|My inner child loved teddy bears. And bottles.|
Many spiritual leaders talk about embracing your inner child. I first came across this concept years ago in NYC when I was reading the book, Anger, by Thich Nhat Hanh. Images came to my mind as I visualized my inner child. What she needed, how I could support her, and how I could heal through this work. Over the years, my inner child and I became fast friends and she went from a lost child to a laughing little sprite. I embraced my inner child so much she actually grew up, and I became stronger through the process.
In working with clients now, I find that the inner child often appears spontaneously in sessions. I love when I see that inner child. It means we're getting to the root of an issue and this is a special time for healing in the session. What that child needs depends on the client. Acknowledgment, safety, comfort, love. There's always love. After all what child doesn't need that? What living being doesn't need that?
And yet I've noticed that with inner child work, there also often comes a feeling of conflict within the adult. If an inner child has wounds, it's a sign that the parents somehow did something wrong. For some clients, this goes without saying. For others, this is much more difficult to deal with. How do we meld our love for our parents with an acknowledgment that they in some way failed us?
Even those of us with picture perfect childhoods have a wounded inner child within us. As children, we are without filters, without shields, without boundaries. As we grow, we learn to put up these boundaries to protect ourselves. But imagine a newborn baby crying or a two year old laughing. When we are new in this world, we don't think about protecting ourselves because it doesn't yet occur to us that there is anything to be protected from. Our every feeling is out there for the world to witness. And because we have nothing to filter all the information we're getting, everything comes in stronger. The slightest sense of disappointment from a parent feels like our world is ending. Have you ever seen a baby break down in tears at being told NO? Their lips turn down, their eyes crumple and fill with tears, and they look utterly lost and forlorn. It's enough to break your heart.
But this is all part of growing up. Part of developing boundaries and learning how to protect oneself. The wounded inner child may simply need healing from a careless remark from a parent. That remark may not even be a memory for the parent, but may have been thrown into that child's world with the sharp accuracy of a dagger. Not because it was cruel or wrong but simply because the child is without any filters.
There are no perfect parents and there are no woundless adults. There are parents who love their children and teach them how to grow in the only way they know how. Unfortunately some don't do this so well. Some are downright awful at it, and I'm not in any way excusing them, as I know that many of my clients have also had to deal with truly painful situations. But most parents do their best and I know many who want only to protect their children from hurt and pain. But each parent carries his or her own wounded inner child, and each child will grow up with wounds that will someday need healing.
This is life and this is okay.
Embracing your inner child does not mean denying the good your parents have done. It simply means loving yourself, acknowledging your pain, embracing those places in you that have been hurt, and bringing back a sense of that time when shields didn't exist. With that love for oneself in place, you can then look at the world from a safer place. A place where there are boundaries that let people in and out, filters that mute harsh words. A place where you can embrace your inner child and your parents at the same time.
|Actually a picture of my sister and my mom, not me :)|