2019 was an emotionally very intense year for me. Despite some of the tears I shed and the struggles I had to go through, I’m convinced that all of it was necessary for me to grow into the strong young woman I am today. A few years ago, on New Year’s Eve, some girlfriends and I started writing our new year’s resolutions on a little piece of paper and kept them in our wallets until the year was over and replaced it with a new one. For 2019, I had kept my list rather short: travel, sports, improve your photography skills (which is really the only thing I didn’t do in 2019), believe in yourself, see the world more mindfully and resolve your daddy issue.
After all those years of having a strange relationship (if you can even call it that) with my dad who had moved out after my parents’ divorce when I was 13, I felt the urge to finally work on that relationship and to let go of all those negative feelings and anger that I had built up over the years. Quite frankly, I knew, this wasn’t gonna go away. A problem doesn’t just disappear. So I chose the active way to MAKE IT go away because deep down I knew that this – together with many other reasons – was at times holding me back from being in a healthy relationship with myself and with others. Over the years, I had learned not to let men in my life because I didn’t want anyone to hurt me. I subconsciously wanted to prove a point to myself that I was perfectly capable of living my life without anyone’s help, particularly without a man (Look dad, I know you’ve left, but see how well I am doing without you! Look at all the things I have accomplished without your help!). I didn’t know how to be loved by a man, particularly not by my own father. But how can you, unless you start loving yourself?
My relationship with my dad had had involved so much disappointment and anger, I sometimes wished I didn’t have to see him again. Yet again, things that are uncomfortable don’t just go away. It’s entirely up to you to decide, if you continue to let them drag you down, or if you step out of your comfort zone, work them out and move on as a grown person.
In February, when my grandmother on my father’s side had passed away, we had a big family gathering on the occasion of my grandmother’s funeral. I hardly ever see dad’s side of the family, which is mostly due to my dad’s relationship with his siblings. At the funeral, I finally saw everyone again, including an auntie that I hadn’t seen since I was perhaps 15. That encounter with my auntie opened up my eyes to see something I had never seen before and that changed everything for me: my dad’s childhood. And this is where the story really begins.
A few weeks after the funeral, I went to a book store – I don’t remember what I was looking for – and on my way out, a book by Stefanie Stahl, a psychologist, had caught my eye: ‘Your inner child needs to find home’. It was as if it was talking to me. The book had everything I was going through united in one title. So I decided to buy it. This book has allowed me to reflect my own personality, my needs, my fears and where they come from. As children, we learn to love and to be loved and we get a basic sense of trust. In this book, our inner child is described as ‘the sum of our childish imprints – good and bad, which we have experienced through our parents and other important caregivers. We do not remember most of these experiences on the conscious level. However, they are fixed in the subconscious. The inner child is therefore an essential part of our subconscious. It is the fears, worries and hardships that we have experienced from childhood, as well as all positive influences from our childhood.’
The book includes many exercises, which you can reconstruct your relationship with your dad, your relationship with your mum and the relationship between your parents with. It helps you recreate your negative beliefs, where they come from and how you can transform them into positive ones.
Working my way through the book, has helped me understand not only my own, but also other people’s behaviour a lot better. It has made me realise that in my relationship with my dad, my inner child learned to believe that it wasn’t important (e.g. my dad never showed up to any of my school performances or concerts), that it wasn’t wanted (I was always yelled at when I was woken up by mum and dad fighting at night and I tried to yell back at dad because I knew he had yelled at mum for no reason and I wanted to help her. ‘Go away!’, ‘Stay out of this!’) and that men leave me – hence relationships with men hurt (divorce). But I also learned that dad wasn’t the only one who had left scars on me. Because of the unloving relationship with my dad, my inner child has learned to take responsibility for mum’s happiness. I had learned to be a good girl, to make mum happy, to protect her and to comfort her.
This book has made me realise that it wasn’t just the relationship with my dad I needed to work on, I also had to work out my relationship with mum. All of a sudden, I understood that I needed to figure things out just for ME! This is really difficult for me though because I have trouble taking decisions for myself and doing what I think is best for ME. But when, if not now, am I gonna start taking decisions for myself? I’d spent all my life protecting mum from pain (there were a number of breakups), was considerate of her feelings and made sure she was happy. One of the most important lessons I learned from that book is that I am no longer that little child and that it’s not my duty to make mum happy, I live my own life now and that includes taking decisions for ME ONLY. Perhaps you see where this is going: That was the moment I knew I HAD TO move to Australia, to follow my own dreams, my own desires, even if it might make mum unhappy.
It was time for me to let go of that protector role I had learned to be, as well as to let go of that anger towards my dad and to forgive him for his past mistakes. I’ve come to understand that my dad loves me very much, he just doesn’t know how to show me because he is perfectly aware that he’s been a bad father to me. He – like most of us – struggles with the things that have happened in HIS childhood and thanks to the conversation with my auntie I know that there have been quite some traumatic events in his past that he has been trying to deal with ever since. I know that’s not an excuse for his behaviour, but it has allowed me to understand and to simply move past it.
Today, I no longer start shaking when he calls, I no longer look for his approval, I’ve simply made room for him in my life and let him be there, if he choses to. My mum and I? We’re still as close as before, but I do try to give myself the necessary distance to be able to live my life the way I want to, but also for her to live her life the way she wants to. I’ve learned to let her make her own mistakes that I can’t always protect her from. I feel much more at peace with myself, maybe my inner child has finally found home and a place where it’s being heard. For 2020, I have only one resolution: Take better care of myself and do things that make me happy!
It feels so powerful and great to be in charge of your own life and to move forward. When will YOU start taking your own life and happiness in your own hands and take decisions just for yourself?
P.S.: The book I read is called ‘Das Kind in dir muss Heimat finden’ by Stefanie Stahl, but I’m afraid it is only available in German. I was not sponsored or paid to promote this book. I just wanted to share my personal experience with you, as I know some of you may be going through some similar issues and here’s an idea of how you can overcome them.