“The child is in me still and sometimes not so still.” – Mr. Rogers
Understanding the Inner Child
Out inner child is representative of our subconscious emotional and mental pain. He is derived from people and events in our lives that resulted in trauma and/or neglect. The inner child, who has experienced frightening and confusing moments throughout your young life, sits in the background of your subconscious. And while he may produce a constant, low-level grumbling of anxiety in some of us, his real presence is felt when he becomes activated by core emotional triggers (Very important three words in understanding your emotions.) For this article we will focus on a single component of the inner child – the emotional pain. Why? Because it is the child’s unresolved distress that leads people to rage.
How can unresolved pain from our past lead to the anger in the present? Because the “kid” correlates adverse events and circumstances that you face every day with painful memories of past events that seem very similar. To make things worse, the interpretation of current circumstances don’t match up with the painful event of the past. But to him, it seems that way, and that is what gets him in trouble. For example, your wife asks you to pick up some eggs or milk at the store and you forget. When you come home she asks you “where’s the milk and eggs?” You realize then that you had forgotten and her predictable criticism and tone of voice comes out. She triggers the inner child in you that heard the same criticism and tone of voice as his mother. The inner child awakens and the outer man behaves as the inner child does. He gets defensive and his own anger comes out. While the criticism leaves you annoyed at yourself for not paying attention your inner child is humiliated and hurt…AGAIN!
Why? Because when you were a child, your mother, when angry would punish you by exiting the room, leaving your feel abandoned, humiliated you, talked down on you and made you feel not so good enough. She made you feel this way to manipulate your behavior. It may have worked to control your behavior but it left a mark and a stunted emotional growth that is now stuck back when you were 9 years old. The disapproving voice is still fresh in your ears and your mind.
What can you do about that inner child experience?
TAKE A MOMENT AND REFELCT: What humiliating or hurtful moments can you recall suffering as a child or adolescent? I’m sure this can be a difficult exercise but it is important part of the process in understanding and connecting with your inner child. Don’t be surprised as you start to write that you recall memories long forgotten. It is ok, you are starting to obtain valuable insight that will help you in managing your anger. Go ahead and get a piece of paper and start writing down those memories in detail. Write down what happened and how you felt.
What the Inner Child Wants
There is only one goal our inner child has – to seek comfort and understanding. That inner child is locked in survival mode. Anger doesn’t come out when you’re not in survival mode. That is why angry people seem so tense all the time. Because they are in a survival mode. So if comfort is what this person wants and can’t get it from parents or spouse, where does this person get the comfort? Or maybe false sense of comfort? They get it from pornography, shopping, looking at their phone for hours, drugs, etc. True comfort comes from healed relationship and forgiveness and love from God.
There is another dangerous consequence of false comfort. Brain chemistry. A false comfort coping mechanism like watching pornography will give an adrenaline rush provided by sexual behaviors. It serves as an emotional mask over your pain. How? By increasing the levels of dopamine and other neurochemicals in the brain. Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin are neurotransmitters the body naturally produces. However, addictive behaviors result in the production of higher levels of these pleasure seeking chemicals that generate a rush or “high” that is like using cocaine. And once your inner child stumbles across this chemical method for easing his pain threshold, it is like leaving him alone in a candy store. He’ll want more and more. The key will be to stay one step ahead of the inner child before he has his tantrum. In order to accomplish this, we will need to become more alert and mindful. You can’ give the inner child this false sense of comfort. It only acts like a drug. The inner child needs true relational healing, not some masking comfort.
Our hurts from childhood comes from painful words and sometimes physical abuse. Both cause us to feel unworthy, unlovable, and not good enough. The inner child simply wants to heal and grow. When the inner child and the outer man are the same emotional age that’s when you know you’ve healed. I hope this was a helpful article for you in understanding the child that is hiding deep inside you who needs lots of understanding and care.
Article Source: Eddie Capparucci, LPC.C-CSAS, CPCS