As an adult, and therapist, I am constantly reminded to look at my inner child, my beliefs and “truths” that I carry with me from my past, into the present moment. Witnessing my clients evolving, finding the courage to stand up for their inner child, speaking their truths, I am inspired.
We grow up with specific principles and behaviours passed on to us through generations. We learn automatically to incorporate these beliefs and behaviours in our every interaction and tend to view ourselves through this “family lens” most times unquestionably. We take these unspoken “truths” with us and apply them to our relationships, without necessarily accepting the reality that parents are human and they make mistakes like anyone. We struggle to face the parents, to speak plainly and say what it is we are avoiding, how they make us or made us feel, what they expect from us and what we expect from them. Many times fearing that if we speak the truth, then we risk ruining the relationship. Yet these “truths”, are not our definition. We can accept, reject or change them if we wish to.
How do we expect to move forward, to evolve, if we don’t speak our truth? Truth requires risks, courage and our adult self to stand up for the inner child; the child that didn’t have the words and could have grown up feeling "less than", not good enough, lazy, selfish, spoiled brat, too much, too emotional, too difficult to handle, only successful or acknowledged under specific conditions…
We forget that the child will grow up and will develop behaviours that will support these “truths”, as it needs to adapt and survive in its reality. The child can become very vocal or suppress it’s voice; It can become fearless or fearful. Circumstances will usually dictate which way it will go.
How then do I stand up for my inner child? I need to understand my own “truths”, understand where they are coming from and what purpose they serve(d). We all have some statement that comes to mind when we think, what we were told when scolded or dismissed. What was the family culture or “family motto”? How were arguments resolved?
Once I gather more information, I can then examine how these “truths” are affecting my behaviours and decisions today. I can change them if they don’t serve me any longer. However, for this to happen, these “truths” first need to be acknowledged and their impact recognised. The inner child deserves to be listened to and understood, so it can feel safe and start healing.
One exercise I often use in my sessions is letter writing, between the inner adult and inner child. Using my non-dominant hand, I write a letter in the voice of the inner child. Then using my dominant hand, I respond as an adult. This can be a very powerful but challenging exercise, as it invites dialogue between the “child and adult” aspects of ourselves. It can bring up resentments, inner criticism, denial, anger, fear and so many more emotions. Any denial that comes up is useful, and an indication that there is some kind of blockage that stops us from being our authentic selves. If we then approach this with an objective, questioning view, and allow denial and defensiveness to dissipate, we can discover a lot about the inner mechanisms that guide our behaviour.
I ask these questions in my sessions with my clients, and so I was reminded to ask them of myself as well. My inner child deserves to be listened to, and freed of the “truths” that don’t serve us any longer. So with compassion and curiosity I can ask: “What belief do I carry that stops me from being more of me”? Let’s open the dialogue.