“We can't live a healthy, happy life if our relationships are not healthy. It really is that simple.”
I do love that quote and – I couldn't agree more!
It is no coincidence that my intuition has drawn me to this episode like a magnet. I remember vividly when I received one of my first ever readings about 8 years ago, and literally in the first few sentences we were guided to the topic of (romantic) relationships straight away.
When I started writing, I suddenly was thinking about the following analogy: if we look at our life as a beautiful mosaic, then there is usually one part that stands out from the rest. It seems to be more colorful, more interesting and it might even be bigger than the other motifs, and it is responsible for creating this feeling of harmony when you look at whole composition of the artwork. In an inexplicable way, it often is a masterpiece in itself. For me, this particular part is the area of relationships, and especially the meaningful ties you share with loved ones. These might be cherished friends from your (global) network, or your life partners, or your children and other members of the family that you have created.
Also, when you ask elderly people at the end of their experience on this earthly plane which memories they treasure most, it is usually not about their successful careers, their accumulated wealth or power, but the moments they spent time in company and how they felt in these moments. They cherish the times when they felt truly nurtured by their relationships, when they felt deeply appreciated and loved, in short, when they felt happy and fulfilled.
And here we are already – right in the middle of this incredibly important topic of relationships that lies at the heart of a truly personal and very enlightening conversation between Steve and relationship coach, somatic therapist and breathwork facilitator Quentin Decamp. After experiencing some trauma during his own childhood and experiencing a spiritual awakening, Quentin set out to demystify the underlying, and often unconscious dynamics between childhood trauma, unhealthy relationship patterns, and how they still might act out and influence our ability to bond today. In this interview, he is showing us how to heal our wounded inner child, to make peace with the past and to open up new spaces to experience healthy relationships.
If the topic of relationships has been as challenging for you as it has been for me, if you might as well have taken diverse approaches to heal your inner child, but are not quite there yet, let´s get the good news out there first: there IS hope and healing IS possible!
According to Quentin, he is living proof that dysfunctional relationship programming can be healed, and that the quality of our relationships in the past – or, more precisely, the relationship patterns we learnt during our upbringing – do not have to equal the quality of your relationships in the future. That truly is good news, isn´t it? 😊 Quentin is convinced that any childhood trauma can be overcome, any childhood wound can be healed, and even heavily traumatized human beings are able to enter into a committed, conscious relationship. Yet, you might have guessed already, that this comes at a price – it is the willingness to do the inner work. I guess, most of us know that one, but I can tell from my own, longstanding experience that it is really worth the effort😊.
So, are you ready to explore Quentin´s approach? Then, let me provide you with some context:
It might not be too surprising that there is one category of relationships that is surely one of the most meaningful, if not THE most meaningful of all for our personal fulfillment in life – at least up to the point that we get conscious about the underlying dynamics and how we can change them. These are the relationships that we form as children with our parents, grandparents or other caregivers from our birth family or family of origin, whose quality is determined by how they interact(ed) with each other and with us. And let me emphasize why this is so crucially important: because our family relationships are the first model for us as children to observe how relationships work, what behavioral standards to expect from others, what healthy boundaries to draw, if and when we can trust another person, in short, what love and appreciation looks and feels like.
Did you know, for example, that until toddlers are about 7 years old, their brains record everything they see, hear and feel – like a non-stop tape –, and what they experience during this period sets the frame for what they unconsciously perceive as truth with regard to relationships, for example, if they feel lovable at all, how relationships work in general, what masculinity and femininity stand for and what roles they execute inside a partnership.
Wow! Let that sink in, please! In a recent coaching training I was provided with the following image that I like a lot: we incarnate as empty “vessels” so to speak, and just by sitting on the carpet as toddlers and by being around our caregivers, by observing their behavior and listening to their words, we are loading their (unconscious) limiting beliefs into our own consciousness. Thus, there is really no way how we as children could possibly avoid that.
Alright! Let me repeat that again: as children we need to adapt to the given circumstances until we get to a certain age as our survival depends on it. And here comes the confusing thing – what we experience sets the feeling tone for the quality of our future relationships. No matter if we observed a high quality of relationships or a low quality of the relationships displayed to us, it does not matter. We will repeat the patterns we learnt in any case because our subconscious is modeling what we know and what feels familiar to us! By observing and experiencing a certain way of behavior during our upbringing, it has become our default standard for what love, appreciation, or friendship looks like. And even though I have been aware of these dynamics before, Quentin just framed them in a new way that really struck me.
