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Inner Child

Chapter 2 Inner Child Needing Growing Down

Growing Down - Tools for

Healing the Inner Child

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D. &

Constance M. Messina, Ph.D.

Who is your inner child?

Your inner child is the:

  • Little child of your past who desired to be nurtured, cared for, and loved. This child still resides within the adult you.
  • Free spirit, pixie, and elf whom you tamed and controlled.
  • Emotional and sensitive spirit who has been channeled, controlled, and silenced.
  • Creative, imaginative, and artistic you who has been molded, structured, and organized.
  • Hurt, pained, neglected, frustrated, abused, and ignored the Little You whom you have masked and hidden from view and whose existence you have denied. This child is always just below the surface, causing you to be anxious, worried, and fearful of mistreatment.
  • Fun-loving, happy, frivolous, joyful, humorous you when you were young and unsophisticated; that person you have replaced with a sophisticated, mature, serious, task-oriented demeanor.
  • Childhood you have lost or forgotten; yet it still resides in you, dwelling in your subconscious.
  • Part of you who knows how to have fun and play for play's sake; who can help you prevent burnout and manage the stress in your life.
  • Person you could be as an adult if you lightened up, let go of your seriousness, overcame your fears, and accepted flexibility and change in your life.
  • Person within you who needs healing, support, and reinforcement by your growing down. Through growing down you can be given new life, health, and a chance for personal growth.

How did the inner child get there?

The inner child:

  • Resides in every adult person who became a little adult as a child.
  • Lives in every adult because it is captured in the brain's memory bank.
  • Exists in your memory or subconscious because you have poignant memories of your past that shape your present motivation and future drive.
  • Exists because when you adopted specific behavior characteristics and behavior scripts to cope in your dysfunctional environment you masked, covered up, or forgot the real little child you had been.
  • Comes back to you in your dreams or daydreams. You can clearly picture what the little child looks like and how the child is feeling and acting.
  • Is the person you controlled, repressed, and hid in order to survive in a world of stress. Since it was repressed, you held onto it in your subconscious.
  • Is the link you have to your spiritual being because it is in the spirit or soul's realm rather than in the realm of conscious behavior.
  • Is a component of your current value and belief system; however, you are unaware of its influence on your decisions.
  • Exists because, when you were overcome by guilt as a child, you climbed inside of yourself to avoid the feeling of not being good enough.
  • Exists because when you were little your family rules required that you present an image of a happy, healthy family, even if you weren't. So you repressed your little child to appear more responsible, serious, and achievement-oriented.

What is the unfinished business of your inner child?

Because you grew up in a dysfunctional family, emotional maturity was stunted. This failure to mature left your inner child unfinished because you:

  • Grew up too fast.
  • Became a small adult, little mom and dad.
  • Were over-responsible and over-serious.
  • Were emotionally vulnerable.
  • Were not given a chance to grow and mature in a normal sequence of events.
  • Put on a public mask or image to stifle your childlike needs.
  • Repressed joy, vision, and feelings.
  • Still have a child within waiting to grow up and take its proper place.
  • Didn't know what normal was and felt unable to relax and enjoy life.


How does your inner child come into being?

Your inner child comes into being by:

  • A denial of true feelings.
  • denial of the person you are.
  • Trying hard to live up to others' expectations.
  • Holding back your childlike responses, while you provide adult-like responses to stress.
  • The fear of being found out about how you really feel.
  • Insecurity in the midst of chaos, confusion, or the vacuum of repressed feelings.
  • A sense of obligation to always look good and be good.
  • Inexperience at being loved for who you are rather than for what you do.
  • Not being given the role model of how to enjoy life and to have fun.
  • Always having to be serious about life.
  • A lack of encouragement to broaden your scope of vision about your potential in life.
  • The stress of staying vigilantly in the here and now so that you stay in control and the walls didn't come tumbling down around you.
  • Never being given or taking the freedom to play and act childish.
  • Not being given role models of how to take pleasure from the little things in life.
  • A compulsive drive to fulfill your role in your family.
  • Not recognizing that you can make choices in your life to make it what you want it to be.
  • Continuing to follow your compulsive role in life rather than choosing to change and be free from the restraints this compulsion creates for you.
  • Silencing your inner child and guarding yourself, retreating behind a masked barrier.
  • Feeling that it is not safe to grow up, to accept love, or to share feelings.
  • Not learning to spend some time each day in fun and play.


What are the signs of activity of your inner child?

You know your inner child is active when you:

  • Lose yourself in frolic and fun.
  • Cry at a sentimental movie or TV show.
  • Overindulge your own children.
  • Enjoy playing with children's toys.
  • Love visiting Walt Disney World or other theme parks designed for children.
  • Seek out adult toys to play with.
  • Cry or grieve as an adult over the losses you experienced in your past espeically in your childhood.
  • Still seek to please the senior members of your family of origin and your extended family.
  • Get sentimental looking at old photo albums, home movies, or scrapbooks about your childhood.
  • Experience the same intensity of feeling you had as a child when you role play or act out experiences from your past.

What messages did your inner child need to hear that went unsaid?

When your inner child climbed inside you, it was probably hoping to hear:

  • I love you, I care about you, and I accept you just the way you are.
  • I am so proud of you and all that you are.
  • I am so happy you are my child.
  • You are so beautiful and attractive.
  • You are so bright and talented.
  • You are so artistic and creative.
  • You are such a good worker.
  • I am sorry I hurt you.
  • I am sorry I neglected you.
  • I am sorry I forgot you.
  • I am sorry I ignored you.
  • I am sorry I took you for granted.
  • I am sorry I made you grow up so fast.
  • I am sorry I had to rely on you so much.
  • You can trust me to take care of you.
  • You can trust me to be there for you.
  • You can trust me to protect you from any hurt or pain.
  • I will get help for myself and for the family.
  • We will work at getting healthy together as a family.
  • We will have healthy family fun and play together.


What are the negative consequences of suppressing your inner child?

When as an adult you choose to suppress the memory, needs, and desires of your inner child you run the risk of:

  • Never learning how to feel normal.
  • Never learning how to play and have fun.
  • Never learning how to relax and manage stress.
  • Never learning how to appreciate life. You would rather work at living.
  • Taking yourself too seriously.
  • Feeling guilty over not being good enough, driving yourself to work harder to be good enough.
  • Becoming a workaholic.
  • Not enjoying your family life with your children.
  • Being suspicious of people who enjoy life, have fun, and know how to play.
  • Social isolation, afraid to get involved with other people for fear you will be found out to be inadequate, not normal, or a misfit.


What nurturing messages can you give your inner child?

You can tell your inner child that it is OK to:

  • Have the freedom to make choices for yourself.
  • Be selfish and do the things you want to do.
  • Take the time to do the things you want to do.
  • Associate only with the people you want to associate with.
  • Allow someone else to care for you.
  • Enjoy the fruits of your labor with no guilt feelings.
  • Take time to play and have fun each day.
  • Be less serious, intense, and inflexible about life.
  • Set limits on how you are going to relate to others.
  • Not always serve others.
  • Accept others serving you.
  • Be in charge of your life and not let others dictate to you.
  • Be honest with others about your thoughts and feelings.
  • Take risks and suffer the positive or negative consequences of such risks.
  • Make mistakes, laugh at them, and carry on.
  • Let your imagination and creativity be set free and soar with the eagles.
  • Cry, hurt, and be in pain as long as you share your feelings; do not repress or suppress them.
  • Be angry, express your anger, and bring your anger to some resolution.
  • Make decisions for yourself.
  • Be a problem solver and feel free to come up with solutions with which others may not agree.
  • Feel happiness, joy, excitement, pleasure, and ecstasy.
  • Feel down, blue, sad, anxious, upset, and worried, as long as you share your feelings.
  • Love and be loved by someone whom you cherish.
  • Recognize your inner child and let it grow down, accept self-love, feel feelings, and enjoy pleasure and play.

What are some steps to grow down to your inner child?


Step 1: In order to grow down to your inner child, get into a relaxed state and close your eyes. Spend thirty minutes picturing yourself as a child between three and eight years of age. See yourself as this little child and watch yourself interacting with members of your family of origin. Look at how you react to your family members as a little child.


Watch yourself with your playmates in the neighborhood or at school. Notice how you get along with your friends and playmates. Notice the fun you have at play and what type of play activities you enjoyed.


Watch yourself in the classroom and notice how you get along with your teacher and how you react to the school environment.


Finally, picture yourself in a family setting. Are you happy, frivolous, joyful, energetic, excited, and enjoying life? Are you serious, solemn, down, sad, unhappy, scared, disappointed, miserable with life?


If you see only an unhappy, serious little child, try to remember your last happy experience as a child. This last remembrance of you as a happy child is your inner child who climbed inside of you to cope with stress.


