How do I reparent my inner child when I have no material resources?
August 3, 2022 9:40 PM   Subscribe

Background to this. I am poor and have no support so I am unable to give my younger self what she needs to feel "loved and nurtured and safe."

I have realized that all my life I have been searching for a way that would earn me both social respectability and money. With money, I would be able to buy everything that my younger self wanted but was deprived of, like medical care, a piano, a home of my own where I could be safe etc. With a socially-respected profession, I would no longer have to deal with the disdain, poor working conditions and bad treatment meted out to the indigent and lower-classes.

I tried academia and failed. I had no money and no family support and left before I could enter the academic market (not that the chances are good in the humanities anyway).

I feel I am spinning my wheels life-wise. I have tried many venues to become good at something but eventually ran into financial hurdles, whether it was money for training or for supplies.

Actually, beside the piano teacher mentioned in the previous question, I have tried other people who offered to teach me piano but then ghosted me in the end or turned out to be out for money. I need to conserve my savings for food and bills and have none to spare for a keyboard. I have always loved music but music is only one of the things I have tried and failed after I ran headfirst into the money issue.

My family is a lost cause. I do not have any supportive friends, in fact I only have one friend left and she is preoccupied with her own problems (e.g. sick mother).

The rest drifted away many years ago when they married and had children and no longer had time for me. I have not been able to meet people when I cannot afford to go out (transport costs because I live in the middle of nowhere and have no car. What if the soles of my shoes fall off? I can't afford new ones and some have already been re-glued).

I feel I have failed my younger self. When I was young, I had hope that things would be better when I grew up because I would have a successful career and money and I could eventually get everything I wanted. That did not happen and everything came crashing down.

No one cares for my well-being literally. I am all alone. I cannot afford the things I dreamed of or even an healthy diet. I can't feel safe when I don't know if I can pay my bills and I can't afford some of the things I need like new glasses.

In such a desperate situation, how does one find a way out to feel loved, nurtured and safe?
posted by whitelotus to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

When you feel like nobody cares for your well-being, find a way to care about the well-being of someone else. When you feel alone, what can you do to make someone else feel less alone? When piano teachers keep ghosting you, what skills do you already have that you can reliably share with someone else? When you feel poor, what can you do to help someone else who is even more poor? What can you do to make others feel loved, nurtured, and safe?

When you need something and you're not getting it, go in the opposite direction.
posted by aniola at 10:55 PM on August 3 [7 favorites]

Best answer: you have written with such thoughtfulness and clarity. you have an ability to express yourself very well. something about your writing makes me think you already have much of what's needed for the inner work of learning to nurture one's self. i think i hear you describe a longing for nurturing to come from somewhere else, someone else. that's natural, understandable. but for some reason i can't explain it feels important to say that being able to love, nurture, and care for yourself is as important. not a replacement. but necessary too.

i hear many things being said here with so much finality. definite-ness. surety. fatalism. i don't blame you. i won't argue the truth of any of what you've written; it seems you are in a truly difficult place, and the weight of being there, and the weight of the past, is all piled up and must feel paralyzingly heavy. but i wonder : where is the space, mentally and emotionally, where something new would be able to grow -- space for the nurturing, the loving, the safety to come to the surface and be developed -- if the thinking will always return to what's lost, what's missing, how you've failed, how it all came crashing down. i'm sure all those things are true, but i wonder if somehow the thinking about those things, and how that thinking makes you feel, is not serving you, is anti-nurturing ; and not allowing you the space that's needed for a different kind of presence to emerge, one that would serve your goals of finding the feelings of love, nurturing, and safety.

a therapist i worked with spoke often of the work of byron katie. some of what has come to mind for me when reading your post, made me think of her writing.

there's a podcast called 'hidden brain' by shankar vedantam which recently has some episodes that may be of interest. two are titled 'reframing your reality' and another called 'you 2.0 : befriending your inner voice'

i'm glad you took the time to create this askme and to share what's happening for you. i'm sorry it's difficult, that you're experiencing so many challenges. i think the fact that you reached out to ask for help is a strong and brave thing. i mean that. i think that kind of strength and courage says a lot about your ability and your chances to bring about change.

