Margaret Paul, PhD, is a writer and cocreator of Inner Bonding®. She holds a doctorate in psychology and is a relationship expert, noted public speaker, workshop leader, educator, chaplain, consultant, and artist. Dr. Paul has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including the Oprah Winfrey Show.
1440: What happens to us when we don’t get the love we need as a child?
For most of us, when we were very young, we decided that it was our fault we weren’t getting the love we needed.
We decided—though not consciously—that we weren’t good enough, that there was something wrong with us, that we were flawed, that we were unimportant, that we shouldn’t be here, that we don’t deserve love. This was the beginning of the wounded ego part of ourselves.
1440: How does this line of thinking help the situation?
Margaret Paul: The wounded self figures that if it’s our fault we’re not being loved, then we can try to figure out how to do it right—how to act right and how to be good enough in order to get the approval we need and avoid the disapproval we can’t handle when we’re that young.
It gives us a sense of control over getting love and avoiding pain.
1440: But this doesn’t seem to work. Why not?
Margaret Paul: Unfortunately, when we operate from the wounded self, we take the beautiful essence, the soul essence, of who we really are and hide it away in order to create an image or mask that we hope will be good enough.
We call this hidden part our inner child. It’s the part that often expresses to us through our feelings and intuition.
It has a lot of wisdom and a lot of guidance for us, but if we’ve hidden away that beautiful, wonderful, gifted part of ourselves, we don’t have access to who we really are, to what brings us joy, and to what our passion and purpose is.
1440: Does the suppression of our inner child lead to issues like depression and anxiety?
Margaret Paul: It can lead to all kinds of things, including feeling empty, anxious, depressed, angry, guilty, or ashamed. Maybe a relationship is ending and you realize you can’t have a loving relationship with others because you don’t have one with yourself. Maybe you don’t feel alive or joyful and are feeling lonely or alone. All these painful feelings are often what start people on a healing process.
1440: There are also challenging things in life that happen in school and elsewhere as we’re growing up, so it’s not just about our parents, right?
Margaret Paul: Some of our painful challenges came from our parents and some of them came from school or other situations. Maybe we felt rejected by our peers or lost someone we loved. When we were little, we couldn’t handle the big, painful feelings of life—the loneliness, the helplessness over other people’s behavior toward us, the heartbreak of being unloved, the grief of loss. We had these little bodies that just couldn’t manage these big, painful feelings.
If we didn’t have parents who knew their own basic goodness and instead were operating out of their own wounded ego, they wouldn’t have known how to be with us, hold us, nurture us, and help us manage our feelings.
In order to find a way to avoid these feelings, we dissociated and learned various forms of self-abandonment, and that behavior continues into adulthood. We go up into our head. We disconnect from our body. We turn to various addictions. We turn to self-judgment, which can become very addictive as a form of control. We also might make somebody else responsible for taking care of us in an attempt to feel valuable or to have someone else manage our feelings.
1440: Is it possible to reparent that inner child?
Margaret Paul: The good news is, that part of you is never lost and you can always reclaim it. It’s been shoved away and ignored, but it’s there.
That inner child—or you can think of it as your soul self, your true self, your essence, or your spark of the divine—it is there and wants to be alive.
It, along with your higher self, is your source of creativity, passion, joy, and love—which is who you really are.
1440: So how do we do it?
Margaret Paul: In any given moment there are two intentions available. We can try to control and avoid, which is what the wounded self does. Or we can have the intention to learn about loving ourselves using a process like Inner Bonding. Learning about loving ourselves also means wanting to learn how we are treating ourselves in ways that may be causing our pain.
1440: How do we do this if we didn’t have any role models for it?
Margaret Paul: Here is where learning to connect with your higher self—your spiritual guidance—comes in. Your higher guidance becomes the role model for loving yourself. It takes a lot of practice, just like learning anything worthwhile.
Loving yourself is not about having your nails done once a week or getting a massage. That’s fine, but imagine what it would mean for a parent to truly love a child. They would attend to them and care about their feelings.
They would do what they can to create a sense of safety for them. They would feed them well and make sure they get enough sleep and enough exercise. They would stand up for them and speak up for them. They would be kind and caring, not harsh or judgmental with them. These are the kinds of things that loving parents would do. These are the kinds of things that we need to learn to do for ourselves, and what our higher self helps us learn to do.
1440: What do you say to those who say it is selfish to focus on yourself so much?
Margaret Paul: I say it’s really quite the opposite: loving yourself is self-responsible. It’s about learning to take care of yourself so that you’re not needy or manipulative in an attempt to make others responsible for you. When you’re all filled up with love, you have love to share with others. Far from being selfish, loving yourself is what leads to seeing, valuing, and accepting others.
Margaret Paul, PhD, will be teaching Six-Step Inner Bonding®: The Power to Heal Yourself at 1440 Multiversity from April 6 – 8, 2018.