, unconditional love and acceptance at the Clinic let go. You start to trust and believe that you will be OK. You will find that inner light, your strength, your core.
Believe and you shall receive.Matthew 21:22
3. Seeking my inner woman
I find myself in a place that is safe.
The one thing I so desperately needed and yearned for. l am safe within myself, I am being compassionate towards myself for the first time in years, and I am no longer led by fear. I have chosen the other way, I have chosen to love myself.
So what is my quest now?
I am on the search for my inner woman. I now believe she is there, I believe that there is something so powerful within me, that will always protect me and fight for me; I believe that there is peace and ultimately I believe that there is only love within me.
I am no longer afraid, because I know that, within me is my creative self, my core, my inner woman that gives me the gift of love, protection guidance and peace.
I will finish with a passage from “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a book which has empowered me, made me want to live life again and is allowing me to continue on my quest to connect with my inner woman. I urge all those women who have lost their way to read it:
She is the Life/Death/Life force, she is the incubator. She is intuition, she is far-seer, she is deep listener, she is loyal heart… She is ideas, feelings, urges and memory. She has been lost and half forgotten for a long, long time. She is the source, the light, the night, the dark and the daybreak. She is the smell of good mud and the back leg of the fox. The birds which tell us secrets belong to her. She is the voice that says, ‘This way, this way’.