carl jung said: we cannot change anything unless we accept it ; condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.

he also said: loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.

you're good at communicating. keep communicating, with us, with whomever you can, and on the inside, communicating to whitelotus, too.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:19 PM on August 3 [17 favorites]

You need community. Reaching out to help others is a good way to establish a place in a community for yourself. Also just consistently being around, showing up. Asking for help for achievable things (like, if they know anywhere to get some more shoes in your size for cheap, or if you could get a ride to a market for groceries, or could you borrow a big pot so you can make stock) can be a way to show other people that you exist and also that they can be helpful and kind in concrete ways, which gently ingratiates them towards you. Especially if you reciprocate with kindness or even just conversation. Some of this can be online but some of it should be in person so you don’t feel so alone where you are.

As you find community, you can think about how these other people you associate with may or may not have money and social respectability. How do you think of them regardless? How does that reflect feelings about yourself? For example, does befriending other poor people help you be kinder to yourself for not being wealthy? Can these people help to make you feel safe and respected and loved? What are some differences between these new people and those who have broken ties with you? Are there people you work with in similar situations who would understand some of your challenges?

Try to think about community more than friends or family. In communities, people come and go but the basic structures of safety and welcome and function remain, if it’s any good. There might be leaders but other people all have roles and a sense of belonging. When someone needs help they can ask for it; when someone has excess they have people they care about to share it with.

With respect, you have asked a good handful of variations on this question, or the concerns surrounding it, on AskMe before. Please don’t take this as me telling you not to. But it might be helpful for you to go read through some of those previous questions and answers to see if any wisdom can be yielded. Maybe just getting perspective on how hard you’ve been working through this very difficult period might help. Also, if there is literally any way for you to access mental health care where a professional helps you out, please take advantage of it. If there is a huge waiting list, get on that list now. Rumination, depression, childhood trauma, poverty: all these things combine into quite the insurmountable solo climb. It’s clear from your question history that you need the kind of assistance a therapist or counselor can give to help you reach a satisfying place in life.
posted by Mizu at 11:24 PM on August 3 [9 favorites]

2nding everything Mizu said. really great guidance there.

i've written before about how my life has been changed very significantly for the better by asking questions of, or mentioning challenges to, people who are just mere acquaintances, or near strangers. finding or building a community will give you the opportunity to open yourself up to so many new possibilities.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 11:31 PM on August 3

There's one aspect that I would recommend you work on cultivating, based on the history of your asks and what you have opened up to us, to answer this question specifically: generosity. You're highly intellectual, so you've been able to rationalize and advocate for your fears (i mean, there's clearly evidence for those fears). But I'm bringing up this aspect specifically in support of the earlier answers: you need to learn to be generous, and not despite not having money, but because you don't. So much of the fear of loss is framing how you've been responding. If you were a parent to someone, including yourself, that lack of generosity will lead to unkindness when something doesn't work out. Picture your kid self when a mistake happened. Were your parents abusive and unkind in reaction? If you wanted a parental response different than what you received, what was that different response? I would wager much of that would come to the parent telling you variations of, "oh it's okay,"/ "there's plenty more/we can get another one"/ "we will work it out, there's other options"/"well, maybe next time". And if so, that's the generosity you want.

You're probably dismissing it right now, thinking about how useless that is without money. But is money the only resource out there? Your parents did you wrong for not exposing you to examples of wealth beyond money: social links, barter system, network assistance, time in lieu of cash, favours. Being able to be generous is also being able to imagine alternatives. You're constrained by money and that's definitely a problem, but look at your fellow class people. Who seems to have it together?
posted by cendawanita at 12:24 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]

One part of reparenting is identifying achievable goals. Another aspect is helping yourself connect with others.

You've latched on to two musical instruments that you said are rare in your local community: piano and harp. Both are unaffordable for you. What do people in your neighborhood do to play music? Do they sing? Play ukulele? Find a musical hobby that will give you something in common with the people around you, instead of an unachievable musical instrument to set yourself apart from them.

