Do you ever feel like a child? Do you ever want to just throw yourself on the floor and kick and scream? Do you ever want to start bawling when someone hurts you? Do you ever want to yell “go away!” in your most child like voice?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are identifying your inner child.
Your inner child comes from your childhood. It is the part of you that was traumatized, hurt, told to stop crying, etc. It doesn’t have to have been a major trauma, just some time when you didn’t get your needs met or your emotions validated. When you went through these situations as a child, you weren’t able to grow up emotionally. Therefore that child part of you gets stuck there. So when you face a situation that brings up similar feelings (i.e. you get triggered), that child part of you is the one to respond.
Therefore, each of us has a child part and an adult part. You probably wish you were in the adult part 100% of the time and could just get rid of the crying, sniveling child part of you. Please don’t. All you will accomplish is to invalidate yourself and will need to continue using food to stuff those feelings down.
Your critical voice is the adult part of you being mean and critical toward that child part. It is no different than when your parents criticized you (even out of love). To a child, it feels really bad and is the same as saying to a child “you are bad and wrong and what you are feeling needs to stop.” This is no way to get a child to behave and neither does it work for you when you talk to yourself (your child part) this way.
A smaller part of the adult voice is the nurturing side. This is the voice that says “it is okay to feel that / it is okay to eat ice cream / it is okay to want to rest / etc.” It is likely that your critical voice is much bigger and therefore much louder than this accepting nurturing voice. Therefore, the goal is to increase the nurturing which will decrease the critical. Doing so creates acceptance and kindness toward the child part of you – the part that feels all that shame for being who she is.
The holidays can be a very difficult time of year for many. Even if it isn’t difficult for you, you may just not love it the way you used to. One reason for this is that the holidays as well as spending time with family can trigger a lot of old feelings. This is the equivalent of the child part of you having all the same feelings she had as a child. After all, that is where she came from.
So you could go through your holidays beating her up for being afraid, sad, mad, and ashamed. Yet, these are all natural feelings to have and are likely to intensify when around your family or around the holidays. It’s normal. To criticize the child part of you for having them will likely leave you feeling worse about the holidays, your family, and yourself.
Instead, try something new. Be nurturing and understanding. Validate the child part of you.
One way to do this is to imagine that child part of you as a separate person and then talk to her.
If you are a visually oriented person, close your eyes and imagine her sitting across from you. See how she looks, how old she is, her position and posture, what she is wearing, the expression on her face. As you look at her, what would you say to her? What would she respond? Listen to whatever she says. She will tell you a lot about how she feels and will feel very grateful for your understanding. Continue this dialogue until you feel done.
If you are not a visual person, pick up a stuffed animal or anything you want to represent the child part of you. Now close your eyes (closing your eyes helps you to block out distractions and get more into this exercise) and “feel” that stuffed animal as being the child part of you. Ask her what she feels / what she wants to say and then listen with your full heart. Continue this dialogue until you feel done.
You can do this exercise again, whenever you want. Often. Regularly. I highly recommend it.
When you do this exercise, don’t be surprised if you feel a lot of negative feelings toward the child part of you. Let yourself feel that and even express it to her. It is perfectly normal to feel that way, the important part is to expresses it. Doing so will allow it to shift. So no matter what you feel, say it to her (as though you are talking directly to her) and then allow her to respond. As you do this, your love and acceptance of her will grow.
Now, take the hand of the child part of you and take her to that holiday party, holiday event, holiday/family gathering. She will so appreciate your care and attention that she might actually even enjoy the holiday season. Even if she doesn’t, she will at least feel heard and understood and loved.
For an added bonus, after the difficult feelings have been expressed, ask the child part of you what she likes about the holidays and about family and about her life. She will be more in touch with this and feelings of gratitude and understanding will flourish.