As teens, it is common to rush to leave our dependent childhood behind and embrace the beguiling freedoms beckoning at us from the adult world. We’re more than eager to cast off our childish ways and our childish things as we dive into the all-compelling construction our more powerful adult persona. As adults, many of our childhood memories have faded away; we’ve lost touch with experiences we once had; we have mostly forgotten what we were once like as a child and what triggered our emotions, from happy to sad. However, the child we once were remains a vital part of who we are today. The child itself, an integral part of us, could never have been cast off, instead it went deep inside.
According to Psychosocial Counsellor, Nidhi Chaitow, who is a speaker at the SACAP Festival of Learning in Cape Town, Inner-Child awareness is such a powerful and deeply therapeutic metaphoric concept that it brings about profound personal change, and serves as a model for social change. Nidhi explains that no matter how safe and nurturing our childhood might have been, all of us have an Inner-Child that has experienced some kind of hurt, and we carry those wounds into adulthood. She says, “The Inner-Child’s wounded-ness arises from events, experiences and traumatic occurrences from childhood where we froze and we were unable to heal because of our age, limited self-awareness and the lack of emotional capacity. Then as adults, we often react from these wounded places within ourselves, and this is where we get stuck and show our inability to model positive social interaction.”
Acting out the Inner-Child wounds
With painful memories and feelings stuffed deep down in our unconscious; we are often baffled as adults as to why some things trigger us, and other things don’t. When we experience strong or overwhelming adverse feelings, we might think we have no justification for them. We may be able to link certain emotional triggers to childhood experiences but judge ourselves as over-reacting because those past events actually weren’t ‘all that bad’. All this can lead to just not dealing with our feelings; our buried, but volatile, Inner-Child continues to be ignored – for now.
Nidhi gives some clues to when our Inner-Child is acting out. She says when we behave with aggressive or passive-aggressive, violent or even evil intent; sabotage ourselves or believe in our self-defeating patterns; we are showing the impulsive and often reckless behaviour of a child. This behaviour is exemplified by abandonment fears, over-dependency, fear of growing up, temper tantrums and neediness. These can all be signs that your Inner-Child negatively expresses itself. Because we may have ignored our child’s experiences doesn’t mean they are not there. This wounded aspect of ourselves is always there, trying to get our attention. Running away doesn’t end our suffering, it only prolongs it. So, we need to find a way of recognising this part of ourselves and begin the process of healing this wound.
Healing the Inner-Child
When we are triggered by anger, resentment, rejection, or self-destructive beliefs, the link with our Inner-Child wound is awakened and gives rise to childish behaviour leading to negative social change. “By contrast, a healed Inner-Child reconnects us with the wonderment and innocence that can bring joy into our lives,” Nidhi points out. “When we have acknowledged our wounded self and honour our self-awareness, we begin to integrate all the different aspects into our being, to become whole. Our positive and self-affirming thoughts help us get to know our Inner-Child and behave in a way that models self-awareness and inspires positive social change.”
How do we do it?
“The practice of mindfulness in our acting and reacting assists us to become more acquainted with the Inner-Child within us,” Nidhi says. “Allowing space for self-reflection and conscious listening helps to find the path to understanding this aspect of ourselves. Self-compassion and self-understanding help us to generate the energy of being mindful. When we can be more mindful of our wounded child and what they need to feel more at peace, our suffering and need to ‘act-out’ in a negative and destructive way is diminished. How we choose to respond in our social interactions with others, and by understanding and acknowledging the Inner-Child part of ourselves, we will feel more empowered and self-aware in our own lives, with our families, and with society as a whole.”
For further information please visit: https://go.sacap.edu.za/psychology-festival-2019