Be fair in your expectations. You have been looking for someone to teach you piano for free. When they want to be paid for their labor, you characterize them as "out for money" and are resentful. Accept that it is fair to pay people for their work.

If you think people should not be "out for money", then be the change you want to see. Go volunteer. Help others for free. This will generate goodwill that will eventually bring rewards to you. If your reaction is that you don't have time to volunteer, use the time you were hoping to spend on piano lessons. Good luck.
posted by vienna at 3:19 AM on August 4 [11 favorites]

I recently started attending ACA meetings online. Their website has a section on Becoming your own loving parent. The meeting I attend uses the Loving Parent Guidebook which gives us tools for connecting with our inner family (child, adolescent) and helps free us from the patterns that we were raised with. The work can be tough and even overwhelming at times, but the people in the groups are so incredibly supportive and caring.
posted by horsegnut at 3:57 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I tried bartering for lessons but in the end, they changed their mind and decided they wanted money instead. I've been let down by people many, many times.

An acquaintance of mine agreed to help me with job-hunting. Then before we were supposed to meet, she ghosted me. I tried calling and texting her but she never responded again.

Someone in my community agreed to keep me company on a very stressful occasion but she didn't show up on the day. In the end, I had to go through the stressful event all alone.
posted by whitelotus at 5:52 AM on August 4

Do you think then the answer is: stop depending entirely on people? What would money guarantee you?

The tricky part now is also trying to determine for yourself are the expectations you have for yourself were also what you're expecting from them? This is an unfair ask to be done remotely, but you gotta turn that intellect and also interrogate your pain points, to use consultancy talk. I'm not very good at not being blunt, so perhaps others with a better capacity for this can field this part.

Because for me, when I see your followups, like this one, my brain engages with them as follows:
Example 1: does that mean you should stop trying to look for free lessons? How about figuring out if your bartering options might not be enough with the level of work you're asking? Of course this person can also be an asshole. Should we follow that this means every teacher is an asshole? This was touched on in your last ask, but an even more out of the box option: finding something else for your musical endeavour.

Example 2: does that mean you should never depend on an acquaintance again? Are all acquaintances assholes with poor communication? What if instead you turn that into an opportunity to assess what was it about that acquaintance that you can spot so that you're better at assessing future offers of help? (Eg they could be impulsively helpful with poor follow through, and got so stressed at how they failed you they turned turtle. Is that your fault? Absolutely not. They must own their behaviour. But perhaps now you have better heuristics at assessing offers).

Example 3: so is everyone in the community now undependable? Did you try and ask help from people in that event? What if this was an opportunity for you to have a contingency plan should your buddy system fell thru? What if instead you used the anxiety and spot another person in need during that time and throw yourself into helping out, even the F&b staff, as long it keeps your mind off of your nerves? Why not develop a solo gameplan should this happen again, like stuff/apps to distract you during the event, scripts to follow, even the option of leaving early?

You have been failed by many persons many times. But, you're a person too.
posted by cendawanita at 6:10 AM on August 4

Response by poster: cendawanita: Example 3 was not a social occasion, but a serious, unavoidable event like undergoing a medical procedure. There were no F&B staff or the option to leave. I did not have anyone to accompany me (family had abandoned me and I have no friends) and she agreed, only to stand me up. Given the gravity of the situation (it was a sort of emergency that developed quickly and couldn't wait), I was devastated that she left me in the lurch when I most needed someone to be there for me.
posted by whitelotus at 6:55 AM on August 4

Yes, this person ABSOLUTELY let you down. Regardless whatever practical or logistical issues that caused his/her unavailability, yes s/he did.

The thing for you here is, what's the takeaway point that you want from this incident? Short of buying a friend, what can you do going forward?

More immediately, would you like me to apologize for not being appropriately sympathetic? Then also yes, absolutely, I humbly offer you my apologies and sympathies.

I'm genuinely hoping that the world gives you a break soon but i am also hoping that you have the lens to spot it.
posted by cendawanita at 7:07 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]

Sometime after your last question, you sent me a MeMail in response to something I'd said. I didn't answer; I first want to apologize if that hurt you that I didn't respond.

