I have been seeing Benita Esposito for Spiritual Counseling for almost four months. Learning to write inner dialogues between my inner child, my inner adult, and the Holy Spirit has brought deep healing and helped me feel closer to God.
In the following journal entry, I was processing my feelings of shame about the fantasy world I used to cope with extreme loneliness when I was a little girl. My parents were not bad people, but as the youngest of five children, I did not receive much loving attention.
I think it’s important that you understand that the trauma of not getting our emotional needs met in early childhood is just as debilitating as physical and verbal abuse.
My physical needs were met and my parents took care of me as best as they could. However, emotional encouragement, love and attention were sorely lacking. This devastated me and impacted my whole life.
Night-time was especially scary for me. I learned at a young age that I could pretend to live in a loving family, and that soothed me enough that I could relax and go to sleep. My first memories are of being in my crib in my parents’ bedroom. I was in that crib until age five.
Here is an entry from my journal.
Reflections of myself as a young child: My young psyche latched onto the characters from the TV show, Bonanza. I was so young that I couldn’t understand the plots and the names of the characters because I didn’t have verbal language yet. I remember thinking about the handsome, kind men on TV at night and it made me happy.
It wasn’t until I was older that I understood their character names, and much later than that, I understood their stage names. I pretended to be them. I dialogued in my head what I saw on TV, especially the parts where the father, Ben Cartwright (played by Lorne Greene), would give loving advice to his sons. They were all strong, protective, kind, generous and caring … all the things I lacked from my own family.
My heart is so sad that I had to pretend to feel loved from a make-believe fantasy.
Holy Spirit: Dear precious one! Do you see that my hand was in this? You didn’t feel loved. Your little wounded heart instinctively knew it needed help to survive. There is no need to feel ashamed about needing to feel loved. Your family was ill-equipped to show the kind of love you needed. I allowed you to discover your own path to get your needs met in a sweet tender way so you could cope.
My Adapted Inner Child: But, wasn’t it wrong to turn to a fantasy for love? I feel guilty … like something was wrong with me that I had to “pretend” myself to sleep every night. How many other kids out there did this?
My Inner Adult and Nurturing Parent: I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many other kids who coped with life in a similar way. You developed your own way. Other kids developed theirs. You have nothing to be ashamed about. It helped you cope. You felt cared for and attended to. You pretended to be loved and though it wasn’t real love that came from others, you were blessed with the kind of sensitive imagination that gave your inner self something loving to hold on to. When you were older you learned to deal with your harsh realities.
My Adapted Inner Child: I think I’m still figuring out how to deal with life’s harsh realities. But I’m not using a pretend-world anymore. Now I can turn to the Holy Spirit for comfort and love. I did ask for forgiveness about this in the past. I have so much to learn about how to feel love, even now.
I don’t know how to love my husband. I’m finding it easier to “like” him from far away … with him still at home and me at the beach. He has so many needs and problems that are overwhelming to me. I don’t know how best to handle them. Can I trust you, Holy Spirit, to give me ideas now?
Holy Spirit: Yes, you sure can! Turn these things over to me, and I will show you what to do. Ask me to empower you. Pray for ideas and insight. I am gentle and compassionate of heart. I will not overwhelm you or be forceful. Be quiet before me now and listen to my gentle voice.
About an hour after writing this, I was scrolling through YouTube, and what should show up in my suggested videos but a short interview from the producer of Bonanza, David Dortort. He commented about Michael Landon, who was my very favorite actor.
David said that Michael Landon came from a very dysfunctional family. His parents were neglectful of him, too, and he carried severe emotional scars because of it. I knew that about him, but to have David Dortort talk about it at this very moment while I was processing all this was such a wonderful God thing!
David remarked about how some of the cynical people who worked on the Bonanza set were sometimes overcome with emotion or struck silent during the touching scenes between Michael Landon and Lorne Greene in the show. He said, choking up, “Michael found his father.”
This made me realize that Michael Landon was being healed from his lack of parenting while working on the set. That’s what I was doing, too! I was acting out those parts in my head. Michael Landon was re-parented during his acting experience and so was I. Lorne Greene was a father-figure for both of us.
I found that insight amazing and that made my feeling of shame disappear. Sixty years of shame disappeared within minutes!
