DON'T LOSE SIGHT OF YOUR INNER CHILD
Dee Chadwick
06 Feb 2022
I feel it is important to accept the fact that we, each and every one of us, possesses our own inner child. We must have one – it’s listed in Wikipedia! - “The inner child is our child-like aspect. It includes all that we learned and experienced as children before puberty. The inner child denotes a semi-independent subordinate to the waking conscious mind.”

HOW I SEE MY INNER CHILD

I have always imagined my inner child as being snuggled deep inside me as a part of my subconscious mind – from there to surface to bite me on the backside, share my tears or to make me giggle. I am lucky, I have a comfortable relationship with my inner/mini me. In fact, I have been known to chat with her when I need a second opinion. I see nothing wrong with this, so long as it doesn’t become something that takes place on a daily/hourly basis!

We have a chat on would have been my Mum and Dad’s birthdays. Mum died at the age of 62 – a quiet, gentle, caring, lady who loved her family above all else. This year she would have been 106 and I often wonder what she would make of this world of ours – and of me! There is only me to care – but wait, no, there is my inner child too.  Who better to understand my feelings? I will pick Lily of the Valley flowers from my garden (the original stock having come from my Mum and Dad’s garden many years ago) – her favourite flowers. Never one for grand gestures, I am sure my Mum would have approved of this simple one. I and my inner child will. My inner child and I share the bond of having had so many of our attitudes, our ways of being gently shaped by Mum and Dad.

We remember the smell of her perfume, the smell of the mint sauce on those lamb chops. The look of her smile as she made every effort to support me through revising for my exams; many of the technical words not coming easily to her. The sound of my Dad knocking on the tiny pantry window as he came through the ginnel (a Lancashire word for passage) on his way to the back door – and home.  The feel of those gentle hugs always there for me at any time of need. I was lucky – and I am lucky to have my inner child remind me of this.

There have been times when my naughty inner child has surfaced (though I do tell anyone willing to listen that I was a good girl!) – kicking up the crispy leaves in Autumn; being totally unable to walk on iced over puddles, rather crunching the ice and watching the patterns formed in the cracks; making snow angels in the middle of my lawn with nobody but us to see. Simply letting my hair down and giggling. I may be getting on in years, but together we intend to make every effort to keep me from getting old in my ways and ways of thinking.

OTHERS’ RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEIR INNER CHILD

Sadly, not all people are as lucky as I am in my relationship with my inner child. Not all inner children store happy memories of carefree days.  Too many carry hidden and buried memories of abuse that happened to them as a child.  Memories that they endeavor to keep well buried, but which do sometimes emerge unexpectedly and catch them unawares with things they would much prefer NOT to remember.

Our inner child will remember the hurt caused by bullies – at school, at home, wherever. Will remember the tears shed in private in order to not add to the sense of dominance sought by the bully. Will remember the feeling of being excluded from parties, from being bottom of the list when choosing of teams took place. Will remember returning to an empty house when a hug, a listening ear were very much needed. Will remember the sarcastic comment thrown out by a teacher which added to the feeling of failure already being experienced due to a page seemingly covered with red crosses. Will remember being lied to – about presents to be, outings to be that never came to fruition. Will remember the abuse – be it physical, emotional, financial, sexual - and that it seemingly never ended. Feelings of hurt, being ignored, being shut out, being abused and misused, being made to feel so totally worthless remain for far too many.

As a counsellor, I have worked with many such people but now, their choice is always their own. Whether to peel or not to peel back the layers of the onion to talk with and about their inner child. Why an onion – simple – what happens when you peel an onion? Yes, there are tears, and you can almost guarantee that there will be – often lots of them – when doing such inner child work with clients. Telling of things that have been kept secret for many years. Maybe deeply buried even more deeply a second time around when they plucked up the courage to tell an adult they felt that they could trust. Only to not be listened to. Taking those steps in order to move forward to accept that it wasn’t their fault and to grieve for that childhood lost are huge, giant steps only taken when the time is right for them. Steps towards understanding and acceptance for both the adult and that inner child.

Some clients choose not to uncover these memories..

They may decide that it is not for them at this moment in time, and will work with other issues. But later, maybe when trust has been developed, they come to their own understanding that they need to liaise with their inner child, to talk through and round what happened all those years ago and even dare to touch on how it made them feel – both then and now.   Some will peel off one or two layers of that onion, then take a break until they feel ready to begin anew to talk about and accept the wounded child inside and what they had been through. Not an easy task when looking at what happened through adult eyes that see just how very wrong the abuse had been in so very many ways.

A LACK OF CONNECTION OR UNDERSTANDING?

One thing is sure – for good or bad, we were all children once. For many, non-acceptance of the fact that they have an inner child and a total disconnection with him/her can lead to problems. There may be a hurting child inside. Some of our behaviours may reflect this such as when impulsive or self-destructive behavior presents as a childlike way of handling adult problems. I well remember witnessing a teacher in a staff room throwing what I can only describe as a hissy fit. She stood there, shouting her disagreement and literally stamping her feet.  Little miss temper tantrum had well and truly emerged. Some of us may also exhibit childlike tendencies such as neediness or dependency issues, with a fear of being abandoned. Infant-like, young child –like traits not usually expected in adults? Is it that inner child expressing its feelings of not being heard, feeling ignored maybe, so it has taken over the role of expressing these feelings in the child-like way. Maybe you experience your inner child taking over if they don’t feel safe –do you feel afraid of the dark, of going to certain places, doing certain things? That inner child is probably recalling past experiences of similar happenings when they didn’t feel safe. Your current feelings of anxiety remind you that your inner-child can still have a say in how you run the show!

MAYBE CONSIDER MINDFULNESS

Connecting with our inner child can help to resolve some of these issues. A lack of connection can lead to a situation only been seen through your adult eyes whilst your inner child’s view remains separate with a lack of awareness of how life is very different for you now. In therapy, so many blame themselves for past abuse, saying that it must have been their fault. This view being taken very much from adult eyes rather than those of the smaller, more vulnerable, less worldly –wise eyes of that child. 

I believe that one way of helping with this is through a ‘way of being’ becoming ever more popular – Mindfulness. By using the awareness encouraged in Mindfulness, we allow ourselves to cue in to our child-like appreciation of all things great and small around us rather than (in a more ‘usual’ adult way) rushing headlong through every minute of every day, never taking the time to smell the roses along the way.

Mindfulness could be the beginning of you nurturing your inner child and developing a supportive and nurturing two-way relationship where they will be your ally and you theirs. Hold out your hand to your inner child.

DO NOT FORGET-

So many of your values and principles are grounded in your early years’ experiences, environments, examples set. Certainly, for me, a need to nurture, to care, to show compassion to others and to nature come from my parents. Like them, I have not sought wealth; rather, my needs reflect those met by my parents during my childhood – a warm and welcoming home, good food and a comfy bed all earned through hard work – another value shown by my parents. OK, I rejected some aspects and tweaked others with parental religious beliefs, important to them, having been replaced for me by a spirituality.

I admit that there are times when my inner child does show her upper hand very clearly. I recently had to go to hospital for a procedure. I admit that I, or should I say we, so longed for a hug – a long, comfortable hug just like the ones I used to get from my Mum. At other times of stress, away from hospital settings where I just might have got funny looks if I strutted my stuff in fluffy dressing gown and slippers, I and my inner child join hands and remember the following saying as we ….

“Dance like no one is watching, 

Love like you’ve never been hurt; 

Sing like no one is listening,

And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

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