There has been a lot published in recent years about attachment disorders and the effects of children who are not properly secured and cared for. We speak of orphaned children with kindness but as if they are far away. It is difficult to tolerate looking into their need filled eyes that have stopped reaching for arms to hold them and stopped asking for words to comfort them. But the orphaned children that become angry have even less of a chance at crumbs of comfort. They invite our reproach or we turn away. How dare they demand attention in such a negative way. They should settle down and learn that any kindness should be appreciated, not scorned.
I cannot help but draw a parallel to my own orphaned places that reveal my demanding places of need with rage. Most of the time I am a contained and functioning adult, but when life corners me and I feel desperate I can lash out like a cornered mountain lion. I hate my need. I despise the places that I cannot fill on my own. I do not hold asking for care with kindness in the deep places that feel terrifying. I run, hide, or lash out to cover this tenderness.
While participating in a group process I touched a core wounding and I was undone. I acknowledged for a split second that there is a vacuum of care in a place that is so protected I often do not know how to access it. When I do get near my body rages at me. I become dysregulated, exhausted, weepy, and I am angry that I’m in touch with such a powerless place.
I end up inviting others anger toward me when what I most need is kindness. I am so young and undefended in this place of core need that it feels like I could die if I risk asking for care and what is offered is not enough or I am missed.
I have been working on inviting my orphaned places back into myself for care, and sometimes I am able to actually experience that care. It seems most true that I need an enormous amount of comfort to be willing or able to care for my youngest parts. I need safe people, safe places, safe activities for my body, good food, beauty of place, and sleep. I’m keenly aware that the coming together of all those first step needs is already a lot to ask of anyone else. How can I possibly expect to be seen for the terrified girl that I really am when my defenses are flipping off my caregivers?
It takes a strong and good parent to see past defended need.
It takes attunement and attachment and a heck of a lot of love. I am hoping that you are reading this and thinking of a friend or a client that presents in this way. It is not pretty. It is not a package that most want to open, but when a good foster parent can wade through the debris the reward of healing is as deep and lovely as the defenses were strong.
I wonder if this is what it means to love the unlovable. The least of these may be the most defended of these. Please risk the possible wound. We are simply wounded.
Shandee recently risked a move to land in Colorado with her husband and best project partner. She is the mother to her son in college and two daughters in high school. The past few months have been spent mowing down high grass and hacking at dead brush to reveal the beauty of the hills and creek where she lives. She loves a good nap, reading novels, creating beautiful spaces, and offering deep rest to those who are weary. She writes and podcasts with her friend Jill Dyer @ DarlingMom.com where they address what it is to reparent ourselves.