Jul 14

“Containing” Carrie

One of the issues for children who have experienced abuse or neglect is an inability to process their interior emotional world in a healthy way. Regularly, this inner turmoil results in unsafe behaviors—including self-harm and physical aggression towards those with whom they truly desire to experience deep connection. Until those out of control emotions are contained through appropriate interventions, a vicious cycle repeats itself: acting out, self-shaming for hurting others they deeply love, a reinforcement of negative self-talk, and acting out again.

Containment allows the child to slow down, regaining an ability for rational thought. Until this happens, she will be caught in an instinctual fight or flight emotional state. The physical acting out, the obvious “symptoms,” only tell part of the story. You see, the need for containment extends to thoughts and emotional life being processed in the minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour existence of child. Deep emotional wounds skew the internal conversation a child has, affecting every interaction that child has with peers, family, and other adults. There is significant spiritual, relational, and emotional healing that is needed for these children to change their internal conversation. They need to transition from self talk that tears them down to an internal conversation that builds them up, enables them, and brings them the healing they so long for.

Carrie was a child that struggled with needing this sort of emotional containment. She needed a set of boundaries determined by care givers that would provide a safe basis for working through the relational dysfunction that brought her to Intermountain in the first place. To illustrate her need, I want to share with you an excerpt from a five page hand-written letter I received from her during her time with us in Residential care:

“Dear Chris, I am sorry for not doing what I am supposed to do. I am just sad, mad, happy, scared, worried, jealous, disappointed, hurt, nervous, confused, upset, surprised, serious, lonely, hopeless, happiness, faithful, spirituality, anxiety, fear, trustless, trustful, hopeful, content, peaceful, joyful, rage, angry, blue, missed, love, trust, helpless, helpful. The reason I am mad is because my mom did not do what she is supposed to do… the reason I am scared is because I am probably not going to go home. The reason I am worried is because my mom is probably not ever going to change, the reason I am jealous is because I will never be special…”

This goes on and on for another four and one half pages! Can you feel the hurt, confusion, and deep longing in these words? All we could do was affirm to Carrie how much God loves her and how incredibly special she is to him. Hopefully, we were able to give her the skills that will allow her to calm those inner voices enough to hear the whisper of her Creator… “Carrie, you are mine. You are wonderful and precious in my sight. You don’t need to compete with others for my attention or my favor. I love you. I LOVE YOU. I always have, and I always will.”

Will you join me in continuing to pray for Carrie? There are often times when we feel wholly inadequate to meet the tremendous needs of the children in our care. We do our best to give them our best, but ultimately each “Carrie” we work with needs a miracle. It just may be your advocacy before God on the part of Carrie that brings her that loving containment that she needs.