When I connect with my inner child, seeking to heal and grow, I sometimes wonder, who is really doing the healing? Am I saving my inner child or is he saving me?
Have the skills, resilience, and experience that I have gained as an adult, come at the cost of childhood’s long-lost qualities?
Qualities like Spontaneity, courage, wonder, trust, and curiosity. The thirst to learn and experience new things. A purity of spirit, sensing life as an enchanted and magical experience. These all still exist within the deepest part of my being, my uninhibited and unrepressed self. In connecting to my inner child, I am looking not just to reassure and reconnect with what may be a lot of fear and repressed emotions but also, to reconnect with the wonderful simplicity of being a child and bringing that essence into my adult life.
I was never a ‘difficult’ child. I was not a troublemaker, but I was a rebel. I questioned authority and power, even when, with great resistance, I would comply with demands and instructions.
I would do as I was told, eventually, but often my inner disagreement remained. In school, I was excellent at subjects I enjoyed, but crap at those that I found too demanding or simply boring. I would confront teachers and staff without hesitation if I felt that I was being called out for irrelevant or pedantic issues like school uniform or losing interest in their mind-numbingly boring classes.
Perhaps, being raised by very alternative thinking parents, instilled in me a sense that the whole education thing was about conditioning me to become a pawn in society’s game and was something to be wary of, something to push back against, to preserve my natural dignity as a perfect being. I don’t know.
What I do know is that it did not win me many friends. In fact, I suffered chronic bullying all through my school career, due to my being an unusual type of person, with a different take on life, living in a fairly provincial, small-minded environment.
I have always loved my rebellious nature. It feels intrinsic to me, something that I brought with me into the world. I did not learn it or cultivate it. It is a part of what I am. Honestly, I have always had this feeling that I am somehow meant for greatness. Destined for something meaningful and important. For better or worse it has had me on occasion, act with an entitlement and audacity that can leave those around me a bit shocked. I’m not saying that I am special, but somehow I act as if I am. I admit it, I fancy myself big time and yes, I have come down crashing on many occasions. I have to really work at accepting criticism and often fail, especially if I feel judged as well. But at the source of that is a strong energy. A force of wisdom and understanding within me, my inner child is not going to take any nonsense and I love him so much for that because, often he did have to take it and just put up with being abused, accused and targeted.
Born of this innate quality, there has arisen in me a realization; an understanding that has changed my inner state, more than any practice, epiphany or insight ever has. It takes the form of an intention. A statement. I have decided that I am through with feeling scared about life. Yes, I learned to feel fear as a child but I also learned to find courage in the challenges of youth.
As a ten-year-old, I remember the first time I jumped from the highest diving board at my local swimming pool. I recall having to mentally force one foot in front of the other as I slowly approached the edge of the board, looking down at the water and just freezing with fear. It was so much higher from up there. My heart thumping, feeling totally petrified. One half of me frantically trying to find a way to back out without looking a coward in front of my friends, the other half knowing that this challenge was actually doable and that I would survive.
I had to do it. But how could I gather the courage? In the end, it came down to a moment – a single moment of commitment. I had to push myself to go beyond the point of no return and just trust. With my toes touching the edge and looking down at the distant water, I knew that all I needed was to feel strong enough and brave enough for just one second in time. One instant to change everything!
Forcing myself forward, fighting against my survival reflex, I jumped. Dropping… gasping in as I pinched my nose shut.
I slammed into the water, a chaotic bomb of bubbles and noise. I sank all the way to the bottom, pushed off and headed back up. The moment I surfaced, fear was replaced with an elation and empowerment that only comes with a major victory against a perceived limitation. Almost like a birth – a new part of me. A released capacity, a new self-appreciation. The realization that I can do this thing and from now on, I will always be able to do this thing!
That memory and many others from my childhood and teenage years have helped me to understand more about how fear moves in my life today. How it affects the choices I make and the consequences of those decisions. It has become such an essential tool for breaking out of my comfort zone.
So I cultivate and encourage this two-way relationship within me. As much as I seek to heal that young boy, I also seek his counsel, his courage and together we push through our barriers. It is not a denial of fear, nor a delusion that I have no fear but more of a joyful rebellion. It’s a bit like calling the bluff on the automatic fear response. When it comes, I immediately connect with the boy. I reassure him that all is well. I talk to him with tenderness and love, never criticizing, never judging, just loving and accepting. Then my inner child gets his face on. He steps up and says, “Is that all you’ve got? Bring it on!