Goal: To live from your true identity.
In parts one and two of this blog series, I gave an introduction to understanding unresolved childhood pain and an overview of the process of healing. In this third article, I will present the concept of integration. Integration means to combine or consolidate. Psychological integration is a coming together of the parts of an individual. It speaks to the idea of unburdening and healing wounded parts of self in order to allow your true identity to become fully engaged in life and relationships. To integrate is to become whole.
Accepting the Painful Parts
It’s not your trauma that needs to integrate; trauma needs to be resolved. Rather, it is the parts of the human soul that have been fragmented by the trauma that need to integrate. Most often, a wounded-child part of self is rejected, ignored or shamed by the adult self. In order for the parts of self that have been emotionally harmed to fully heal, these parts must first be accepted by the core self. Turning feelings of shame and embarrassment into acceptance and love for your vulnerable parts is no simple task, yet it is possible.
One exercise that can aid in forgiving your child self is to think of a child you know personally who is the same age you were when you were harmed. For example, if you think of a 9-year-old child undergoing similar trauma to yours, you can imagine how difficult it would be for them to handle this. We often judge ourselves more harshly than we judge others. This exercise can help you put yourself into the “shoes” of your younger self and have compassion for him/her.
Accepting and not shaming your younger self is vital to healing. It is also important not to shame the current responses this wounded part has to triggers in the present. Addictions, self-hatred, episodes of rage, and more are related to present situations that trigger past pain. When these responses surface, it is important to soothe yourself instead of shaming yourself. This works because you will only change if you seek to accept even the most vulnerable and wounded part of yourself. It helps to tell yourself, “I understand why you are responding this way. It makes sense because of what you have been through. However, it’s not helpful and will not get you what you want in life.”
When we stop shaming ourselves, we can begin the unburdening process. Unburdening is the process of allowing the trauma to move through the mind as well as the body toward resolution. After this process has taken place, it is time to allow the younger parts to rest.
Releasing the Wounded Parts to Rest
The effects of trauma can be a barrier in healing wounded parts. Peter Levine (1) notes that traumatic experiences often keep our minds and bodies frozen in time. However, Bessel van der Kolk (2) offers hope in his book The Body Keeps the Score; he indicates that through time and intention, trauma can resolve, and individuals can move on to lead fulfilling lives. As the trauma is resolved, your true identity made up of stronger, more mature parts, becomes solidified. Shirley Jean Schmidt (3) outlined that these stronger, more mature parts of self can serve as resources for the younger parts to heal. As the true identity is strengthened and the wounded parts healed, there is no longer a need for the wounded parts to get triggered and respond in unhealthy or defensive ways. The most mature self can now make wise decisions about how to respond in situations. The wounded self can finally rest.
Because wounding experiences are stuck or frozen in the psyche, the true self has never had a chance to consistently shine through. Many people believe that their vices or immature responses are just the way that they are. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Immature responses are based on pain. Resolving trauma and integrating parts of self allow the true, more mature self to come to the surface consistently and dependably.
It is a beautiful experience to forgive the younger self, understand accurately and tenderly why they responded the way they did and let them rest and be at peace from now through the end of time. Your younger parts have been through so much, working hard to keep you safe until now. They deserve to be released into a place where they can be cared for by your willing, capable, and mature adult-self.
As this process of integration occurs, you will notice mental and physical changes taking place. Living with unresolved trauma is heavy. Doing the hard work to heal and integrate produces lasting results in regard to mental and physical health. Wilder and colleagues (4) mention that trauma recovery is made up of, “recognizing the extent of the wound, facing the pain, and welcoming new life-giving relationships that satisfy the long neglected absences.” It is a strange sensation to wake up one day feeling more light, free, capable and whole. The heaviness you lived with and thought was normal is now gone.In its place is a new lease on life characterized by hope for the future and joy in relationships.
I experienced this personally, and I get the privilege to walk through the process with many of my clients as well. It feels so good to enjoy yourself and experience freedom to express yourself with confidence and clarity. For many of us with childhood pain, we haven’t had an accurate identity reflected to us, and it’s time for that to change. Connecting to a group of like-minded people who are on a similar path in life is vital. You are not alone on this journey, and it’s so important that you find people who see you for who you truly are and who will reflect your identity back to you accurately and confidently.
Acknowledging the pain and allowing the memories to be processed are the hard parts of healing your inner child. Integration is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow within this process. Those who take this challenge and do the hard work to heal are gifted with a new perspective, a healed heart, better relational skills, a deep connection to themselves and God, as well as hope for the future. My personal passion is that all people would engage in this process. While I know it will not be possible for everyone to face life’s pain at this level, my heart is for redemption and restoration for all of us humans. This life is chalked full of excruciating atrocities against children. Hurt children grow into adults who hurt other children…unless we heal and stop this cycle. Healed adults promote healing and offer strength to the younger generation. Let’s be those kinds of adults, together.
- Levine, P.A. (1997). Waking the Tiger. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books
- Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
- Schmidt, Shirley Jean. (2020, July). The Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy (DNMS) Retrieved from: https://dnmsinstitute.com/clients/
- Friesen, J.G., Wilder, E. J., Bierling, A. M., Koepcke, R.. Poole, M. (2013).
Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You. East Peoria, IL: Shepherd’s House Inc.