The Nurtured Self
The nurturing we receive in the first five years of life is crucial to our development. If we do not receive basic nurturing care during this foundational period, it can have a lifetime of mental, emotional and physical effects.
A lack of physical and emotional nurturing throughout early childhood affects how we interact in our relationships later in life. This traumatic experience creates interpersonal situations where we seek nurturing from others, while at the same time resisting it.
Even though we may believe that we want people “to love and care for us,” we can feel uncomfortable with any expression of love that reminds us of this early trauma and the lack of nurturing we received. This unconscious dynamic of yearning for love while at the same time resisting it, affects our ability to form deep and lasting relationships.
If this dynamic is left unresolved, it is likely that we will attract unbalanced relationships, resulting in our needs not being met and ultimately not feeling cared for, re-enacting our trauma from childhood once again.
If we did not receive the nurturing we needed as a child, we may develop unconscious strategies to get our needs met by others. These strategies include: being good or extra-nice, performing or entertaining, or working to help others. We can even change our personality to be more suited to those we want to gain acknowledgment and approval from.
Or we may feel that we don’t deserve to have our needs met because of the critical messages that we received from our parents that we were difficult or not good enough.
The only way to change this dynamic is to heal the trauma held within our body, not by seeking nurturing from others, but by learning how to nurture ourselves.
The best way to heal our trauma is to become acutely aware of how our needs were not met as a child. We want to understand our story at the deepest level so that we can gain compassion for what we have experienced.
Exploring the past can help us to clearly identify the pain we are feeling. Yet our pain doesn’t arise from the events of the past, it shows up when we are not feeling loved and cared for in the present. It is in the present moment when we have the opening to understand our past, reinvent our present, and change the outcome of our future.
Through this exploration we can better understand our present needs. We can learn how to acknowledge ourselves, respond to our emotions, and receive support to resolve the pain we feel. We can learn to give ourselves the love, affection and nurturing we yearn for.
Often the trauma of not being nurtured in early childhood shows itself in the foundational aspects of life such as food, sleep, comfort and safety. Unknowingly, we may use food to fill the emptiness we feel. We may not sleep well as our body struggles to deeply relax and trust that we are safe. We may be overly attached to life’s comforts. Or we can become excessive protection seekers, taking control of our lives to ensure our needs will be met.
We can identify how we struggle to meet our basic needs in daily life, and learn to become a more nurturing caretaker to ourselves. Through better self-care we can begin to trust again. Overtime, these acts of self-nurturing will help us to heal the trauma we carry and allow us to become more receptive to love.
Photograph by Peter Gramantik