Let me start by noting that this a topic I don’t understand well. If, in 2020, someone had asked me if I’d been in touch with my inner child, I’d have rolled my eyes at them. I thought it was a load of New-agey garbage. And yet doing my version of inner child work turned out to be a big component of accessing and releasing many of my repressed thoughts and emotions. I’ve tried learning more about this, but I had a hard time finding experts in the space who don’t come across so “woowoo,” for lack of a better word. I’m sure good experts do exist, and as I’m able to learn more, I’ll write about this more because it really was fascinating. Here’s what I can say for now…
I always knew there was a voice in my head. Everyone has one. We all talk to ourselves in our heads. But I always thought the voice in my head was me, as I am now. As it turns out, I had a lot of voices of varying ages. One of two things usually happened:
1) I’d write about an event that happened at a much younger age, and I’d find myself typing in that voice. This young voice was always the most terrified, and when I tapped into that voice, my typing was always simple sentences that a young child might say and in my head, I could hear a much younger, little kid’s voice. This little voice was just always so scared and didn’t understand what was going on or what she was doing wrong. She’d often dig her heels about following rules because mom and dad—and sometimes mama and daddy—told her to and that was the only thing she knew to keep me safe. This little tiny kid inside of me also often felt like it was her responsibility to keep me safe and that older versions of me couldn’t be trusted.
2) I’d write about something that happened at an older age, and discover that, as I dug deeper, a younger voice was often the source of emotional strife about that event. Usually what happened was that an older version of me would be filled with self-anger and self-hatred. I would go through a difficult journaling session where this voice raged about what a terrible person I am and it was usually laden with profanity and more complex sentences, but at some point a little kid voice would break through saying something like, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know what else to do.” Or something like that. Usually the younger voice was sad and scared and heartbroken, while the older voice was pissed off at the younger voice for any number of reasons. The two voices might literally bicker within me like siblings for a little while, but if a little voice popped up, that was always the one I needed to focus on.
A benefit to tapping into these different ages was that it allowed me to really get to my original psyche at the starting point of any emotional issue and address that issue at the age appropriate source. However, another really important benefit, was that as soon as I tapped into those much younger voices, it was impossible not to feel compassion for myself and the poor little kid within me. I started to realize that much of my self-hatred and self-anger was very similar to projecting strong hatred and anger on a little kid who just doesn’t know any better.
The little five-year-old in me knows that following rules keeps her safe and keeps her out of trouble and she desperately doesn’t want to get into trouble. Meanwhile, the 16-year-old in me is totally fine with breaking rules because she knows nothing bad will come of it, and it may even be beneficial. Both of these experiences live within me causing conflict and without addressing that conflict, it literally made me sick. But until I gave them a voice, the 16-year-old rebel in me was livid and full of hatred that she was being held back, and the five-year-old in me was just terrified—both of the consequences of breaking the rules, but also of the anger and hatred I was directing toward her. By tapping into that five-year-old self (or six or seven or eight or four—you get the idea), I could finally release the anger and hatred, and help that little kid trapped inside me deal with whatever issues she hadn’t understood how to deal with at that younger age.
Typically, the work did not involve telling my younger self that everything was okay or not to worry, but rather, I had to give the child within a voice and let her be heard. I had to understand her fears and concerns completely. Then, I had to convince the little version of me that the adult in me was ready to take care of her and she didn’t need to feel scared and alone anymore. The most important thing here was just recognizing that my fears were not a reason to be frustrated with myself, but rather, they were a reason to be more compassionate and kind to myself. I don’t think I could have accepted that as easily, if I hadn’t tapped into that scared little kid within me.
I should also note that not everything was about the little kid within—some of the things I journaled about or meditated on were all about me as an adult. I also want to emphasize that none of this is a reflection on my own parents,
who were good, caring, supportive parents. I don’t blame my parents for anything—kids just misinterpret the world around them, and those misunderstandings can stick with us if we’re not aware of them.