Where Did Our Innocence Go?

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben

Today, my partner and I returned from a weekend in England spent walking the streets of Hastings, eating good food and having long philosophical conversations. One of those conversations was inspired by the EMDR session I had with my therapist on Friday, which brought up the theme of innocence.

If I’d ask you to visualise ‘innocence’, what kind of images would you see in your mind’s eye? Do you see a smiling baby? Small children playing? Perhaps animals going about their business? Or do you see people wrongfully convicted of a crime they never committed? How about groups of people who are vilified through no fault of their own?

Whatever image pops into your mind, I’ll bet you it’s not the image of yourself. Yet, at one point in our lives, I’m sure we would all agree that we were innocent. We possessed innocence.

When did that change? Where did that innocence go?

During the EMDR session, there was a moment I connected to the collective trauma in Belgium of the Dutroux case that broke the news in 1996. For those of you who don’t know about it, several young girls were kidnapped, abused and murdered. They were plucked off the streets, pulled into a van and never seen alive again.

I was 11 when this happened, and I remember it vividly. We were told to be extra careful, not to bike home alone in the dark anymore and never to talk to strange men. We became potential victims. And in my mind, it was our innocence that made us vulnerable.

In the EMDR session, I connected to this feeling of that innocence being the reason the girls were abducted. As if they were being punished for it. All of a sudden, innocence was something dangerous. Something that could get you killed. Something others wanted to take from you by force.

So I decided early on that it was better not to be too innocent. How do you do that? By convincing yourself that there’s something bad about you. You do things that make you feel guilty like you’re not a good child. You hide away that innocent, open and vulnerable part of you so that no one can get to it anymore. And you get pretty good at it. You get so good, that you start to convince yourself that it’s gone.

But you know what? I’m not so sure anymore.

There are good things I do without anyone telling me I have to do them.
There is love in me that no one ever had to put there.
There is an innocence that is perhaps wiser than it was when I was a little child, but it is no less pure and bright.

In prayer, I connected to the innocence within myself by connecting to the innocence around me. In obvious places, such as my children and pets, and in less obvious places (though no less powerful) such as the strangers on the street and the previous versions of myself.

There is still lots of work to do. But there is a spark of light where I didn’t believe there to be one before. That makes me hopeful, and grateful, and if more vulnerable, than also all the more powerful.

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