By Audrey Gothard
Birthdays have always brought a lot of emotions to the forefront for me. As I am presented a cake with an extra candle, I am also presented with loaded reflections: the years gone by, the expectations of my new age, and the uncertainties of the future.
This last birthday, I was searching for something to comfort some birthday blues. I heard a statement that goes like this:
“You are not solely your current age, but a collection of every year you’ve lived throughout your lifetime.”
This statement fled through my being as I thought of not just being Audrey at my current age, but being the Audreys of all of the phases of my life, living as one in the current time:
The little one in pigtails, scared of heights after kerplunking off the monkey bars head-first.
The one with braces dancing around the kitchen with her mom to Annie Lennox’s greatest hits.
The one in the midst of rejection and wondering “Will I ever fit in?” through the uncomfortable years of high school.
The one who stepped into her first counseling appointment in college after years of hiding her struggles.
All of these versions of ourselves make us who we are, but we often brush them aside as we get older and feel we must outgrow pieces of ourselves. And yet reconnecting with our inner child is an important part of our well-being.
We all have an inner child. It’s a part of us that has been around since the moment we came into this world, a part of our subconscious that recalls important information, such as cherished memories, hardships, traumas, the way our needs were or were not met growing up, and our earliest dreams of what our future should hold.
Our inner child may explain why we get warm and fuzzy feelings when an old song plays at the grocery store or why we still look away when we drive past the coffeeshop of our first breakup.
Our inner child serves us great purpose. It brings forth the luminous pieces of who we were before facing the challenges of our current age. It also sheds light on old wounds that may still need us to spend some time on. In exploring our inner child, we must ask ourselves:
- Do we have unresolved questions, blocking our way toward our ultimate selves?
- How were we taught to view and treat our emotions?
- What do we need in relationships to make us feel safe?
- How did we learn to cope with discomfort?
If the needs of our inner child are not met, we may have tremendous difficulty venturing out and doing the things we need to do to move forward and live contently. Our inner child may say “I still feel scared,” “I still feel abandoned,” or “I don’t have the tools to face these emotions.” These beliefs may hold us back when we try to step into new territory, that is, until we take the time to nurture our inner child.
To do this, we need to take time to examine our reactions and emotions. When you notice something coming up for you, picture your younger self feeling this for the first time. Ask yourself “What would the child version of myself need right now?” “Is there something they were longing to hear?”
Perhaps those messages were:
You are enough
You are capable
You can handle the things presented to you
You are a gift to this world
Have the conversation with your little self that you have always longed for.
Understanding our inner child can help reduce the shame we so often carry into the struggles we face. There are reasons why reactions come up for us. It is about looking into the why.
When things come up for me, I now practice taking a pause and think of little Audrey. How can I give her love?
Our inner child is constantly working: guiding us, informing us, and carrying us at times. Let’s wrap our arms around our inner child, and embrace them to the world.
If you would like to learn more about how inner child work can be helpful to your well being, please call us to learn how counseling can help.