Child in Despair

(Written in January 2007)

Please help me.  I recite it over and over but don’t feel any answer.  I have been able to imagine a safe place: it’s a little room in a nunnery and a very kind old woman is sitting with me so I won’t be alone.  This is the level of despair of a child who’s tried everything she can, everything she knows how to do, and still there is no warmth, no comfort, no support, so she has retreated into a cold dark place and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with people because people have always meant pain.  And there’s no adult here to rescue her.  My adult has collapsed completely.  I can barely think.  I freak out at the possibility of the simplest of tasks.

I turn to Nancy Napier for help:
“It’s as though part of us can’t bear to experience what it was like to be let down so horribly when we couldn’t do things for ourselves, when we had to depend on others.  To have needs that must be filled by others, and to have those needs ignored, humiliated, or abused, brings about almost intolerable feelings of vulnerability.  It’s even worse because, as children, we can’t not have needs.  We can’t turn them off completely.  We are built to seek out cuddling, soothing, positive regard, not to mention food, shelter and comfort.
“No child should have to live in a hurtful environment.  No child should have to experience neglect, beatings, humiliation, or any of the myriad ways we may be hurt in an uncaring situation.”     Napier, pp138-9

“It’s helpful to remember that a child in despair has tried every possible way to make things better.  Finally she has given up and withdrawn into this dark, lonely place.  It’s just too painful to make contact with others.  In this child’s experience, any contact simply means a renewal of the pain of abandonment, the expectation that what is offered will be taken away.”    p144

Nancy Napier, Getting Through the Day: strategies for adults hurt as children.  She also has some helpful tapes.

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