the silence of the child within

Young child sitting on high bench, with a railed banister behind. Only dangling legs, shoes, and a strip of bunched top are showing. The top appears to be striped yellow and brown, with long sleeves. The child wears jeans and brown leather shoes with Velcro straps. The original photograph is not distressed but I distressed it.
Original by Michał Parzuchowsk, distressed by me

Hey therapists of the world dealing with more or less dissociated, more or less integrated little kids living in adult patients. Know that:

1. These traumatized little kids have been waiting these many years to tell their side of the story, which is the whole of their story.

At the root of their suffering is the fact that no one ever wanted to know, and when they acted as if they did, they didn’t really hear, and by hearing, validate.

Listen to them. Trust them. If they made it this far, they are very good at knowing what they need.

2. They may be bitter and wary. The best way to get through to them, as to every human really, is to ask questions. Everyone loves to be asked questions — except the few who don’t, because their answers never led anywhere good (hint: they love questions too, but you have to earn it).

3. Most of these traumatized, more or less dissociated, more or less integrated children were never asked any questions at all. No one ever said, why are you doing this? And this, what are you doing this? And this other thing: why are you doing it? And: what do you want? What do you need? Why are you scared? Tell me, I’d like to hear. I am insanely interested in you, your very, very good reasons, your story, every single one of your thoughts and feelings and desires, however strange or bizarre or confusing any of them may feel to you. I want to hear it all. Tell me.

4. There are things the children within the adults who are your patients might never say unless you ask. They are very trained to assume adults do not want to know. If you don’t ask, they may very well assume you, like all the adults in their world, are not interested.

5. Psychoanalysis trains therapists to make space and let the voces within emerge organically. I don’t think this always works with people suffering the aftermath of severe childhood trauma, who consequently have split, dissociated children howling in pain inside. You need to ask. You need to be the adult they never met. They have been longing all of their lives to be asked.

(Sending this to my analyst, with very little hope it will make any difference, but we do try, don’t we. We try and try and try, and then, eventually, one day, we say, enough).