This was an “instant download” from the Holy Spirit at just the right moment that brought an awareness to me that I didn’t need to keep journaling about this particular issue. God had given me His thoughts on the matter through that short video clip on YouTube, and instead of feeling ashamed, I was set free!
What a wonderful gift from God!
Educational Commentary by Benita A. Esposito
Many thanks to my client for sharing her story. I hope it has inspired you.
One of my favorite healing tools is inner voice dialogue, especially when it includes conversations with God. It touches my heart deeply to witness God orchestrating events that heal us and set us free. Many of my clients have experienced extraordinary healing like the story above.
When we grow up in families where we don’t get our emotional needs met, we develop insecure attachment styles. The attachment style of a three-year-old predicts the attachment style of a twenty-five-year-old.
As young children, we make core decisions about who we are, and those ideas become our identity. Most of our self-image comes from how others see us. We make core decisions about who women are and who men are based on our experiences with our mother and father or other care-givers. These perceptions become cemented in place on an unconscious level. They become like operating systems on a computer. We filter everything we experience through these programs.
If we grew up with parents who didn’t know how to meet our emotional needs, it becomes normal not to get our emotional needs met in relationships as adults. We unconsciously gravitate toward dysfunctional relationships. While we want to choose healthy relationships, we are unaware that blinders stop us from seeing people accurately. We don’t know what we don’t know. We may marry people who prick the same emotional wounds we experienced in childhood.
Fortunately, with skilled therapy and spiritual healing, we can heal our core unconscious wounds. We can move from an insecure attachment style to an earned secure attachment style.
Let me explain a little about inner dialogue and how it can help us experience love and healing.
We all have subpersonalities, i.e, parts of ourselves. (This is not like the movie Sybil where the girl has multiple personalities.) You can give your inner parts any name you want. I use these generic names: Critical Parent (or Inner Critic), Nurturing Parent, Adult, Free Child, Rebellious Child and Adapted Child.
The Adapted Child is the one who learned at a young age to please people to get positive strokes to survive.
Some subpersonality strategies help us as adults. Some hurt us, but we still use them. Remember, this happens at an unconscious level.
As adults, sometimes we think our identity is the same as one or two of the dominant subpersonalities. Most of my clients are overly identified with the Critical Parent and the Adapted Child. Here’s how it plays out.
The strong voice of the Critical Parent sends demanding messages to the Adapted Child. Examples are: Obey me. Conform. Be nice. Don’t be selfish. Be polite. Don’t cause trouble. Don’t make waves. Don’t upset your father. You don’t really feel what you feel. You can’t be hungry, you just ate. You shouldn’t be sad; put on a happy face. Grow up. Be a big girl. Stop crying. What will the neighbors think? You are not pleasing to God (or worse, God will punish you). If you speak up for yourself, you’ll get fired. Your spouse won’t like you.
The domineering Critical Parent convinces the Adapted Child that she is not good enough. She better shape-up and toe the line.
Shame and low self-esteem take up residence and that feels awful. She hides her feelings. She doesn’t let anyone know how bad she feels usually. Sometimes, however, the rebellious child explodes in anger because the pain is so great.
The Adapted Child takes on the task of trying to be good enough. Many of my clients become driven perfectionists. They are highly successful because of this unconscious strategy laid down in childhood. But on the inside, they still don’t feel good about themselves. They don’t know their Authentic Self. Many times, they don’t have healthy intimate relationships. They don’t know how to resolve conflicts in a way that everyone wins. Their core emotional needs still aren’t met, and they don’t know how to get them met. Often their relationship with God lacks intimacy.
When we do our inner work to become aware of our wounded parts and help them heal, we can tap into our true identity, our Authentic Self. We can develop a meaningful loving relationship with God, ourselves and our loved ones.
If you would like help to heal the inner wounds that stop you from being your Authentic Self … the person God designed you to be … contact me for a complimentary 10-minute phone chat to see if we are a good fit.
But first, please read this webpage about my services.
I am supporting you to unleash your true identity and share your gifts with a world that desperately needs the wisdom and creativity that you carry.
Wishing you all the best that life has to offer.
Benita A. Esposito, MA, “Chief Trail Guide,” for Highly Sensitive Introverts on the Hero’s Journey to the Authentic Self.
Bestselling author of The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self – available on Amazon.
Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor. Sessions available worldwide via Zoom.