A couple of years ago I was doing a self-esteem course. The course had a book with each chapter signifying an area of your life that you need to address. One of the chapters was on your inner child. The book’s author said that if you skipped the entire book and ONLY did that chapter, you would be better off than if you did the entire book and skipped the chapter. That’s how powerful he said it was to integrate your inner child.
Guess what I did? Yep, I said to myself “This is the part that I actually don’t need to do, I have no inner child, so I’m fine”
Fast forward two years later.
After experiencing a year of terrible depression, and battling things inside me I felt like I had no control over, I thought I’d look into that kid thing again.
Soon after the place I was renting was put on the market and I moved house.
I now live with a young boy named Daniel. He has recently turned 5. His mother is my landlady. She is Russian just like me. Only from the opposite end of Russia. I am from European side and she’s from far east. Daniel has a Russian mother and a Korean father, who by the time I am writing this, is out of the picture.
When I first moved in I was concerned about living around a kid. I feel very edgy around kids. Even though they seem to like me, I never could understand them. They scared me. I decided that it’ll do me good to live with a kid. And it did. But it was a tough start.
You see, our ability to interact with children comes from our acceptance and understanding of our own inner child. And I didn’t really do that with mine. So in the first months of living with Daniel I interacted with him as if he was an adult. Because I dissociated my inner child and couldn’t understand how a kid really functions. I couldn’t empathize with the human condition of growing up because I was unwilling to see the kid in myself.
I remember watching Daniel fall in puppy love with me and feeling a mixture of ego flattery and annoyance. The endless bids for attention, from pointless questions to crazy antics to violent outbursts…
Then I realized one night, while watching Daniel, that this human had only been alive for just under 5 years. Only 5 years! And suddenly instead of being annoyed at his emotionally charged behaviours, I began to appreciate that for someone who has only been around for such a short a time, he is undertaking a monumental task of building his psyche, of learning and absorbing every bit of information around him, of making sense of things.
And I began to appreciate that some emotions were so big, almost too big for his little body to handle, that he needed help sorting them out. And that it was unfair to expect him to know how at 5 years old, when I sometimes don’t know at 33 years old.
That made me think about the things I blamed myself for that went as far back as 5 years old (being scared, being selfish, being foolish), the things and events I was unable to face. Why is it hard to face? Because I was blaming someone who doesn’t know any better and by never integrating it, I didn’t give it a chance to be heard and to learn any better.
My inner child and my inner adult were not related and therefore couln’t work together.
It is our job to integrate our inner child. Not our parents’ or caretakers. They have done their bit, as best they could. But the work is not complete, we must finish what they started.
So what’s the cost?
The common myth is that if you aren’t in touch with your inner child, you will be extra adult, serious and mature in your life. And the only cost is that you do not play and have fun.
That is actually untrue. My personal experience and research have indicated that you lose much more.
Unaccepted, suppressed and ignored, the inner child doesn’t go away. Oh no. Have you ever tried to use these tactics with real kids? Do they go away? No, they become a real nightmare instead. Kids are biologically programmed to not tolerate being ignored, because if they are ignored and forgotten by adults, it means neglect and death for them. Your inner child has all the characteristics of a kid.
So instead, your inner child gets pushed underground (into your subconscious) where it festers (becomes naughtier and naughtier), begins to rattle the cage and to affect the show (your life) from behind the scenes (without your awareness).
Your suppressed inner child is all those things in your psyche (irrational irritability, egocentrism, passive aggression, conformism, violent tendencies, lack of emotional boundaries) that run and ruin your life and relationships. And you seemingly don’t have control over them. You didn’t acquire them in your adult life, and thus your adult self cannot uproot and outgrow them. Only the inner child can be raised into an inner adult.
The above awareness comes at a cost, and the cost is…. a fair bit of emotional turmoil of course. For awhile. Because if you have been suppressing the inner kid for years it has turned into an unbearable little monster in an attempt to get attention and be acknowledged. It will throw many many tantrums. But once you begin to address it with compassion and mindfulness (that you have as an adult), you create a continuity in you that includes and transcends the child inside a higher, more evolved, adult consciousness.
The reward is that it allows you to function better as a human, have awareness and control over your conditioned or lesser impulses, and it allows you to have more empathy for others (especially kids) who are still in the grips of the childhood growth process.
When working with children, it is essential to acknowledge your own and their emotions and thoughts without judgement (only actions can be controlled, emotions and thoughts are to be simply mindfully experienced). This gives them a great example of how to begin to raise their inner child and grow up into integrated humans.
I was annoyed before but now I’m eternally grateful to little Daniel. He’s been one of my best teachers.