by Erin Freeman
It took about twenty years before I figured out how to comfort myself. I never really had to do it as a child; whenever something bad happened I had a parent around to talk me through it, bundle me up in a blanket and watch a movie with me.
As I grew older, the ‘bad things’ became abstracted. Scraped knees and arguments on the playground were replaced by fears and sadness without a concrete source, and I was too confused by these new feelings to feel like I could go to my parents for help. I thought I was too old for “Babe” anyways. These complex emotions coupled with my inability to get rid of them made me feel childish and lonely, so I responded by seeking comfort from things that I associated with maturity and companionship.
I spent years reacting to surges of sadness or anxiety by frantically searching for someone to distract me from them, but I finally realized that forcing myself to look happy around other people only emphasized the feelings I was trying to escape. I needed to soothe these feelings independently, and I realized that I already knew how to do it.
Whenever I experience emotions that are too overwhelming to process I treat myself like a child. Depending on the circumstances I might build a blanket fort, bring out the gummy bears and pop in A “Goofy Movie,” or whatever else the scared little kid in me wants. I make sure that I eat and drink enough water, and only think things about myself that would be okay to say to a little kid.
My feelings growing more complicated wasn’t a sign of childishness, but was actually the maturation of my emotional range. Seeking comfort in things that I perceived as mature only made me feel smaller, but comforting myself as if I’m still a child has given me the strength and independence that I was truly looking for. Watching “Babe” when I’m sad doesn’t make me a child; it makes me a powerful adult.