Recognizing personal error is painful. Our security is shaken, disrupting our sense of surety in sound decisions in a dangerous environment. Safety, survival, and flourishing require reasoned action that positively impacts the future. Important choices of partners, placement of trust, order of priorities, and utilization of time all shape our destiny. In the mix of all these life demands, we lose sight of joy. We push, judge, and hurt, trying to make something of ourselves. We need find that inner child, embrace him or her, and let them out to enjoy the precious moments in this fabulous world.
Reflection and Self-Compassion
Honest reflection on the past uncovers personal actions that are connected to our success and failures. Our self-reflection instructs and corrects, keeping us involved in the development of our lives. Obviously, creating a better life is an honorable endeavor. However, we shouldn’t be so charged on the work of self-improvement that we forget to live. We must take time to see the world through the eyes of a child. Our inner-child must be free to examine the surrounding beauties with wonderment.
“Getting back in touch with your inner child is a great way to relieve yourself from stress and to re-embrace the creativity and vitality that you had as a child…”~Anya Meyerowitz
We Make Mistakes
We occasionally stumble, making blunders that hurt others, impact opportunities, and wound well-being. Hence, we should fine-tune our effectiveness, limiting these damaging errors. As part of a human inheritance, we’re not capable of perfection. Perfection is a blurry ideal, never achieved. We must rely on adaptability (not perfection) to successfully navigate the complex mazes of survival.
Just as a child stumbles as they take their first few steps, we constantly encounter new opportunities that challenge our skills and abilities. We stumble along the new path before mastering the challenge. We don’t berate our punish the child who falls. Neither should we punish our selves for struggling to accomplish new tasks. Embrace that inner-child that is courageously learning and exploring.
Certainly, we should challenge errant behaviors. We shouldn’t excuse emotional reminders of misdeeds with smug self-righteousness or ignorant self-justification. However, we can address personal flaws with grace, embracing the inner-child with love and self compassion as we correct and improve.
The last handful of years, I’ve spent increasing amounts of time with children under the age of five. The fullness of my life has multiplied as I watch my grandchildren develop, and occasionally have glimpses of the world through their young precious eyes.
I notice that life tasks take on new meaning. Pulling lumber from the car, moving it to the back yard for my next project, is more than a chore. It becomes a game full of imagination and intrigue. The childlike approach to the world can do us much good, escaping the monotony of performing tasks, we should embrace the inner child and experience joy in the moment.
T. Franklin Murphy wrote about an encounter with a joyous child and his mother at the grocery store. He observed, “the joy of this precious moment was quickly extinguished by the expediency of the tasks needing to be completed” (2013).
Simon Daniels eloquently describes the benefits of occasionally retreating to childlike experiences. He wrote, “as we get older, caution, cynicism and skepticism can conspire against us. Instead of embracing new experiences, we tend to weigh up their pros and cons, and as often as not decide that they are too risky.” Daniels encourages, “it is liberating instead to tap into our inner child and do pointless, silly things without worrying about social conventions” (2011).
Momentary regressions into childlike joy is not a maladaptive response to life difficulties, rather the occasional practice colors the monotony with fresh strokes of joy. We need to free the inner child to see the world clearly through his or her eyes, taking in beauties and wonders we have forgotten.
Harsh Judgements and Wounding the Inner Child
Our misdeeds prove a privately held image of self deficiency. We can’t continually put ourselves on trial. The insecurity of self reigns, creating heightened and unmanageable emotions. The momentary sorrows, disappointments and guilt invade, trampling self-esteem, and threatening survival. Accordingly, normal collisions with experience create bouts of shame, guilt and anger in a thick stew of “ouch.” Life sucks and we can’t escape. Errant interpretations—defense mechanisms—protect the psyche from collapse, working their own form (and less salient) of destruction.
“We were all children at some point in our lives and that kid didn’t just up and leave the moment you became the responsible adult you are today.”~Sam Reader
When overly insecure, guilt doesn’t stem from the actual misdeeds, motivated by empathy for the other, but from our fear of rejection. These powerful rascal emotions are muddied by protections for our damaged ego. This guilt doesn’t repair connections but ignites shame; the digging judgments create deeper chasms between us and others.
Under these harsh self-imposed conditions, we stoop to the overwhelmingness of life. We hide from the world. Our inner child fears the growing challenges of living. We can stop for a moment, take a deep cool breath, relax in mindfulness, and embrace that ailing inner child. Our inner child needs the comforting whispers or support, reminding that we are strong enough to muddle through the challenges and come out victorious.
Giving Our Inner Child Self Confidence
Healthy action strengthens our relationship through encouraging more positive felt emotions. Unless we live in a bubble, we’ll never eliminate all negative experiences. Through compassionate holding of feeling, we disentangle experience from the defensive mechanisms and can better identify our role, gleaming insights to improve our lives and relationships. Misdeeds, instead of indictments, are a humbling reminder of humanity.
“In childhood, we had the time and freedom to pursue our interests. We were open to joy and confident in our talents.”~Michele Meier Vosberg
Our self-conscious examinations of actions in a relationship will stir emotions—an evolutionary response to connection needs. But the mindful acceptance of emotions doesn’t have to be condemning; they can gently guide attention to areas needing care. When we have improved relationships with emotions, our uncomfortable feelings don’t demand escape.
With mindful acceptance, we kindly feel emotion, understanding the underlying complexity, and embrace the crying inner-child, gently comforting him or her by holding, accepting, and soothing.
Compassionate Caregiver to Our Inner Child
The transition from tormentor to compassionate caregiver is a long process, requiring commitment and support.
Therapist Carl Rodgers embraced person-centered therapy. Change, he insisted, took place only through a caring environment. Once security of an environment was established, the client healed themselves. Once safe, his clients slowly emerge from the clouds of self-deception. The positive changes they achieved were the natural growth of an organism responding to a healthy environment. The magnitude of guilt, sorrow, and other painful emotions lose their sting when not accompanied by self-deprecating interpretations. The discomforting emotions morph from condemnation to gentle reminders of the rich experience of being human (1995).
As one travels down the path to self-compassion, they must kindly accept the slowness of new change, remnants of the past will remain, haunting experience with unneeded sorrows. This is okay. Smile on your injured soul. Pasts remain. We step back when possible, shedding a tear for the pain, and then compassionately accepting the feeling—for it is part of our being. We continue to work, repairing misdeeds when possible, expressing sincere apologies as needed to those we have hurt. By constructively facing these inner-feelings, instead of self-condemning or neglectfully dodging, we move forward wiser and stronger.
Murphy, T. Franklin (2013). The Right to Happiness. Psychology Fanatic. Published 1-2013. Accessed 10-3-2022.
Rodgers, C. (1995). On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. Mariner Books, Retrieved from Kindle Books.
Daniels, Simon (2011). Help yourself to happiness by liberating your inner child. Mental Health Practice, 15(4), 11-11.