My Inner Child
This started out as a humorous post. I was going to make fun of my school pictures, which isn’t hard to do, but then I had a change of heart.
You’ll notice that my pictures seem a little “worse for wear” – a metaphor for my life? I was scrapbooking long before it became popular. Maybe I started when I was seven or eight. I don’t remember. I’d glue and tape my pictures into books, only to tire of them, chisel them out and Elmers glue them into a new book. Now that I think about it, something about this activity seems significant…?
“The past is never where you think you left it.” – Katherine Anne Porter
Most of us have heard the term, “Inner Child,” as it relates to mental health therapy. What exactly is an inner child and why is it important that we become acquainted with this little person inside of us? There are different names for the inner child; The Divine Child, The Child Within, The True Self, The Wonder Child, etc.– all good names. The inner child is our childlike aspect, it is collectively all that we learned and experienced and emotionally processed as children, before puberty. As adults, our inner child keeps a low profile, spending time where we store our sub-concious mental, emotional, and physical memories. Our inner child is always with us, though, make no mistake, and comes to our emotional forefront when life gets challenging, when there’s stress, pain or fear.
When our emotional responses feel triggered, over the top, inappropriate, highly charged, magical and, or reflect something other than the adult we believe ourselves to be – then it’s likely that our inner child is making their presence known. During those early years of life we process emotional information with a child’s understanding of the world. We are innocent, uninhibited, teachable, vulnerable, impressionable, loving, and positive, etc. It would be wonderful if we could maintain all of these beautiful parts of our true self, but unfortunately, with age comes more opportunity for negative influences, and it becomes harder over time to stay vulnerable.
“There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” Mary Lou Kownacki
Some theorists have gone as far as to label the inner child; the abandoned self, the playful self, the neglected self, the fearful self, the unbounded self, the discounted self, etc. Other than the, “playful self” none of them sound too great. I just took a quiz on line to see what kind of inner child I had, and based on the five questions, one being, “What’s your favorite Disney movie?” it told me I had an angry
I think most of us know our inner child and need no introduction. We can be perfectly healthy, high functioning adults, but when we return to our family home, spend time with our parents, or get together with the family over the holidays, we turn into our inner child and it becomes noticeable to our spouses, children and friends. For example, if you grew up walking on egg shells around your dad and learned to play the role of soother, you might find your inner child suddenly appears for Thanksgiving with the family. Gone is the high functioning adult you have grown to depend on, and in his or her place is an anxious child looking for love, acceptance and approval.
My inner child believed that love could conquer anything, that hard work, being strong, independent and selfless, were ways to win approval and more importantly, self-approval. This was the recipe for happiness. That’s the messaging I picked up as a child. So, I protected myself with these sub-conscious beliefs, as if they were a suit of armor. I thought if I lived by these principles and beliefs that eventually I’d win the approval of my father, and others, and be loved. Surely, those are all worthwhile things… what’s the worst that could happen?
The worst that could happen would be to find yourself in the same situation as an adult – looking for approval and love only to find out that Love does NOT conquer all, that hard work, strength, independence and being selfless can backfire, and can actually repel, intimidate and anger certain people with the opposite issues. Subscribing to that set of beliefs, only to have them overturned can cause major heartbreak. This is one of many loss issues that I’m currently dealing with.
John Bradshaw wrote a book called, “Reclaiming and Championing your Inner Child.” Basically the title says it all. If you find yourself relating to and identifying with anything I wrote in this post you might consider looking into Bradshaw’s book or finding out more about inner child work. Just having the awareness of your inner child is a great thing. The fact that we have this wonderful little kid inside of us is all the more reason to be kind to ourselves, to love ourselves, and honor that part of us that is divine.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle