We all have an inner child; a little girl or boy inside. This is our vulnerable and loving self that we are born with. In our society, it is part of the process of growing up that our power selves, like the successful self, the intellectual self, the controlling self, the angry self, the perfectionist self, the pleaser self and so on, protect the inner child from becoming a victim. During this necessary process, the inner child gets buried and we can lose our ability to experience intimacy. If we over identify with one or more of those power selves, we might find it difficult to be authentic and vulnerable with others, or to let somebody be close.
When we speak of the Inner Child, what we really mean is a “group of children”. There is the playful child, the scared child, the shy child and other aspects of our child. The core child is often very young. Sometimes my clients are surprised that their inner child does not literally talk to them. That core child might be pre-verbal. However, being with it still allows us to find out what our inner child feels and needs.
One way of connecting with our inner child is to allow ourselves to be in a being state as opposed to a doing state. When we over-identify with the doer, who constantly has to be productive and do something, we drown out the voice of the inner child. Another way of connecting with it is to engage in childlike activities. Play without aim or purpose, just for the fun of it. What can help us to bring that playful side of the inner child out is to play with little children or pets in our life. It is never too late to connect with and to free that inner child, no matter how old we are.
Dreams often bring up our disowned selves. When you dream of a baby or young child, whether it is a child in your life that you know or an unknown one, it might very well represent your own inner child. The dream can give you a message about how he or she feels.
Inner child work is not about allowing that inner child part inside to run the show; on the contrary. When we ignore the feelings of that child part in us, it is likely to “jump into the driver’s seat” and take over because it is scared or angry and does not trust that his or her needs are being taken care of.
Don’t become a slave to your inner child, just like you would not allow a real child to run your life. Honour it’s fears and find compromises. The child inside knows what and who is safe. Listen to that voice. Also learn to express hurt. Communicating how your inner child feels is a big part of parenting it. Stay out of toxic situations. Often the need of the inner child is to have enough good food and rest. Inner children also feel safer with some financial stability and independence from others, and more predictable life circumstances.
It is the job of the Aware Ego to parent the Inner Child. If we do not do that for that part in us, a power self will take over and parent the inner child, for example the pusher or pleaser. What also happens in that case is that the child which is not parented lovingly by the Aware Ego, bonds into other people. That bond is unconscious and often desperate or clingy. When you parent yourself with loving care, you are able to have healthier relationships.
Another benefit of connecting with the inner child is that we regain the ability to be intimate and on a soul level closely connected with others. Our inner child is our vulnerability and sensitivity. Hal and Sidra Stone also call it the “doorway to our soul”. Its sensitivity is so great that the Stones say it is “without skin”. It can and does tune into other people, has great empathy and knows what is going on beyond the words somebody speaks. Our inner child sees with the heart.
Sometimes when clients do the inner child work, they expect the inner child to grow up and lose its sensitivity. This part inside never grows up and always maintains the great ability for sensitivity. Inner Child work is not about getting rid of our vulnerability and sensitivity. It is the greatest gift we have. From that part, we nurture and we are able to receive intimate nourishment.
In the book “Le Petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the fox explains to the Little Prince, who himself is a beautiful representation of a childlike personality, what it means to be connected to one’s sensitivity.
“Voici mon secret. Il est très simple:
On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur.
L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”
“Here is my secret, a very simple secret:
It is only with the heart that one can see clearly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.”