My Second Childhood
When I was growing up I was very headstrong. It was difficult for my parents to discipline me, so they gave up trying. Interestingly enough, this lack of discipline made me feel unloved. I remember wishing I had some of the restrictions that my friends moaned and groaned about.
As an adult, I was introduced to the concept of self-parenting in a support group. Self-parenting is a therapeutic approach to healing the wounds of our childhood. It is an attempt to give ourselves now what we did not get as children.
The “inner child” is a term adopted from a concept introduced by Eric Berne in his book, The Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships. In his book, Berne introduces the world to Transactional Analyses, a revolutionary new way of looking at the human psyche. Later Thomas Harris in his book, I’m OK, You’re OK, popularized this idea.
The child ego state eventually became the “inner child,” which in turn led to a series of popular books like Hugh Missildine’s Your Inner Child of the Past. Over the years the concept of the inner child has been both applauded and trivialized, but it is still an important tool to help us finally grow beyond an arrested state of development.
When I first heard about self-parenting, I was excited about what it offered. I recognized that part of my personality that embodied an emotionally undeveloped little girl who felt unloved and ashamed of herself.
Up to this point I had never really had a concept of myself this way. I had been told by my friends that I could “act like a child” and I knew that I was wounded, but it never occurred to me that I could heal this part of myself by getting to know my inner child. Suddenly I was excited about giving my inner child the love and benevolent discipline that she had been denied years before. I also knew that loving my inner child would help me focus on changing myself rather than trying to change others.
I met my inner child in a meditation. I got into a comfortable position and closed my eyes. Then I let my mind wander until my little girl appeared to me. In my meditation we were in a park together. She had an angry expression on her face, but I could sense the pain and sadness that lay beneath her anger.
I called to her, but at first she refused to come near me. Eventually, however, she slowly walked toward me. When she was finally close to me, I reached out and stroked her hair. She immediately broke down and cried. I took her in my arms and began rocking her back and forth. I reassured her. I told her I was here to be her mother. I promised to give her everything that she needed to feel loved and safe.
Since then, I’ve continued to develop a relationship with my inner child as a way of learning to love myself. Today, this relationship is threefold: I love and comfort my little girl (Susie); I set limits with her; and we play together. As a result, she has, for the most part, stopped acting out, and her pain no longer permeates my life. She is content and no longer needs mood-altering experiences to anesthetize her pain. Most of all, my self-parenting has helped me grow up, and this maturation has paved the way for other changes.
"But I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother. Yes, like a small child is my soul within me." Psalms
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