“The child is in me still and sometimes not so still.” ~Mr. Rogers
We’ve all been there. Either we’ve said “Stop acting like a child!” to someone who we felt was acting immature, or someone said it to us in a moment that we’re not too proud about. Many couples would sum up their frustration with their partner by saying that, at times, they act like a child.
For many of us, we continue to feel frustration and disdain for the part of us that seems to repeat in failure, pain, or foolish behavior. Whether it’s unhealthy relationships, acting out, or some level of attention seeking, no matter how hard we try, there seems to be in all of us a little child that won’t be still and act right.
I spent most of my life trying not to make mistakes and hiding the parts of me that I knew others would disapprove of. As a kid I excelled in sports, grades, and music. I was “cool” enough to play the drums and always managed to be first chair in the band (this is the best drummer position, for non-band nerds).
Each week there would be a test to determine who would be first chair. One day, while testing, I forgot to repeat a certain part of the routine. The room fell silent, and everyone turned, looking shocked that I’d made a mistake.
It didn’t even take me a split second to know what I needed to do. I lied. I told the band director that my sheet music was covered up. She gave me a chance to test again, and of course… perfection. Mistake avoided. As a child, I learned quickly to be perfect and hide my flaws.
As an adult, the inner child in me is still doing that. The truth is, no matter the issue, the inner child in all of us still acts like a child at times.
The problem is that most of us do not pay any attention to it. We avoid it, we run from it, we chastise it, but we do not listen to what s/he is saying. Yet, as most experts note, the areas that are causing us the most pain and frustration are the areas that we need to listen to the most.
If we took the time to stop, sit, and really listen to what that inner child is screaming that it wants, it most likely would point back to something lacking within us, that has its origins in childhood.
In order to understand what is happening and figure out what to do with this child that’s throwing temper tantrums and causing chaos in our lives and relationships, we must recognize these key points.
We are very impressionable as children.
No matter how great of parents we have (or had), they all influence and leave a mark on us.
I have great parents that love me very much and wanted me to be the best that I can be in life. This message some how got crossed in my childhood, and I felt an extreme amount of pressure to not make any mistakes. I grew up, but that part of me didn’t.
That child part still gets defensive when corrected, worries about making a mistake, and fears I will be rejected when I do.
We, as children, generally cannot hold two opposing thoughts.
If our parents love us but put tons of pressure on us, we tend to cling to the love and suck it up and deal with the pressure.
If one of our parents is abusive to us but gives us gifts, we accept the gifts as love and bury the abuse deep in our subconscious.
We desire to see our parents as loving and providing all the nurturing we need. When they don’t, we, as children, can’t comprehend that they have their own issues. So we take the good and bury the bad.
As adults, that bad stuff we buried subconsciously, the conflict that we avoided, still wants to be worked out.
The child inside of us begins to scream and figure out ways to get what s/he didn’t get during childhood.
This usually plays out in relationships.
The child that is longing to be accepted, as an adult, jumps from relationship to relationship.
The child that was abused marries an abuser in hopes that s/he is different.
The child that felt not good enough, as an adult, keeps seeking approval.
And the child that was abandoned, as an adult, feels that everything is threat.
The way to fix this is to understand that you hold the key. What that inner child did not get from Mom and Dad, it is longing to receive from you. Not your husband or wife, not your career or success, but from you.
The abandoned child within needs to hear that you are there.
The pressure-driven child within needs to hear that you are okay with him/her making a mistake.
The inner child that never felt loved needs to know you accept them.
If we can learn to give ourselves enough grace to stop and listen to what that child is trying to tell us, we can then be kind, embrace him or her, and hold ourselves in the arms of self-acceptance and love. When this is done, the inner child becomes still and is at peace.