I like hiking and I usually do it alone. I like to choose where I go and like to explore places I haven’t been before. luckily, I live in an area where driving for 45 minutes to an hour opens up the possibility of lakes, forests and coastal walks. Decide not to drive and I have green open fields at my disposal. It really is a great way to connect with nature, improve fitness and mental health and feel good about the world in general.
I have always liked walking or hiking since I was a child. I spent lots of time outside in the rural area of the UK where I grew up. In those days, being at home generally meant being bored as all the exciting stuff happened outside. Things to explore, experience and treasure. I did this with peers but always felt more comfortable alone doing what I held dear to me. The summers of 1975 and 1976 were heatwaves in the UK and there were lots of opportunities to be outside. These were significant years for me as I was 12 an 13 respectively at that time and it was noticeable how much time I chose to spend alone.
Back then, as now, I loved nature and history. They were my two favourite subjects. I created a ’nest’ in a tree where I could sit and read history books borrowed from the local library and then went home and summarized them in a notebook. I spent hours combing over fields and meadows looking for pieces of pottery and other historical ’possibilities’. Not that I found much but that was not the point. It was at this time that I also discovered camping. I persuaded my parents to let me sleep in a tent in the garden and then I disappeared one weekend and slept under the stars about 1 mile away in a field. It was a formative time for me and parts of that boy still live within me over 45 years later.
When I do inner child therapy with clients, it can be an emotional experience for them. The inner child is a representation of our core wound but also a point where we can start to heal. Bringing back images and memories from long ago is sometimes not easy but it also gives information concerning where we started our journey. The overwhelming emotion is usually sadness and sometimes anger. Sadness often comes because of the knowledge of what is in store for the young child and anger because of it. We can learn a lot about how we developed and what aspects of that child’s behaviour and thinking are still with us. What we learn at this time is crucial in how we see the world around us, relationships and indeed, ourselves. My experience of doing this with clients is that many people are carrying trauma from childhood and spend much of their lives trying to process it. Mindfulness is the key to this but first we need to understand where we came from. What happened to us as children can never be eradicated but it can be reframed and we can go on to lead productive lives with fruitful relationships.
I first did a form of inner child therapy in the 90’s. I just wanted to understand the method so I booked 10 sessions to experience it. I went to a house in Cambridge, just north of London and participated initially in a weekend workshop and then five sessions, once every two weeks. My expectations were not that high. In fact, I had none. I just wanted to see what would happen. I can honestly say it was mind-blowing to say the least. Under meditation, I identified quickly my 13 year old self as the pivotal character in my development. I have scant memories of the time before this. I tapped into the awkwardness and ‘outsider’ feelings that boy held at the time and also the shame that boy felt about who he was and his behaviour, much of which was natural. I felt the overwhelming responsibility to look after my mother when my father disappeared and the feeling of rejection when he returned.
Most of all, I experienced what it was like to return in my mind to the places where it all took place. The meditation urged me to accompany my younger self through the experiences he had, to soothe him when needed and to help him realise that he is worthy and loved and to share with him what he will become. I walked with him through the fields of the place I grew up and sat with him in the ‘crows nest’ he had built in the tree. He was not alone and that felt good. I remembered feelings of anticipation and fear as he looked out on his world and the challenges he faced at that time. How school was a challenge, how bullying was a part of his life and how abuse (physical, emotional and verbal) was something he had to cope with on a daily basis. I remembered the other comments from his peers about being ‘weird’ and being taunted about his appearance. I remembered how he felt uncomfortable in groups and crowds and found solace in being alone and isolated from the world. That pain really hit me and I believe I realised for the first time how it had all affected me and the path I took.
At the time, I wrote him a few lines with my non-dominant hand. It never really caught what I really felt so I just wrote this at the time:
Despite what you felt, you are ok and I understand
I made a connection at that time that has persevered. My 13 year old self is with me most days. It’s hard sometimes when I am triggered into feeling the same as he did but I get through it by talking to him in a way that nobody did at the time. He has trouble trusting what people say to him to be true but I try to be consistent and build trust. It has the effect of helping me as an adult see things differently. I see life through adult eyes, not through the yes of a troubled teenager who did understand why things were happening to him, why people said the things they did and why they did the things they did. My young self is finally realising that much of what happened to him was an effect of issues out of his control and his natural need to connect was rejected through no fault of his own. I tell him that he has the choice how to look at things and how to react.
He comes with me on hikes, is with me when I am reading or in contact with others. I am teaching him how to handle such things and at the same time, handling them differently myself.
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.