What Happened When My Therapist Asked Me To ‘Let Go’ of My Child Self
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On one particular Tuesday evening, I sat on my therapist’s couch and she asked me if I had a very clear picture in my head of a moment in my childhood that I could bring to recent memory. This is always the way the hardest sessions go because sometimes you have to go back before you can move forward.
I brought to mind a photo of when I was 1 year old, that I had saved in a pile of childhood mementos. My counselor asked me if I would be willing to “step inside” the photo as the adult I am today and talk to the “me” of my childhood. With all the courage I could muster, I visualized stepping into that picture, that moment, that fractured memory.
“Now, pick her up and talk to her, as you would speak to one of your children.” I heard my counselor say. To my surprise, as clear as if it was happening, I walked over and pickup up baby-me. I smiled at her big brown eyes and blonde shaggy hair. I bounced her on my hip, as I did with my own children. I got lost in the moment, until a voice snapped me back to reality: “What would you say to her?”
Suddenly, tears started to form in my eyes, as I said, “I would tell her that it will all be OK one day.” After a few more minutes in this exercise, my therapist asked me to “come back” to the present and hand that little toe-headed baby girl back to the adult in the photograph. She asked me to let go of the protective grip I had on my younger self.
Unexplainably, I started to shake and sob uncontrollably and kept saying, “I can’t give her back. I have to save her. I can’t let her go, knowing everything that is going to happen to her.”
“You cannot change what happened, Tabitha,” my counselor gently reminded me. “You cannot save her from what happened then, but you can let her know that one day, she’ll have you. The you that you are now — the fiercely protective, unconditionally loving, sacrificial mother that you have become.”
So, heartbroken at being unable to save myself from all the heartache, pain and abuse I knew I would endure, I vowed to my younger self that, one day, she would be safe and loved and taken care of like she deserved to be.
I told her all the things I needed to hear then:
One day, you’ll be able to make your own choices about who feels safe and no one will be able to force you to violate those choices.
One day, it won’t always be your fault and you’ll get to realize what a good girl you are.
One day, love won’t always hurt and relationships won’t always be so confusing.
One day, you’ll know that you deserved the world and not the hell you had to live in.
One day, you will be able to say no and people will respect your boundaries.
One day, you can tell the truth about what happened and people will believe you.
One day, you’ll see how amazing you were to break the cycle.
One day, your words will matter and no one will ever be able to silence you again.
One day, you’ll be whole again because you never stopped chasing after healing.
One day, you’ll find peace and you’ll be wise enough to protect that peace from anyone who threatens what you worked so hard for.
One day, I’ll save you.
Getty Images illustration via Fargo_Art