Sitting down at the table with my four year old self

It is really hard to look someone in the face and say hurtful things.

It goes against our innate desire for connection. We want to love and be loved. We want to feel like we belong and are understood.

It is much easier to talk shit if the person is not looking you in the eyes.

This concept also applies to the way we talk to ourselves inside our own mind.

When we are stewing in our thoughts, we are not looking at our own face. If we did, I think there would be a major shift in the kinds of things we would say to ourselves and the tone of the self talk banging around in our heads.

A dear friend and client recently explained her version of this concept to me, and it gave me more language around why the writing I share below created such a powerful shift in my own self talk.

This is what she said:

“If a friend was standing in front of me, or a stranger came up to me on the street upset, my first reaction would be to be kind. But when I’m upset, internally I approach myself with cruelty. Not the kindness I give others. ‘What’s wrong with you? Get it together!’ So I doubled myself and made the double walk up to me. I couldn’t be brutal anymore. I just want to take care of her.”

The language she used, doubling herself, really resonated with me. We can double ourselves and make the double any age, and then we can sit down at the table with that person. We can ask them questions, observe them, tell them anything, listen to them, and powerfully sit together in silence. Together. Never alone.

Take a moment now to think about yourself.

If you were to look into your own face before speaking, would you be kind? Would you be cruel?

I am no longer hard on myself or push myself past my limits. My inner voice now speaks to me like I spoke to my four year old self. “It’s ok, sweetie,” is now the most common self-talk phrase I hear.

Using the prompt: “Sitting down at the table…” I wrote the following post that shifted my self talk.

Pronoun note: Please use they/them pronouns for me when referring to me at any age. When I travel to my past ages and sit down with my inner children, sometimes I use she/her and sometimes I use they/them. That is only for me and them.

7.28.21 Writing:

If I sat down at the table with my four-year-old self, what would I say to them?

“You are not crazy!” -is the first thing that came to mind. It came in so fast, I could barely get my hand to move fast enough to write it before the second thought showed up. “Wow, that’s fucked up!” All of it, right there before I finished writing out the four words:

You. are. not. crazy.

If I release judgment of my automatic thoughts and the internalized ableism of my word choice, can I follow the feelings? What do I hear?

“You are not crazy. The things you feel are real and true.”

I don’t think I should say more.

Don’t think. Feel.

“I love you. I’m here with you.”

Anything further she wouldn’t understand, but it’s right there. A warning.

“Don’t listen to your mother. Don’t believe her. What she says about you is not true. She hates…”

How could I tell a four-year-old not to listen or believe their mother!? It’s understandable to believe and trust your mother. It would be cruel to warn a four-year-old about how hard it’s going to get or to try and give strategies. How could I confirm what she felt? Do I tell her her mother hates her and is jealous of her? That she’ll never get it right, no matter how hard she tries, because what’s “right” will intentionally be moved every time. Do I tell her about the pain that’s coming? The illnesses, chronic pain, surgeries, near-death experiences? Do I try to get her to change the future? Or do I smile and connect and love her in this moment?

Hot tears.

The choice is clear when I see her face in front of mine, sitting down across the table:

“I love you. You are so smart and brave. You feel so deeply. It is YOUR superpower. Trust yourself. Trust what you feel. You can feel the truth. Believe this. Believe in you. I love you. Let’s play!”

I would observe and listen intuitively. Can I do it now? I can give her my attention now and really see her. I can honor her needs with compassion and love. I would make sure her needs were met. Not ignored or shamed. I would see the neurodivergence and the sensitivity to everything. Some people have extra sensitive senses. This is a gift, not a bad thing. Oh wow, you are incredible, not bad. Deserving of love and care, not punishment and neglect. You are perfect and unique, just as you are. Your brain processes information in a really cool, highly sensitive, fast way. Very different than your mother. It is good to be different. It is special and wonderful. We need people that see the world in different ways; it makes life more colorful and interesting. You experience the world in a full range of color. You see details that other people miss. You feel textures in words and understand deeply what the textures mean. There’s no frame of reference for how you feel and how you experience the world. You will create it. You will give it language. You will guide others to the words, so they can name their feelings, too.

But for now, sweetie, let’s play.