Step 2: Now that you have identified your inner child, answer the following questions in your journal.

  • How would you describe your inner child?
  • When did your inner child go inside? What happened for your little child to climb inside of you?
  • How do you know when your inner child is active in you?
  • What messages does your inner child still need to hear?
  • How willing are you to give these messages to your inner child? One way to do this is to develop self-affirmation statements that will nurture your inner child and lead to self-healing.
  • What irrational beliefs did your inner child have about life?
  • How willing are you to deal with these irrational beliefs and replace them with realistic truths? It is important to deal with these now so your inner child can come out and finally enjoy life.
  • What are some of the negative consequences of suppressing your inner child?
  • How open are you to enjoying the little things in life?
  • What part does fun play in your life?


Step 3: You are now ready to take action to nurture and grow down to your inner child. Try the following three activities to help you nurture your inner child.


Activity 1: Learning How to Enjoy the Small Things in Life

Open yourself to experience joy at being alive by taking the following steps.

Step A: Open your eyes to the beauty and majesty of nature about you, e.g., paint, photograph or simply observe sunrises or sunsets, a body of water, listen for bird calls, try to distinguish the different sounds, plant a garden and watch it grow.

Step B: Expand your sensory vocabulary. Try to experience life through all of your senses; use sight, sound, smell, and touch to explore and describe the experiences in your life.

Step C: Explore the natural environment, e.g., take a walk on the beach, relish nature's wonders, take a walk on a wooded trail, enjoy the moonlight, the stars, search out nature's magic.

Step D: Begin to slow down and let go. Enjoy children, pets, the aroma of food. Listen to music, enroll in a fun class, enjoy the human side of those in your life, develop a sense of humor, a new hobby.


Activity 2: Learning How to Feel and to Share Feelings

Step A: Keep a journal in which you record your daily range of feelings.

Step B: Identify in your journal one new feeling a day to increase your feelings vocabulary. Use Getting in Touch with Feelings, Chapter 4 in this book, to help you.

Step C: Watch a sentimental movie and have a good cry, but pay attention to your feelings. Describe in your journal how you felt watching the movie and how you felt once you began to cry.

Step D: Begin an activity to generate positive feelings each day. Explore the world or your life in general. Recognize one good thing about it daily. Come up with a positive feeling generated by this good thing, add it to your feelings vocabulary in your journal.

Step E: Write a fantasy story in your journal describing yourself experiencing at least ten different positive feelings.

Step F: Relax and visualize yourself experiencing a positive feeling. Enjoy that visualized feeling. Once you have done so, plan an activity to deepen that feeling's reality for you. Record the experience in your journal.


Activity 3: Learning How to Play

Use Chapter 15 in this book, Child Play for Growing Down, and the following tips to help you learn to play:

  • Let go of any guilt feelings you might have about indulging yourself in play activity. Redefine the role of play in your life. Restructure your life activities and include some play time.
  • Define some acceptable play activities you would be willing to experiment with over the next year.
  • Be spontaneous and let go of the need for rigidity in the ways you play. Let your child out and freewheel through your playtime.
  • Don't stifle your childlike responses to a play activity. Loosen up and let go of the need to be mature.
  • Don't worry about your public image, as long as what you are doing harms no one. Vent gut-level frolic responses to your play activity.
  • Learn to be your own best friend.
  • Frolic and have fun without the use of artificial stimulants (drugs, alcohol, food, etc.).
  • Let your responsible adult mindset have a vacation. Practice looking at life with a child's perspective. Imagine how a child would view play. Let the sense of wonderment, excitement, imagination, make-believe, and creativity reign.
  • Laughter is therapeutic and essential if playing is to be fun. Learn to experience a good belly laugh.
  • Playing requires the use of fantasy. Let your fantasy life emerge and grow. Use imagination and visual imagery to broaden the scope and expand the boundaries of your play.
  • Take a risk and set up a playtime for your inner child in a family-like situation where you can play outdoors with children, e.g. have a food fight, a water-sprinkling war, play Rover Red Rover, dodge ball, etc.
  • Give yourself a child's party. Invite your friends to bring their inner children to a party in which you indulge in children's games, e.g., pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs, bobbing for apples, hopscotch, jacks, etc.


Step 4: After you have implemented your action to nurture your inner child by trying the three activities in Step 3, your inner child should be more visible and active in your life. You have grown down to your inner you. If you still find yourself suppressing the inner child, return to Step 1 and begin again.