When I first discovered my inner child, it was like having my sight restored after being blind since childhood! Suddenly I was able to experience all the senses: touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste came alive. I was overwhelmed by colors, dimensions, nuances that seem almost unreal. Getting back in touch with my inner child was an amazing experience. Sometimes the journey was messy, and at other times it seemed as if I entered a parallel universe.
Getting back in touch with my inner child started one day when I was looking at photos of my childhood. I saw a beautiful, happy, extroverted, confident, bubbly two-year old and thought, “Who is that? What happened to her? Where did she go?” As I investigated old photo albums, it became clear that at a certain age not long after those photos were taken, that bubbly child had disappeared. Where had she gone? Where was the two-year old who marched into restaurants, walked up to people’s tables to say hello, sneaked out of the house and ran down the street to the bus stop because she wanted to visit her daddy’s office in the city center. What turned those sparkling eyes into pits of sadness, those inquisitive eyes into blank empty holes?
I am an artist and visual woman, so my “picture” of what happened is as follows: In my childhood home, one by one, my vulnerable, creative, joyful, wise inner children got sent to bed without dinner in a dark room, because I had replied incorrectly. Another part of my inner family was sent into a beautiful room to hide and protect herself when my parents were arguing violently. Part of my character was relegated to a huge cryotherapy room to freeze the shame of when she was abused. And, finally, a beautiful part of my soul was taken to a beautiful land of God to survive the emotional and physical devastation of abuse, not only experienced as a victim but as a bystander as well. This is how I coped with the insanity of my early years.
Discovering my inner family has meant walking through my childhood home and knocking on each door to reacquaint myself with different parts of my heart. I had to earn the trust of my inner children. Those who had been “punished” were terrified of being seen or even existing. Those who were happy had no intention of leaving their peaceful and perfect parallel universe. I had to mediate with protectors who had the job of keeping my inner children safe. As an adult, I created a mature, emotional ego-structure to welcome my inner family. And, most important, I had to deal with a hyper-critical inner parent. This was a daunting task. To counter the critic, I developed a nurturing and loving inner parent who embraced my inner children—rebellious child, angry child, playful child, and creative child.
I know, it sounds like madness and sometimes that’s what it feels like, but I have learned that true reality is more beautiful than I dared to imagine. It was like having a video of my life at certain times when the frame got stuck and frozen. Now I have had the opportunity to replay certain parts, restore and recover my precious inner family. No longer frozen, I am becoming freed. —Chantal
I had such a great childhood. I grew up in ideal circumstances. I am fine, just unhappy in my marriage, were the first words to my therapist. Why was he asking me all these questions about my upbringing? My parents were wonderful people. I didn’t experience any physical or sexual abuse. The neighborhood in my small Catholic community was safe and secure. I had a great childhood. So what could have been so damaging that would lead me to counseling other than my marriage? Little did I know!
I had never heard of divorce or the need for therapy in our immediate circle of friends. Therefore, I felt justified to continue my defensive speech: I had hard working parents who raised us with love, discipline, and strong values. They were kind to us and everybody in our community, leading the senior citizen club in town for twenty-five years. Beyond that my brothers had been altar boys and Boy Scouts. I was active in the Catholic youth group and with the help of my mother, founded the Girl Scouts in our small town. The harshness and emotional distance of my grandmother towards my mother made her always watch out for my emotional needs as a girl and make efforts to stay connected to me. I felt safe with her. I felt spoiled and loved by my father, who bought me black shiny shoes with bows on them!
Still mom had no clue how to protect me from my older brothers’ comments, “You are just a dumb little girl.” When I was hurt by my friends she said, “Let it go, some people are just like that; they want to put others down to feel better about themselves. God knows who you are, and all will be well in heaven.” Nobody had a clue that I was the overly sensitive child and needed to be listened to while processing my feelings. I shut down, acted shy and began to study people’s behavior.
No one knew what was really going on within me other than my mother, who had love for me, but she couldn’t help me get my voice back. I had several close girlfriends. Many of the neighborhood kids came to our house enjoying the big backyard, setting up tents, having sleep overs, and playing sports. I was not lonely on the outside, however I always had a sense of not belonging since the time I was in my mother’s womb (a profound lesson that I learned later in therapy). The constant sense of not belonging, and not fitting in, did not disappear by being chosen by the school to tutor new students who needed help with their homework. The same thing happened when I became a student of fashion design. Again, I was chosen to tutor students in French and math. I knew what it felt like to have potential and not be able to reach it alone. No wonder I said what I said to the therapist, since I was completely unaware of the impact the negative imprints of my childhood had upon my life.
