The Inner Child Exercise

Tim Shurr, MA                             Healing the Child Within

There exists a theory entitled, “Transactional Analysis,” which states within each of us is a parent, adult, and child element.

THE PARENT

The parental element is a collection of ideas and beliefs we’ve internalized from our primary caregivers (parents). Have you ever said something and then thought, “I sound just like my mother/father”? It is helpful to be aware of this aspect of yourself when making decisions and judgments. You want to make sure it is you who are making the decisions and not your parents. If you begin to make a decision and you hear your father’s voice in the back of your head telling you what you should do, it might be best to stop for a second and reconsider what is best for you.

Many times what our parents teach us is sound advice, but not always. If you constantly second guess yourself every time you attempt to make a decision, you may want to investigate from where the conflict is stemming. It may be that you just need to begin creating stronger boundaries around your own beliefs and attitudes are, separating them from the beliefs, attitudes, and opinions of others (including your parents). Children internalize all kinds of beliefs and ideas from their parents, which can later create many problems for that individual. Here are a few irrational, negative, and self-defeating beliefs I’ve regularly heard from clients: People can’t be trusted. The world is a cruel and unfair place. Men don’t cry. Women aren’t supposed to enjoy sex. If you sin, you will burn in hell. Only crazy people go for counseling. I will never be good enough. I will never find a faithful man. Men/women only take. And so on.

Believing these things can make you mistrusting, suspicious, confused, fearful, and depressed. It can also make you behave accordingly. If you feel that no one can be trusted, you may become untrustworthy as well. So be careful when it comes to making choices in your life. Make sure it is your choice and your decision, and nobody else’s.

THE ADULT

The adult element is the part you are using right now. It is the part of you that makes logical, rational decisions in your life. The adult element collects information and holds it up against previous life experiences to find whether you will support a specific decision or belief. It also plays referee, maintaining a relational balance between the parent and child part of you.

THE CHILD

The child is the impulsive, playful, and creative part of your personality. It is the part of you that seeks immediate gratification and pouts when it doesn’t receive it.

Most of us are highly influenced by what took place in childhood. If you were hurt as a young child and now associate being hurt with being loved, you are operating from your child part. If you grew up in an abusive household, as a child you probably unconsciously associated chaos with love, which would explain why you might have trouble in the relationship aspect of your life now.

Another prevalent notion exists that we end up searching for and attracting partners who resemble our parents in some way. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. If you are female, you unconsciously seek out a father substitute. If you are male, you seek out a woman who resembles mom. If you’re gay, the same theory holds true but genders are reversed. I’ve resisted that notion as long as I could, but it seems to make sense. This is partly why we tend to attract the same type of people into our lives. Think about it. Did you have a controlling or domineering parent? Is your spouse the same way? Did you have a parent you were always trying to please or take care of? Are you doing the same thing now as an adult? Did you have a parent who used guilt or shame to get what they wanted? Do you now have a partner like this in your life? Here is the scariest question of all: Are You like this now?

If you answered yes to any of these, the question you want answered is, “How do I stop this cycle of behavior if it is unhealthy and/or unwanted?” Well, first we must go back and heal the child inside you. This is accomplished by finding out what your inner child needs or desires, what his or her fears are, and then guiding your inner child through the healing process. Until this is done, your true self will not be able to fully emerge. It would be too risky.

The following exercise will help you get in touch with your inner child. It’s purpose is to assist you in uncovering any hidden insights, to provide you with more positive, loving beliefs and attitudes, and to experience (perhaps for the first time) nurturing, encouragement, protection, and understanding. *For this exercise, I will be referring to your inner child as she or her. If you are male, merely substitute he or him.

YOUR INNER CHILD

Get into a comfortable position and imagine going to your safe, happy place. Allow the positive and loving feelings to flow throughout your entire body. Positive, safe, secure, and relaxing feelings move through you, allowing for a deep relaxation to cascade over your entire being. Beginning at the top of your head, imagine a wave of relaxation moving and vibrating down your body, relaxing each and every muscle along the way. Move this relaxing wave of energy all the way down to the tips of your toes. Feel your muscles become loose and limp, heavy and relaxed. Cozy, heavy, gentle feelings embrace your muscles as though a blanket of warm relaxation is covering you from head to toe.

Now take a nice, slow, deep breath into your lungs and then gently breathe out through your mouth. (Pause five seconds.) Good. Now take another deep breath in through your nose and then let it flow out of your mouth. (Pause five seconds.) Wonderful. Now take one more deep breath and this time release all the air out of your mouth at once. (Pause five seconds.)

Excellent. As your body continues to relax, I want you to imagine walking through a very peaceful and relaxing forest. Walking through this forest makes you feel very safe and protected. Very peaceful and at ease. Notice the sounds you hear in this forest. Perhaps with each step you take, you can hear the snapping of twigs beneath your feet. (Pause five seconds.) What smells and fragrances are there? Can you smell pine? Or perhaps just clean, fresh air? (Pause five seconds.) What do you feel? Can you feel a warm sun peeking out from the tops of the very tall trees? Can you feel a gentle breeze pressing against your skin? (Pause five seconds.) What do you see? Can you see all the bright green vegetation, or if it’s fall, the bright colors of the changing leaves? The light green and yellow hues scattered with tinges of orange and brown? (Pause five seconds.)

As you move along this path, notice that it extends way down into the forest, farther than you can even see. As you look down this path, imagine a small figure walking towards you from the other end of the path. The figure moves cautiously towards you and as it grows closer, you can make out the figure of a little girl (or boy). As this child gets even closer, you begin to sense a familiarity and suddenly, you realize this child is you. This child is you when you were a child. She is your inner child. (Pause five seconds.)

