I had to slowly slowly convince myself to open to receive any thoughts at all that I might be worthy, and even lovable.
In a reel I watched tonight by a gal whose name I never caught, she explains how parents used to be advised to ‘let the baby cry itself out.’ That the baby will self-soothe, and eventually go to sleep on her own.
As she spoke, I vividly remembered reading one of those baby-advice books that told you to do that** 50+ years ago, when my boys were yet babies. Because my sons now have kids of their own, I have seen that parents are still advised to do that same thing.
“Let the baby cry itself to sleep! It will self-soothe.’
The problem, this wise young woman stated, is that babies that young cannot self-soothe.
They have neither the inner capacity nor the taught-resources to be able to say to themselves, ‘it’s OK, I’m OK, I’m still loved, I still matter, I can just chill and stop crying and go peacefully to sleep.’
No. Instead, they are alone, in need,
with no help from anyone to relieve that need.
In pain, helpless and powerless, feeling abandoned.
As a child, even when I was older than a little baby, I can remember feeling that, myself, on so many occasions. I had no words to articulate it, but I remember feeling confused and lost, and so very alone.
And again, repetitively — as a young adult, a mid-life adult, and now especially as an old adult, paling into invisibility in a world intensely centered around youth.
The feeling is an acute pain right in the gut, shooting up to the core of your heart. It feels like being stabbed a million times a second with the sharpest stiletto in the universe. Unending, unrelenting. You know it will eventually go away if you can cry yourself to sleep, but, small solace, you also know it will return. Again and again.
The foundational perception is that nobody cares about you.
A tinker’s dam matters more than you do.
Try as you might to fix it, you cannot. No matter what you do, or how much of it you do, nothing is ever good enough, or ever meets anyone’s expectations.
You are simply non-essential. You feel that you are regarded as human waste waiting to die. You are worthless, alone, abandoned by anyone who matters, and even by those who do not.
The effects of this inner belief are incomprehensibly devastating.
Worse, the perception extends beyond you — if you feel worth-less, nothing and no one else is worth anything, either. Life itself is worth nothing.
Mall shooters? School shootings? There’s your core motivation — the inner dialogue: I’m worthless, powerless and helpless, life is worth nothing, I can’t take it anymore, and my rage shall explode and end these other suckers, too.”
The internal void this creates seems unfillable.
It is not.
Monumental internal restoration can be achieved through emotional and energy therapy, and mountains of unconditional love.
I was so thrilled to watch this young lady talk about the horrendous idea of letting babies ‘cry themselves out.’ Thought up by one doctor* (a man, of course) who made it go viral in the society of his day.
Because at last, now I know the formerly
elusive source of the pain I have felt throughout my life.
It erupted into surface consciousness the first time I was raped at the age of thirteen. It went on, year after year, in the form of suicidal thoughts, until in 2001, I found EFT, the Emotional Freedom Techniques, or tapping. I was fifty-five. Decades of suffering.
I decided to use tapping to reprogram my mind.
I spent six incredibly intense weeks tapping to eliminate those thoughts, beliefs, and habits.
Bringing them up to the light from the dank cave buried within myself, dripping with the black ooze of raw hurt.
Exposing them, feeling the pain — no more pushing them back within, where they would fester — took every ounce of courage I had.
Acknowledging, at last, how absolutely helpless and powerless I had always felt beneath the mask of bravado and I’m-cool I had created in order to survive in the world.
And finally giving myself the love and attention I’d wanted in the first place.
It was hard! And then —
I had to slowly slowly convince myself to open to receive
any thoughts that I might be worthy and lovable.
That I matter, that what I do matters, and that I really can love and accept myself. That I am worthy, that I am, indeed, lovable.
But I did it.
Now, 20+ years later, I can say, ‘I matter, I love and accept and respect myself,’ and mean it, and be totally comfortable — even joyous — in saying it.
I may be no longer suicidal, but I still find myself falling into the corners of my mind I didn’t find at that first series of internal cleansing and reformation. So I struggle sometimes with bouts of ‘I am invisible, no one cares about me, no one cares about what I do, why bother, my life-work is meaningless, I’ve been abandoned yet again.’
One can say, ‘of course you’re not worthless, Angela! Of course you and your work matters!’