I tried to plant and enjoy the flowers in my emotional garden, not knowing that the roots of the weeds from the past could take over any moment. That came into play when I started dating. How come I chose the guy who turned out to be an alcoholic when things got tough? In the next relationships I was not enough – not smart enough, not sexy enough, not wealthy enough. At the age of nineteen, my heart was so crushed that I promised myself (unconsciously) to marry a sensitive, kind man who would not put me down, tell me that I was dumb, and would really see me for who I was. I fell in love at first sight with a man who loved God, was sensitive, kind and smart. He got up in the middle of the night and helped with our crying babies, cooking, and household chores. No complaint! All my girlfriends envied me.
Obviously, the universe ignored my request for my spouse to see me for who I was, or so I thought! Painfully, I discovered that I was the one who needed to look in the mirror and get therapy, digging deep down for the roots of my own doubts and insecurities. My healing journey began several years into the marriage and three thousand miles away from home. I got on my knees and prayed in my despair. Soon a new world of psychology and self-awareness opened up when I met Richard. I could not read enough self-help books, attend healing seminars, but most important was the friendship and acceptance of others. Every Wednesday evening thirty people met in my house for a support group, facilitated by Richard. This began my journey of deep emotional processing work. We were there for each other, no matter if we needed to share, to be held by somebody in the group, or make other requests for TTT. We all bonded and gained hope. We grew fast and in a safe environment.
Richard and Russell (a man in the group who was assisting Richard) became the brothers I never had. They loved me, encouraged me, saw me for who I was, and listened hours and hours to my thoughts and feelings. I received Time, Touch and Talk and it was safe, since the rule was to meet in groups of three or more. That way the wounded inner child was protected, not to be re-wounded. Each of them had different qualities to help fulfill my unmet needs for love.
It was life-changing to be held while I spoke and cried about my hurts and losses. I had mentioned that I was an unwanted child and the sensation of not belonging consumed me as early as the time in the womb. I was teased frequently by my brothers, and those negative feelings created a deep-seated sadness in my psyche. On top of that, my father withdrew from our relationship around the time I reached adolescence. He was very old-fashioned, shy, and worried to be too close to his teenage daughter who developed into a beautiful young woman. I thought I was his princess. We had done so many fun things together. What happened? What was wrong with me?
Close to forty, when I started my personal healing work, I learned to say to my inner child, “It’s not your fault. The people who hurt you were already hurting because of their own life. They didn’t really know who they were themselves. They did not mean to hurt you; they were victims before they ever treated you poorly. Sadly, you believed it, and therefore I will take care of parenting you now, teach you the truth about yourself from now on. You and I will take risks. I will protect you.”
Nothing could stop me. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I had hope. I learned to nourish the relationship between my adult self (higher self), my inner parent, as well as my wounded self (inner child). All together I would say I learned to orchestrate what my soul needed for healing. Whatever I could not get from the group or my new healing partners, I created with friends who knew my value and gained an understanding of my deep personal work. They were willing to give me what I had been looking for, for so long.
Sadly, we were not taught this important understanding earlier in our lives, at home or at school, at church, or through our communities. My life changed the day I met Richard and his work. I became the woman that I wanted to be in order to save my marriage, parent my children better, and be a shining light in the world. I strongly believe that all humanity needs this kind of deeper healing to create peace on earth and achieve our full potential as children of God. —Hilde
One sunny afternoon in Seattle in 1988, my parents visited my wife, our two children, and myself (our youngest son had not been born at that time). For the first time in my life I shared with them that I had experienced childhood sexual abuse from Uncle Pete. My father became enraged and said, “I’m going to kill him. I will find him and make him pay.” I said, “No you won’t. That is my responsibility. I appreciate your concern dad. Please let me handle this.”
After sharing this shocking news, I asked my mother, wife, and two kids to give dad and me some alone time. I remember their hotel room so vividly. There were many windows in the back of the room, and a large arm chair where my father sat. I walked up to him and said, “Dad, even though you are 72 and I am 35, please hold me in your arms. I never remember you holding me as a child. I need this now.”
