Q. Although I have a positive, supportive and creative life with my husband, family and friends, when I return for reunions during the holidays, I lose my con- fidence, purpose and value. I start to feel like the lost and scared little girl I was when my father was alive. I feel sad and unappreciated. Worst of all, I can’t seem to shake myself out of it. It’s only when I return back home to my activities and community that I start to regain my whole self. Can you help?

A. It seems you have two distinct as- pects of yourself that are very con- textually based. There is a newerpart of you that you like and have devel- oped over the years based on your interests and adult relationships. There is also the younger part of you that shows up with your family of origin. This is not a com- pletely uncommon phenomenon as we are very relational beings, highly affected by who we are with.

However, you are describing a kind of regression, where you become a scared child. Many of us deal with our vulnerable and unsupported inner child by pushing that part of us away and becoming com- petent adults. We often over-compensate for this weaker, inner child. The outer shell that we develop doesn’t necessarily heal our childhood pain and fears.

This is the time to make friends with that little girl who shows up during the holidays with your parent and siblings. Start by letting her know that you care about her and you want to get to know her and support her.

You can do this by pulling out a pic- ture of her when she was younger, using a pillow or doll as a symbol of her, or even pulling up two chairs, one for the child and the other for the adult. Then simply go back and forth between the two places and have a dialogue that gets one talking to the other. This can be very revealing and powerful. Allow these feelings to rise and move through you. The adult in you might even feel a lot anger towards those folks who have actually hurt you. Let this all out in a safe and private space.

It doesn’t sound like you can share your reactions and needs with your family? Is it because you don’t believe they will understand and be supportive or are you mainly afraid?

After doing some of this inner work, you might find some courage and enough safety to speak about what you experience. Sharing how different you feel in your own home might really help you bring your full self into those old relationships.

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com

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