I want you to notice this child’s facial expressions. Observe her posture and appearance. Does she look frightened? (Pause.) Fearful? (Pause.) Shy? (Pause.) Angry? (Pause.) Sad? (Pause.) Lonely? (Pause.) Or perhaps happy and/or content? (Pause five seconds.)

I want you, as an adult, to sit down with this child and ask her how she is doing. Ask her how she is feeling. Be patient. Take your time, and wait for a reply. Do this now. (Pause one minute.) Now ask her what she needs from you. Does she need protection, a friend, someone to love and appreciate her? Do this now. (Pause one minute.)

You may want to take some time here to explain some things to this child that you have learned from being an adult. Remember, we understand and see things differently when we are adults than we did as children. (A parent who works all the time to support his family may love his children very much, yet from a child’s perspective, the parent is never around and thus doesn’t love the child.) Explain to your inner child how her parents did the best they could with what they had. Give her this knowledge so that she may finally begin to heal the wounds of her past. Go ahead and do this now. (Pause four minutes.)

Good. Now I want you to promise your inner child that you will do everything within your power to give her what she needs. You will provide protection and security, love and attention. You will be the reliable and trustworthy friend she needs and desires, no matter what anyone else does. From now on, you will be there for her. Tell her this and mean it. She will see right through insincerity. (Pause one minute.)

Excellent. Now give her a great big hug and tell her you love her. Hold her close to your heart and feel the love between you. As you do this, look down upon the face of your inner child and notice the warm, loving glow of a smile pressed against her face. As you squeeze her close to you, she begins to fade away, becoming one with you again. As this occurs, feel a warm glow begin to fill your body. Feel an inner peace as a wonderful healing energy begins to emerge within you. This Inner light fills your body, mind, and spirit with love, peace, and healing energy. (Pause twenty seconds.)

Know that this little girl is only a thought away and she can hear what you say and think to yourself. So be careful because just as positive, loving, and supportive thoughts flow down to her, so do the negative, critical, and hurtful ones. Finally, imagine yourself surrounded by a beautiful white light. Feel your whole body immersed within this protective and loving energy. Then, when you are ready, take a slow, deep breath, slowly open your eyes, and become fully alert and awake and refreshed. Feeling confident and at peace.

Several things may have taken place during this exercise so I want to go over them one at a time. First of all, did you have trouble facing your inner child? Often, people have a difficult time facing specific aspects of their childhood. Being a kid can be tough. It is in these uneasy times that we store up negative energy and hurt. Therefore, it’s sometimes necessary to go back to the darker periods of our life and release ourselves from the emotional turmoil that connects us to the past.

If you found yourself feeling extremely emotional yet were forcefully holding back, try giving yourself the opportunity to let it all out. If you feel like crying, cry. If you feel like yelling, yell. It is so very healthy to express these emotions that have been waiting for the chance to escape. Restraining these feelings only agitates your mind and soul, while making you feel sick to your stomach. So let them out. I always say that tears come from the ice melting around the heart…

Were you able to tell your inner child that you love her? If so, your path towards inner peace and harmony will be a much easier one to follow. If you experienced difficulty in relaying these words, this will be an area in which you will need to focus most of your efforts and attention. Above all else, it is essential that you love, appreciate, and support yourself to the best of your abilities. Even if you were made to feel unworthy or unwanted as a child, it doesn’t mean you have to feel this way now. As children, we don’t have much choice in the way we are treated or in how we are made to feel. However, as adults we do!

Have you ever asked yourself what harm it would do to love yourself? What do you risk losing if you were to begin loving, accepting, or appreciating yourself? You already know the consequences of not loving yourself. Does it make much sense to invest so much time and energy into something that makes you feel rotten? Of course not, but there are a lot of people out there who fight like hell to keep themselves miserable. Some realize it and some do not.

A central theme is continually being reiterating is how important it is to treat yourself with love and respect. But as numerous as the reasons are for why you should do this, people will come up with just as many for why they shouldn’t —or can’t.

Often, people are waiting around for somebody else to make them feel better —perhaps a Prince Charming on a white mustang convertible. Not even a prince will be able to break through your walls to rescue you if you do not first break down these walls and rescue yourself. If you do not treat yourself with love, honor, and kindness, you will not attract others who will also regard you in this way. The same is true of knowing what you want out of life. If you don’t know what you want, you can’t expect others to know for you. You must first figure out what is of most importance and value to you, even if it’s done first through figuring out what is of least importance. Then, begin to live by example. Love and appreciate yourself and others will follow. Treat yourself like a doormat and others will take your lead as well.

If you initiate personal changes and focus on healing yourself, your Prince Charming might just materialize before your eyes. Sometimes our true princes and princesses are right in front of us, yet we can’t see them for who they truly are because our own eyes are so cluttered with negative beliefs, expectations, or fear. Other times, through growing stronger and clearing our vision, we see that it is time to move on and though it can be quite difficult, it is also a long awaited relief.

I encourage you to engage in this short, simple exercise several times during the next couple of weeks. Imagine holding, loving, and comforting your inner child. When you can do this, the way you feel about yourself will change. Your inner world will finally be at peace, which will impact how the outer world appears to you. This little girl (or boy) will finally be allowed to emerge, come out from hiding, and play. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But it feels even better. I can’t wait for you to find out for yourself. You have much to look forward to.

 

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