I jumped onto my father’s lap and put his arms around me! Remember, this is a former Marine who grew up in military school. Once a Marine always a Marine. He had never experienced the warm embrace of his parents’ love, so this was foreign territory for him. Additionally, he was not a fan of tears, as he had decades of repressed hurt and pain lodged deep in his soul.
With my head planted firmly on his chest, I began to grieve uncontrollably. He tried to stop me. “Dad, please, just let me cry. I know it’s not easy for you to hear. Please just listen. You don’t need you to do a thing. Just hold me. I really need this to heal and grow into manhood.” He listened as I proceeded to grieve and heave more deeply. I saw pictures of my past, sexual scenes of people I had hooked up with during my teens and early twenties. “Dad, did you think I wanted sex with them? I was just looking for your love in their arms!”
More tears, many more tears. Then I felt his tears streaming down his face. In that moment he became my Dad, and I became his Son. We bonded for the first time in our lives. —Richard
My mother was cold, judgmental, and aloof. I chased after women from my teens through adulthood. I had lots of sex with many women. I was too afraid to commit. Women would consume or control me, and I didn’t trust them at all. Then by chance, or so I thought, I met Samantha. She didn’t take my crap. She was different from all the other women that I had known. Sam was a full-bodied woman, and full of love. One time when I was curt and pissed off, she grabbed me, held my cheeks with her gentle hands and said, “Todd, how do you feel? How do you feel?” She looked straight through me.
For some odd reason, I started to cry, and I couldn’t stop. Sam held me in her arms. I couldn’t stop crying. We sat down on the sofa and she put my head on her bosom. That was the first time in my life that I felt safe with a woman! This was the first of many times when I would break down with Samantha and she would just hold me in her arms. It was as if I was melting away so many layers of self-protection that I had constructed to survive. This woman had so much love for this broken and damaged man. She didn’t judge me, she just loved me as I was.
So began my journey from a man who used woman as sex objects, to become a man who appreciates the beauty and femininity of women. No longer am I screwing around. Samantha and I dated for a while longer. It became evident that she was more of a mentor and healthy feminine role model than a girlfriend.
I continue to heal my mother wound through inner child work, and by relating to healthy women. I am forever grateful to Samantha for sharing the gift of real love. —Todd
When I look back and try to recall the best journey of my life, I think of one that was special for me. Traveling is my passion. I have visited many countries around the world. The cities I have seen impressed me and painted my mind with different colors. Now, with time and distance, I can say that these colors have the same intensity. They are still woven in the tapestry of my life.
However, there was one journey that has left the greatest impression. It was a profound journey which led me into the core of my own personality. The path was quite scary and dark. The only tool I took with me was faith and trust in the process. Many times I wanted to give up. I was hurt and overwhelmed. However, as it happens in life, the greatest value is born out of adversity. Observing my own inner world allowed me to see my fear of intimacy, touch, and authenticity. Parts of myself that I didn’t know existed appeared. The greatest example for that was meeting my inner child. It was very touching and special.
When I think of myself five years ago, unsupported by my own family, lonely, and distrustful, I see a boy terrified of intimacy and touch. For me, a hug was a pathetic gesture with unknown meaning. I often wanted to escape when I was supposed to hug another person. Hugging was just a mechanical action for me. I was detached from my own body and from other people. During my therapy with Richard I learned how to hug someone in a meaningful way.
One particular hug was a life-changing experience that I will never forget. That hug was a physical and metaphysical encounter. Until then, I would not allow myself to be vulnerable with another person. However, for the first time in my life, during that hug I felt like an adult-son being embraced with a father’s acceptance and understanding.
I would like to explain the mechanics of the hug because of its impact and intensity. Richard put his arms around me, and I did the same. The position of the arms was important. He put his right arm over my left shoulder and his left arm beneath my right arm. With open hands he supported my back. His head slightly touched mine and I did the same. We connected. I allowed myself to experience being embraced, which lasted a few minutes. I closed my eyes so I could feel it better. The connection was on all levels: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. It was authentic. I had a feeling of giving a piece of myself to another person, and being vulnerable. After that experience nothing was the same.
The hug I experienced that day with Richard inspired me to intensify my journey and learning process. I practiced how to express my feelings and needs in all relationships. I learned how to say “No” and set healthy boundaries with unsafe people. I am still learning to be more authentic and less “a good boy” or “pleaser” who fulfills other’s needs before his own.