But that gave me another idea. I did consider writing back to you that maybe you could try starting a journal about what happened. You are very eloquent, and it sounds like you have a lot to say about what happened to you. You don't need to show it to anyone - but it's all festering in your head right now, and putting it down on paper will help get it out of your head.

You don't even need to be eloquent. You could simply right "MY PARENTS WERE POO-POO-HEADS" over and over and over again for five pages if that's all you feel like doing. In fact, that might let your inner child have her say if you wrote in a sort of "child-like" voice and that might help too. (I did something like this once when I was sixteen and very angry with a dentist after he'd gone back on a promise I could get my braces off in a week; when we got home, I locked myself in my room with a big sheet of paper and wrote "DOCTOR OLIVER IS A SHITHEAD" on it over and over for an hour.)

And the best part is - I'm sure you have pens and paper in your house right now, so you could start right now. And notebooks are cheap as chips, so you can get another one after you fill up the first one. And then another and another. But everything you are feeling, all the regret and anger and hurt - write it all down. Again and again if you need to. Take all the time you want, and write about it in any way you want. Even if you write about the same things over and over for months.

Doing this will not only get this stuff out of your head - it will be giving your inner child a voice, and letting you make a record of what happened from YOUR perspective. And that can be VERY powerful.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:10 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The fewer the resources you have, the more important it is to do this, because you can't compensate for neglect by spending money on quick solutions.

It's a combination of self care and affectionate self talk.

Tell yourself, "I will take this street, so I can walk down the shady side of the street under the trees," and then do it. When you think you might be getting footsore, "When I get home I will take my shoes off and sloosh my feet in cold water." Do it when you get home.

Another example: "I will save the nicer food for this evening so I have something to look forward to," and when evening comes, "Here is the nicer food I saved for myself!" or if your self control fails and you gobble it down without waiting, "Aww.... I really needed that. It's okay that I ate the nicer food early. I had to take care of myself."

Another example: "There are people shouting on the street, but they don't know I am up here and they won't come up here, so I am quite safe. And probably they are just shouting too, not fighting. It's okay WhiteLotus."

Let's say when you are cold at night your reaction is normally to think fretfully, "I'm cold! This is nasty!" and you tuck the blanket closer around your shoulders and think about something else. Instead tell yourself that you are tucking yourself in, "There, blanket tucked in, no more draught, and if I'm still cold I'll get up and put my coat on top of the blanket too."

When you do the usual maintenance of eating, getting ready for bed and cleaning, take time to savour it as affection you are showing yourself. Plan indulgences for yourself. "On Saturday I'm going to sleep in and then when I do get up, I'm going to step outside, breathe deep and listen to the birds for a few moments."

Pretend there are two of you, and one of you is a two-year-old and the other one of you is the parent you always needed. Lots of gentle, affectionate care taking and a good dose of gentle, wholesome self discipline, tons of forgiving self talk.

Your parents are done. You've grown out of them. You get to be your own parent now.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:58 AM on August 4 [18 favorites]

Best answer: I feel I have failed my younger self. When I was young, I had hope that things would be better when I grew up because I would have a successful career and money and I could eventually get everything I wanted. That did not happen and everything came crashing down.

I just want to highlight that this was the protective fantasy / future goal you clung to in order to survive a lonely and despairing present. “If I can get through now, here’s how it will be.” But now that protective shield might be getting in your way. Try not to evaluate every single thing as evidence of success / failure in light of this goal. Your imagination will always be better, more perfect, than the present. Be open to how success looks like. It manifests in different forms.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:43 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]

Another comment is the “people disappoint me/let me down” theme.

Try to shift that as well. People like you! And they are preoccupied with life and adulting. A piano teacher might have felt generous and then realized yikes I need money too! Or maybe in their self discovery they’ve realized they give too much of themselves and should be asking in return. You never know. I know you’ve been let down so much in your early years. Try to see the adult portion of your relationships as people just navigating currents and winds of their lives and try not to personalize it, it is not about you or your worth.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:48 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know you’ve been let down so much in your early years. Try to see the adult portion of your relationships as people just navigating currents and winds of their lives and try not to personalize it, it is not about you or your worth.

