Try this exercise:
Imagine yourself as a small child, maybe 4 or 5, back at a time when you were still completely innocent. See the child standing in front of you looking up at you with big, curious eyes. The child is smiling, happy and carefree. Blameless.
This is your inner child.
Take the child’s hand.
Now, imagine that your parents are calmly standing opposite you. They are gently smiling.
You tell them, “I am leaving you now. I thank you for raising me, and forgive you for any mistakes you made, because I know they were made on you.”
“But I must go now,” you say, “I can no longer live your life for you.”
Hand in hand with your inner child you begin walking away. You turn back to see your parents smiling and waving goodbye. Farther and farther you walk till they begin to disappear in the distance. You turn a corner and they are gone.
You pick up your inner child, hold him close, and say, “You are safe. I love you, and I accept you exactly as you are. I am here with you now, and always will be.”
You then place the child in your heart and that is where he lives.
You are now the parent to your inner child.
I look at it like this: When you become an adult, your parents are no longer your “parents”. Instead, they are people to whom you show polite respect and appreciation for raising you. Even if they made mistakes, you forgive them because you know that their mistakes were based upon the mistakes their parents made with them. (In a way you are THEIR parent, accepting them as they are, even though they may be unable to do that for you. You don’t try to change them, just as you would have them not try to change you. You treat them with kind patience.)
Everyone has an inner child, and the question is: How do you treat yours?
It is up to you to monitor how you treat your inner child. If you are cruel to that child you are being a bad parent. If you neglect that child you are being a lazy parent.
Let me give you an example of being a bad parent to your inner child.
Often a person’s inner child will hold onto a past hurt. For instance, if you were an overweight child, you may have been teased at school by the other children. If so, your inner child might still hear those voices teasing him, calling him “fat”, “lazy” or “no good”. But those children who teased him are gone.
So whose negative voice is it that the child hears? It’s yours.
You are abusing your inner child just as those kids did so long ago. Those kids may have given you the ball but you are the one who is still holding it.
Why not show your inner child the love and acceptance that he should have been shown in the first place? You can create a new reality for your inner child, thereby healing a past wound.
When you see a person who is still reacting to a wound in their past, it’s as if their inner child is not in the safe company of an adult. Although that child lives in the heart of the adult, if the adult is unaware of the child, and isn’t tending to the child’s needs, that child may as well be all alone.
One of my students, a very fine actress, was having some difficulty with a sitcom scene. I had noticed she had no problem with dramatic scenes as long as the scene only called for her to be subtle and self-contained. But when a scene demanded that she make bigger choices, with higher stakes, she wasn’t able to connect with it. She admitted that she felt resistant and uncomfortable with a broader, more high-energy scene.
I asked her what this feeling of hesitancy reminded her of from her past.
She explained that she had grown up surrounded by many siblings. So many, in fact, that she had felt she had to be small and self-contained.
So even though she was now an adult and free in the world, inside her heart was her inner child, still living by the old rules she had learned in the past. Although the conditions of her youth were gone, she had not yet given her inner child the permission to live life differently.
I explained to her that it was not fair for a child to be so confined. A child should have all the room to play that her heart desires.
I asked her to imagine her inner child cramped and surrounded on all sides. I then told her that she should lead her inner child to a secret door. That when her inner child walked through that door, it opened up to a beautiful farm on acres of land. I asked her to envision her inner child skipping through a field of flowers, spinning, throwing her head back and laughing uncontrollably.
She was deeply moved by this image. Seeing her inner child so carefree actually healed this past wound.
Like Dorothy, in her red slippers, she had the power to accomplish this all along. She finally chose to use it. And her acting freed up immediately.
Be a good parent to your inner child. Listen to his needs, and treat him the way you wish you had been treated, with love and complete acceptance.
You can learn more about this subject in John Bradshaw’s book, “Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child”.