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The Children Within
I have been hearing about the concept of the inner child since 1985. She is wounded. She needs healing and attention. While I do have an inner child by the name of Susie, I also have an inner child who is more than wounded; she is angry. Her name is Gretchen. She has a temper. She lashes out at people and she is anti-social. Gretchen needs healing too.
I never understood these alter egos until I read the works of Susan Anderson. She explains that the outer child is the self-sabotaging nemesis of our personality—the part that breaks our diet and gets attracted to all the wrong people.
Whereas our inner child is all about feelings, the outer child is all about behavior. She acts out our inner child's feelings --- especially our abandonment feelings --- without giving our adult personality a chance to intervene. When we feel hurt, angry, or insecure, our outer child acts out these feelings in ways that sabotage our relationships. She takes feelings like anger and fear and goes off hell bent, impulsively making matters worse. It’s like an annoying, obnoxious older sibling who ends up bungling an attempt to protect (overprotect) us from abandonment. Stealthy, quick, and misguided . . . she intercepts love before we ever know what happened.
Our outer child acts out in patterns. She t is a master procrastinator, rationalizer, avoider. We can use our outer child as a self-awareness tool. In discovering our outer child, we get a leg up on overcoming our self-defeating patterns, improving our relationships, and becoming the self-possessed adult we always wanted to be.
Many of us find it helpful to attend an abandonment recovery workshop to learn how to effectively target the patterns of our outer child. She is the impulsive, obstinate, self-centered ten-year old within all of us. Our outer child wants what she wants NOW, and overrules us if we are not careful. Our outer prefers to binge on candy when we are steadfastly sticking to a diet (or so we thought) or a third glass of wine when we, the adult, had decided on a two drink maximum.
Our outer child is born of unresolved abandonment. She wreaks havoc in our relationships when she acts out our inner child's primal fear of abandonment. For example, she aims her emotional suction cups at our prospective partners and scares them away.
In taking the outer child inventory, we can undertake the first in-depth self-reckoning of our lifetime. As we gain outer child awareness, we own up to character defects most people prefer to deny. We learn how to deal with traits that until now formed an invisible infrastructure of self-sabotage deep within our personality.
Our outer fights change—especially change initiated by us in recovery. She balks at doing the right thing and only wants things that are bad for our health, figure, or bank account. By bringing our outer out of the bunkers and into the daylight, we get to subvert hers mission, rather than let it subvert ours.
Our outer child grabs for immediate gratifications that sabotage our long range goals. We decide to pay down our credit cards, but she gets us to buy a shiny new boat. We decide to go on a fitness program, but she gets us to pay for the annual membership and prevents us from actually using it.
Out outer is fueled by emotion. Take anger. Our outer child either overreacts or under-reacts to our anger. For example, abandonment survivors tend to be too insecure to risk expressing anger or assertiveness to someone because they fear it might break the connection. The outer child takes advantage of this fear and gets us to take our anger out on ourselves, damaging our self-esteem. Conversely, she takes our anger out on innocent bystanders and makes us look like a monster.
Our outer child is the “yes but” of our personality. If we let her she ties our life up in knots. She likes to play games, especially in relationships. She wears many disguises including “hard to get” and “Florence Nightingale” and t poses as our ally, but is really our gatekeeper. Her covert agenda is to maintain our self-defeating patterns.
What we do about the outer child. If the inner child need nurturing and sympathy, the outer child needed boundaries, healing, and benevolent discipline. In a kind way, we must learn to keep her in check while loving her anyway. She did not get these things as a child and needs them now.
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