As a corollary to this, as you are processing the traumas of your childhood, it is important to remember that your parents' inability to parent you was ALSO not about you or your worth.

I certainly can't sit here and tell you that money doesn't help with a lot of things. Of course it does, or I wouldn't currently be working a job that makes me so miserable in order to get more of it. But as Jane the Brown very eloquently describes above, there are many ways to care for yourself that are well within your reach.

Might I suggest that while the fantasy of having wealth and status and pianos once gave you the hope to persist through a hard life, it is no longer serving you--it doesn't give you hope anymore, it just underscores a feeling of lack. So train yourself out of having it. Any time you find your mind drifting to the fantasy of being a child at a piano, you redirect yourself with one of those excellent strategies Jane the Brown listed here.

Then, consciously work to build a new vision for your future. All right, if wealth and fame and status aren't in the cards (they aren't for most of us), then what? Can you envision saving a tiny bit here and there to buy some new, good shoes? Can you envision working toward a raise at your job that would let you afford transport a bit more often, and a group of friends who share your social class and wouldn't dream of treating you badly because you are poor?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:00 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]

In my own life, and in my own complicated and painful relationship with my parents, anger and blame almost always have their roots in deeper feelings of sadness, loss, and fear - they are ways that my brain tries to defend and protect me. I also was taught as a kid that my anger was illegitimate and poisonous, and so as an adult anger often is also a fierce assertion of my autonomy and independence - fuck those people! I'm a grownup now, I and I DESERVE to be mad!

I'm a white lady from the US, and Tara Brach is also a white lady from the US, but her talks and meditations helped me get through years when I couldn't afford therapy. Here is her archive of talks and mediations on anger. She's coming from primarily a Buddhist perspective (and Tibetan at that), but incorporates other spiritual traditions and wisdom from science, social justice, and the arts as well.

A friend who is a PsyD often recommends Kristen Neff's self-compassion exercises on Insight Timer, which has many other talks and meditations available. Since trauma and anxiety are so tightly linked to our bodies, many people find relief in physical/emotional practices of self-touch combined with positive self-talk, like tapping/EFT or havening. Even just naming what I feel in my body has been illuminating: I feel tightness and heat in the pit of my stomach - my throat is tightening - my arms are pulling close to my body. Breathing deeply through these moments, or giving myself loving touch, has been really helpful.

I also believe fundamentally that joy is an act of resistance, and this helps me harness my fuck-you spirit in the pursuit of my own happiness. Sick systems benefit by me feeling unhappy and ashamed for not being beautiful, rich, powerful. Too bad, suckers! Running my hands through my hair or over my skin, enjoying food, laughing at standup comedy, listening to music that moves me, smelling flowers and plant leaves on my walk to the grocery store - finding small ways to be happy is one of my favorite ways of rebelling.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:57 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]

I have not been able to meet people when I cannot afford to go out (transport costs because I live in the middle of nowhere and have no car.

Have you considered moving into the city where there is public transport and living with a bunch of roommates? Since you are so lonely perhaps you would be happier with roommates, and your overall living expenses might go down if you are in a shared household that is closer to everything.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:32 PM on August 4

Response by poster: Short of buying a friend

Due to my persistent issues of not having someone there for me, I actually looked into hiring a medical escort in the past for medical procedures that require a chaperon home afterwards.

Unfortunately, it turned out hiring one costs well over a hundred and I would have to foot cab fare for the two of us in addition. I have enough trouble paying my medical and insurance bills as it is.
posted by whitelotus at 8:38 PM on August 4

hi whitelotus!
i’m guessing some financial stability would at least give you some breathing room to be able to work on the more deep-seated issues (or at least afford regular therapy on a sliding scale). i know we’re in the same country & i’m happy to forward you job listings/open roles for whatever types of jobs you might be open to. also happy to help with resume-reviewing/editing stuff if you want.
and would also be happy to help you work out something re music at a later time.
if any of that sounds helpful feel free to DM me through memail or discord.

there is so much you are capable of, and so much that can be done to make your life better and more joyful. i hope you won’t give up and will be able to see/find avenues open to you, that can lead to something better.
posted by aielen at 1:31 AM on August 6

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