For years being “a good boy” was my survival mechanism. Now I have learned to trust myself more, listen to and accept the needs of my inner child. The path I traveled and continue to travel is thorny and lengthy but extremely rewarding. I appreciate all the gifts I have received on my path of healing. Nowadays, I am a more fulfilled man, much more awake and aware. My life is enriched with meaningful relationships full of love and support, and hugging is now an integral part of my relational vocabulary! —Robert
I began my friendship with Richard many years ago, as he was embarking on his healing journey. Soon after we met, Richard attended a retreat that I was facilitating. This normally professional, well-organized, and responsible man began acting out during the retreat. He was angry, defiant, and rebellious. I knew Richard was engaged to be married, but I did not recognize his inner turmoil or cry for help as he wrestled with his past and faced his future. I only knew that he was making trouble for the program, and for me!
After one gathering that Richard had disrupted, my patience had worn thin. I walked up to him at the back of the room after the program was over, and asked, “Are you rebelling on purpose?” To which he replied, “Yes!” Fortunately, I had received wise counsel from a dear friend, so instead of becoming upset or trying to correct Richard, I simply looked into his eyes and put my arms around him. He literally burst into tears, melted in my arms, and sobbed on my shoulder. We went to a quiet room where he explained how he was in therapy dealing with his sexuality, a source of great conflict for many years. He shared that as his upcoming marriage loomed, his fear of intimacy with a woman, unhealed wounds from his past, and longing for a male mentor’s love were welling up within him.
I asked Richard to become my roommate at the retreat. He was so happy to make the move. Every night I held him in my arms, as we shared and became close friends. One night, Richard’s response to our intimacy was to come on to me sexually, offering to pleasure me. I was neither attracted nor repulsed by this, and simply told him that I had no such need or interest, that was not what our closeness was about.
When I spoke those words, Richard burst into tears once again. “I just needed to know that I was safe with you, that you wouldn’t take advantage of me like my Uncle did so many years ago.” It helped him begin to distinguish between the sexual pleasing that he had learned and believed he needed to do in order to be loved, and the genuine intimacy and male bonding that he was deprived of in childhood. As our friendship grew, Richard and I remained roommates, sharing an apartment for several months after the retreat.
As Richard learned and grew in his therapy, he shared his insights and began to mentor me in my own pursuit of healing and wholeness. Some months later I met a very shy woman who was moved by a presentation that I gave about the confusion between sexuality and intimacy. Afterwards she shared her own painful experience of childhood sexual abuse. Having learned so much in my friendship with Richard, I was able to hold her for hours in a supervised and secure setting, as she grieved the pain and shame of her childhood abuse. She came to find peace and safety in my arms, and experienced the healing power of healthy touch.
She and I became the best and purest of friends, and many months later, when I was struggling with my own mother issues (who was very critical and a perfectionist), and a lifetime of trying to please others and perform in order to be loved, this wonderful woman provided a safe, unconditional haven of acceptance and support.
I remember feeling so loved, so connected, so close and intimate, that it seemed the most natural next step would have been to be sexual. Yet, there was absolutely no need, no compulsion to go there. She was not my wife, nor I her husband, and I was completely at peace and fulfilled. I felt more deeply than I ever had in my life, that I had separated my deepest desire for love from any misplaced sexual desire, and felt liberated from the needy, lustful desires I had continued to harbor deep within the darkest, most struggling corners of my heart.
At that moment I felt so cleansed, so genuine, and capable of loving, a son of God rather than the little devil that I thought I was, who had everyone fooled. I realized that the “hard on” that I thought I always had was really a “heart on,” and the bosom that I was longing for was wrapped up in the nurturing I never experienced in childhood from my mom. I cannot express how liberated I felt at that moment, and how many times in the months and years that followed that authenticity empowered me to cut through the sexual confusion, be fearless in loving, and provide a safe harbor and haven for others in the healing process, as I was for Richard long ago.
I am deeply grateful for my dearest friend’s courage and boldness in helping to pioneer the power of healthy touch as an instrument of emotional healing. I am sure that Time, Touch and Talk will help us become more healed and whole, create more genuine and intimate relationships, and make a happier, healthier, more connected and loving world. —Phillip