This means three things to me: first, we can easily let go of any guilt or shame that we have loaded on our shoulders in the past as our relationships might not have been working out the way we felt they should have been; second, we need to become aware of that limited, inner programming and change it on the inside before we can see results on the outside; third, if you are a parent and you have not been aware of this fact before – I am thrilled that you are here in this space today because, now, you ARE aware of it, and you can use this knowledge to the best of your ability to influence your childrens´ (relationship) belief structure in a positive way. Isn´t that wonderful? 😊
Talking about positive ways to heal, it is interesting to see which road Quentin does pursue to guide his clients towards lasting change. Looking at his own healing journey, Quentin admits that the path to healing is usually not linear, but “often messy and unclear”, which is why he provides guidance how to find the idiosyncratic combination of healing modalities that works best for each individual.
Quentin is a strong advocate of the following three cornerstones: (1) to develop awareness of your own limited programming and beliefs, (2) to undergo breathwork as an “absolute must” to help you “release the trauma out of your cells, tissues, and muscles”, and (3) to do wounded inner child work.
Now, this was also new to me. I could experience myself that breathwork can really change your state quite rapidly while the oxygen is flooding your organism. However, I was not aware of its relevance to heal trauma, and to let go of the energetic and emotional patterns that are associated with that trauma by clearing it out of your cells, while Quentin is holding space for his clients. (In case that you want to dig deeper on breathwork, Quentin distinguishes between somatic breathwork, and rejuvenating breathwork for trauma work, and soothing breathwork to regulate your nervous system.)
Yet, for me, inner child work is the most fascinating one. I have experienced it firsthand that past, unhealed trauma can get triggered, e. g. through challenging relationships at work. By unconsciously moving into the startled state of a child, it became impossible for me to react in a grown up and appropriate way in the professional context, which was neither pleasant nor favorable. In that moment, my little girl was at work, and not the grown up woman.
Yet, what is your inner child and how does it get wounded in the first place?
Quentin describes the inner child as “these fragmented parts of ourselves that are frozen in time, frozen by the emotion we felt in the past, who have not grown up, and continue to attract what is familiar, which is the abuse we have received in our past at any age, and that has become our own self abandonment. We will abandon ourselves the way we felt abandoned by our parents. And that activates all the inner child wounds.”
Now, this was mind-blowingly profound for me because what Quentin is saying here is that we keep attracting the vibration – and therefore the circumstances and events – that we carry inside of us, unless we heal and change it, e. g. by doing regular guided breathwork sessions.
Let me provide you with one of Quentin´s examples to illustrate this a bit better: if we got told frequently as children that we are “a bad boy” or “a bad girl,” we developed a feeling that something is wrong with us caused by these statements, and with it a sense of shame was created inside of us. When this happens, we become addicted to the chemical cocktail of shame, or in other words, we literally get wired to the negative emotion of shame. Intriguingly, the vibration inside of us can still be active to this day and will continue to attract people into our lives who will either shame ourselves, or with whom we will find a way to shame ourselves – unless we address it, do the inner work and change it. So, we keep repeating the same pattern over again, or attracting the same category of people into our life over again!
This provided me with another light bulb moment: Did you ever ask yourself why you tend to attract or choose a particular type of partner (like a partner with an anxious, or an avoidant attachment style) over and over again? Well, I did! Did it keep happening to you that no matter how different your next partner seemed to be from your previous one, you would realize pretty soon that he or she exhibits exactly the same dysfunctional attachment patterns that led to the dissolution of your last relationship? The reason for that can most probably be found in your inner child wounds.
Let´s just think about two scenarios. First, we assume that you spent a charming childhood without (serious) trauma. That is, your parents displayed healthy relationship patterns towards each other and the kids, they encouraged you to try new things, learn, grow, and if you failed or made a mistake, they always had your back. In short, you felt loved and appreciated. Consequently, there is a fair chance that you developed a sound self-esteem as a child, and that you are now able to trust other humans and open your heart to true love on eye level. Presumably, you would have also developed faith in your skills and abilities, felt empowered to master your own destiny, and create your career and life according to your own aspirations, dreams and goals. There will be setbacks, of course – Steve sometimes stresses in conversations we both have that, “nobody lives in a utopia”, but at the same time your house of life will be built on solid foundations, and it will take a lot to tear it down.
However, the pendulum can as well swing to the other side if your upbringing felt very different. Just imagine that your parents or caregivers exemplified dysfunctional relationship patterns, for example, avoidant, anxious, or even narcissistic tendencies, towards you as a child or towards each other – not because they are bad people, but because they did not know better. So, if there was a lot of drama in your home, if you felt unsafe, like constantly walking on a minefield, if you did not feel loved and appreciated, but made fun of, if you might even have been abused verbally, emotionally or physically, if you might even have been fighting for survival, you surely won´t have develop all of the above mentioned, positive traits during your childhood. Consequently, you are carrying this vibration of not feeling worthy, or loveable, or capable of reaching your goals, and you will keep attracting unhelpful events or people into your life – until you become aware of it and change your limited programming!
