June 21, 2016

Coming Home, Part 4: Reconnecting with My Little Self

This week, we conclude our series with Elloa Atkinson. She shares beautifully about her journey home to self (and how playfulness and inner child work played a huge part in that)!


I called this series ‘Coming Home.’ In some ways, this is what my entire 14 year recovery journey has been: a long, predictable, unending journey of coming home to myself.

To come home, you have to have left it in the first place — and I did. The abandonment towards myself that started in childhood and peaked in adolescence has had rippling aftershocks which have reverberated throughout my twenties, echoing into my thirties. For years I had thought that the abandonment had been by others to me (mum/dad/God/you name it), so really acknowledging that I had done this to myself was pretty momentous.

I have come to believe that ‘leaving home,’ or separating from our true selves and from Source/God/Life, is as inevitable for human beings as full moons or rising tides. 

I believe that this is all part of the soul’s journey. We come here “trailing clouds of glory” (Wordsworth’s phrase, not mine) and spend our days on this planet having a (very) human experience, desperately trying to remember our wholeness.

The separation from self and the subsequent adoption of masks, survival strategies and coping mechanisms is universal. Eventually, the survival strategies that save us in childhood threaten to suffocate us in adulthood. This suffocation is a call from the Self to come back home.

The sense of separation I sometimes feel is so much deeper for me than simply being disconnected or feeling separate from my blood family, although it often manifests in this thought-form. It feels like it cuts to the core of my soul. I am a prodigal daughter and I have wandered far from home.

For those of us who have experienced abuse or neglect, the severance or dissociation from the self is all the more violent, the journey back home all the more visceral and relieving. Some of us will never have had an experience of being at home in our own bodies; for some of us, it is less like ‘coming’ home and more like finding it for the first time.

There are a lot of pieces to this coming home puzzle. They overlap and are part of an intricate, complex system.

For me, studying and learning about my ancestry two years ago was a huge piece of my coming home puzzle. Transforming my relationship with my body is another. Coming to terms with and accepting my never-ending humanness has also been enormously important.

But for me, some of the most powerful and meaningful work I have done is inner child work.

Inner child work can get a bad rap and seem sickly and slightly repugnant. More than one client has referred to Saturday Night Live’s Stuart Smalley in our work together: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” In my experience this work is anything but sickly. Every moment of connection with my little self has mattered.

Working to connect to and build a relationship with Little Elloa (or rather little Elloas, because in truth there is a relationship to rebuild with all the young versions of me), has been heart-breaking, soul-shaking and ultimately, deeply healing.

When I was about twenty-one years old and three years into recovery, I was just getting to grips with doing this tender soul work. For about six months I was dating a guy who was quite a bit older than me, a cheeky, romantic man with a huge heart. I showed him a photo of three-day-old me and he giggled and said I looked like an alien. 

I was incredibly upset, and instantly got angry. He had touched on a shame spot, unintentionally pouring salt into my self-hatred wound. I was glad that my reaction was defensive; it told me that I was learning how important it was to protect myself. 

Today, around 11 years later, I feel a lot more tenderness and love for that tiny, innocent baby and I can even look back at that day and my self-protective tantrum with a warm nostalgia.

Through inner child work, I’ve had to relive the ‘scene of the crime’ many times for many different memories, feeling the sheer terror, panic and distraught upset that I felt in my young little body but could not fully express or work through to the point of completion.

I’ve learned through experience that when emotion is fully felt and released, it does dissipate. If we study nature, we’ll see that many animals, from dogs to ducks, literally shake off anxiety and trauma. Unlike them, we humans tend to hold onto ours, internalising it, repressing it, avoiding it and sometimes even identifying with it. 

As I processed the pain from my childhood — the traumatic memories of mum throwing up in the middle of the night; the guilt about my childhood rage towards my little sister; the shame over my body and its many messy functions; the pain of my dads’ absence (yes, the apostrophe is in the right place. I have two dads); most of all, the self-hatred and shame — I started to remember things I had completely forgotten about.

I remembered films I loved watching, and watched them again (Babes in Toyland, Grease, Oliver and Dirty Dancing, to name a few).

I remembered activities I loved doing, and did them again, going on the swings, cartwheeling, cycling with no hands, ice skating. 

Memories that were buried have come back to me as I have opened up more and more doors within the basement of my psyche. I’ve learned powerful lessons. I’ve learned that the more I delve into the dark, the more light is revealed.

I have consciously and deliberately given myself the gift of play, tentatively learning how to play alone and with other people. Daring to trust, daring to make mistakes, daring to be laughed at or risk rejection. It has been hard and vulnerable and liberating and joyful.

Recently, it was a pure joy to go to a soft play centre with my then two-year-old nephew and remember the magic and euphoria I felt as a kid running around adventure playgrounds, ball ponds and zip lines. This week, even as this post is published, I am spending three days with him while my sister and brand new brother-in-law celebrate their honeymoon. Perhaps that is partly why parenting is so powerful for so many people; it creates a circle of completion.

Reconnecting with the memories — of doing monkey bars, gymnastic classes, making my own books and starting my own library and teaching my little sister’s 30+ teddies in our originally named “Teddy School” — has sincerely been worth every moment of pain that I’ve gone through in therapy and this deep personal work.

I’m so grateful today that I can now fully remember previously excruciating childhood scenes today with little to no emotional charge accompanying the memory. That doesn’t mean it’s all gone or that there’s nothing left to process. I have found it an interesting tightrope to dance on, the further I’ve got into my recovery: nowadays I need to be wary that I don’t over-process and over-analyse, and that I don’t under-do it either.

I don’t know if the near-constant hum of disconnection that lurks on the edges of my consciousness and daily experience will ever fully go away. I wonder if my life is going to involve endless cycles of ebbing and flowing into and away from myself, salty tears of relief falling each time I surrender back into authentic connection with myself and others.

The way I make sense of coming home and being in relationship with the little one(s) within me today is to think of it as a relationship.

Relationships are not static entities. They are actually living entities. Like any other living organism, every relationship needs continual care to survive and thrive.

Coming home is a lifelong journey. For me it is intimate, spiritual in nature, and it requires deep reverence for my own and others’ wounds. I have come to appreciate that no matter what the external circumstances were, no one gets out of childhood scot free, but if you get out alive, you’ve got a chance to turn things around.

In closing, when it comes to living this path, what I know for sure today is this: the further I go, the deeper I go. And there is always more.

I wish you well on your journey. May it be full of depth and lightness, joy and healing, release from fear and of course, a deep coming home to yourself. 


Elloa Atkinson is a life-changing coach, an inspiring speaker, and a writer whose work has been featured on the home pages of the Huffington Post and the Good Men Project.

A certified life coach, Elloa also has over ten years experience of assisting, supporting and leading emotionally intense personal development work. She is a long-term student and teacher of A Course In Miracles and believes that we are all inherently whole, innocent and worthy of love and that our core problem is that we have forgotten that. 

Connect with her at elloaatkinson.com and via Facebook: http://facebook.com/elloa.atkinson.miracles

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