But I’m betting that you know, yourself, how it is when you’re in the center of a seething negative, destructive belief, how the entire world fits itself into the mold of that belief, and you are hard-pressed to find any smidgeon of light to brighten that dire darkness.
And sometimes — and isn’t this crazy! — you choose NOT to find or move towards the light. You choose to suffer and suffer and suffer!
Maybe because you get attention — people come to you to help, to soothe, to lend a hand.
Or maybe because it’s now a habit that feels like a friend, never mind how much it hurts. And if you let it go you won’t know how else to be or feel.
Or maybe because you don’t have the energy, or don’t feel capable of taking on any new ways of being — you don’t know how, it’s too much work, what if it doesn’t work … what if, what if, what if.
Take all that as you may — as I said, I was shocked and delighted to hear what she had to say.
Because now I know what is at the core of the despair
I have experienced my entire life, and can look right into it
and change that fucker.
I shall reprogram myself, yet again.
I shall drag the feelings and thoughts I have so long repressed out of their hidey-hole, and make them bleed themselves so dry Death Valley will feel like a soggy swamp compared.
They will no longer have a single joule of power over me.
Once I cleanse them, I usually ask the formerly negative ideas, thoughts and habits that appear in my mind if they’d like a new, more fun job. Like, be my assistant in bringing light to life.
But this? No.
I shall full-force fire-hose it all to a shiny-smooth cleanliness unimagined until now.
And then I shall stomp it all into pieces of dust so small that regular molecules will seem like house-size boulders next to them.
Then I shall send those infinitally-small pieces to rejoin the very fabric of the universe as undefined, refinable material, with which to create new, joy-filled life.
No one deserves to feel the way I have felt.
No one deserves to feel the way that so many millions of others have felt, whether they were abandoned by other circumstances, or were affected by this monstrous parental ‘guidance.’
May this be a start of the end of the despairing wail of innocent babies feeling abandoned and desperate.
May this be the end of entire life-times of suffering resulting from being treated so callously.
May this be the end of the rending of the soul that this terrible thing has wrought upon us.
May this be the cessation of parenting advice that just makes life easy for the parents.
May this be the beginning of parents caring more deeply for the unique, incredible gift that is this individual embodied in human form in their arms, than for their own discomfort hearing her cry or ‘having’ to take care of her.
And parents, may her cries spur rivers of love and support so strong she will look up into your eyes, see your love, stop crying, and blossom in sheer happiness, as you take care of her needs.
And you, and she, and all the parents and the babies who need and want love and assistance, will keep on keeping on, in love and joy and delight.
Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?
* Richard Ferber — The ‘Dr. Spock of Sleep’
slate.com › 2006/05 › richard-ferber-s-rise
“…His programmatic package entails letting a baby cry for progressively longer intervals until she finally learns to fall asleep….”
** What is the let it cry out method?
“…After the industrial revolution in the 18th century, the notion of “spoiling” became widespread in industrialized countries, and mothers were warned not to hold or respond to their infants too much for fear of creating demanding monsters. If the home was big enough, parents moved cradles and cribs to a separate room. With the infants sleeping alone in another room, it was easy for parents to follow the cry-it-out advice, even if it went against their gut instincts. [Italics mine]
The term “cry it out” refers to the practice of leaving babies in their cribs without picking them up, and letting them cry themselves to sleep. A modified version of this approach is to go to the baby every few minutes to pat her on the back or reassure her verbally (but not pick the baby up), and to increase the length of time gradually so that the baby eventually “learns” to fall asleep alone. [Which seems to me like sheer torture — a solution so close, but so utterly far away…]
But there is no doubt that repeated lack of responsiveness to a baby’s cries-even for only five minutes at a time-is potentially damaging to the baby’s mental health. Babies who are left to cry it out alone may fail to develop a basic sense of trust or an understanding of themselves as a causal agent, possibly leading to feelings of powerlessness, low self-esteem, and chronic anxiety later in life. The cry-it-out approach undermines the very basis of secure attachment, which requires prompt responsiveness and sensitive attunement during the first year after birth….”
No More Letting Baby Cry Herself Out!
© Angela Treat Lyon 2023
Image: New Babe
© Angela Treat Lyon 2022
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