And how can wounded inner child healing happen?
As Quentin explains, basically by doing somatic work, that is, first guiding the client to remember the traumatic situation and realize what kind of feeling was created in this moment (like guilt, shame, anger, or the fear of loss, betrayal, and abandonment); second, discharging the painful emotion through breathwork from the body and completing the traumatic loop; third, changing the energy field of the person and the old beliefs, so that she or he won´t carry the vibration of guilt, shame, or fear anymore. Thus, from this point, the client will stop attracting people that would recreate the same experience. Wow! This really does sound amazing!
Now, what else did I learn from this episode? There have been so many highlights that it feels challenging for me to choose among them. Let me provide you with one more example that I find particularly interesting as it addresses attachment patterns – something I had little knowledge about before listening to this episode.
Quentin described that his family life at a very young age was very chaotic. He explained if that happens and someone would shame you or blame you, if your parents were yelling at each other and you could not feel safe, or if your emotions were not welcomed and you were told to stop crying, or if you were experiencing repression, or physical or verbal abuse, then you will fear to experience these feelings again in your relationships. So, you are subconsciously programmed through an abundance of negative emotions.
Consequently, you will either develop an anxious attachment style, which needs constant reassurance to counter the fear of abandonment, or an avoidant attachment style, which carries the fear of being seen, punished or attacked; the latter mean that you ready to leave as soon as there are signs that the partner articulates his or her needs or is (seemingly) demanding too much of you.
According to Quentin´s rationale, many of us carry the fear of commitment as an underlying narrative. As a woman living in the city of Berlin for the last 15 years that also has a reputation as the capital of single people in Germany, it felt to me that men have more difficulties in committing to one woman than vice versa. Yet, referring to Quentin this is not the case. Intriguingly, the reason behind the unwillingness to commit to a single partner can also be found in childhood trauma. The moment when we experience trauma, our limited programming is created and it will result in unconscious needs, like abandonment, rejection, humiliation or betrayal. Then, “these unconscious needs are replacing the basic needs that we have as human being. We need to be understood, seen, heard, loved, respected, nourished, emotionally and physically.”
So, this insight was another huge eye opener for me! Thus, unconscious programming through childhood trauma is mostly the reason why men and women are not daring enough to commit truly to another person. As Quentin puts it, “we can become addicted to painful emotions. […] We believe that we fear the commitment of intimacy, but we fear what happens inside the relationship. We fear to be shamed, blamed, abandoned, humiliated or rejected, how we felt in the past.” So, basically, we are afraid to relive and repeat the humiliating and frightening situations that occurred during our childhood with our partners today, which is why we practice what Quentin calls an “avoidant attachment style”, and we disguise our commitment phobia as the need to experience freedom.
So, how could I possible wrap up this episode? It feels like there is still so much to be shared. Well, maybe we can close with a very special passage of Quentin´s answer to Better Place Project´s signature question how we can make the world a better place. I deeply feel that Quentin´s answer is key for all of us, and particularly for those who are raising kids:
“First, heal yourself! […] The children will copy everything about you. They will absorb the energies you have, they will model what you say and they will make you accountable for the words you don´t respect, or the thing you told them not to do, that you do. They notice all of that. Who needs to learn now? Thank them for the opportunity to remind you that you need healing yourself. […]
The father is the child´s first hero, and the mother is the child´s first love. It is very important that we can pass down our wisdom and not our trauma. […] You can always find a way to free yourself from your suffering and come back to love.”
Our children are our future, and the most important thing you can give to your children – and also to yourself – is your love via healthy relationships. As always, a better world starts with us, with our own healing, and the inner work that we do, so we will share our wisdom, and not our trauma, so that our children will be able to break the cycle, and won´t have to repeat history. They will have a chance to enjoy fulfilling relationships when they grow up, and a happy, healthy, successful life. In my view, no effort should be too big to raise our children to become self-loving, appreciative, and happy adults, and at present time we hold all the necessary tools in our hands.
What this world needs is a return to love. And again – I couldn´t agree more.
Petra Nikol is a Berlin-based writer and coach with a background in management science. One of her greatest passions is to uplift readers and listeners around the globe by spreading positive vibes. Petra loves dancing, travelling and any kind of adventure, yet her most favorite pastime is to connect with kind souls from all over the planet to learn, grow and heal together.