Within each of us is a memory of the child we have outgrown – our inner-child. This inner-child continues to interact with the present , even as it reflects the past. Our well-being and creativity is being fed by our inner-child, and developing a relationship with that inner-child can help us to heal emotionally, especially if we had a traumatic childhood or if we are deliberately trying to forget our childhood. As we live our daily life as adults we can easily put out the flame of our inner-child, but if you want to reconnect with that playful, innocent you, you can fight back against those pressures and discover a side of you that longs to be rediscovered.
A few years ago I was looking through some old family albums, and came across a photo of me when I was about seven years old. I did not recognised myself at first, and had to phone my mom to double check that it was really me in the photo. I wanted to believe that it was me, but the image was so far removed from who I was as an adult looking at that photo.
The photo was of me running on a long stretch of beach, arms wide open, my head thrown back in pure joy. For a fleeting moment I experienced the joy I had felt for that instant, but then my mind tried to erase it again.
Just that fleeting moment was enough to put me on a path to reconnecting with that little girl on the beach. I desperately wanted her joy and playfulness back and I was willing to do anything to achieve it.
Now I know that for some of you this may sound ridiculous, but I also know there will be others who can identify with what I am saying. Not all of us had perfect childhoods. It may be that you were bullied, or like me, experienced neglect and abuse. There are many reasons why you may want to forget that you were ever a child.
We survive difficult childhoods, and then become adults without any joy or playfulness. We dismiss those attributes as childish behaviour, but yet we feel empty without them.
This describes the way I felt most of my adult life. I was happily married, a mother to two beautiful children, ran a successful business, but still I had no playfulness, no exuberant joy!
Until I came across that photo of me as a little girl of seven. The thought crossed my mind that I have betrayed her! I allowed myself to become someone that she definitely would not recognise, or even like.
That realisation set me on a path to try and rediscover my inner-child, and in this I allowed myself time and set no deadlines. I will share some of the steps that I took to do this.
The first step in this process was just to acknowledge that there was a vital part of who I am that I neglected and suppressed because of my need to survive my childhood. I had grown up the best way I could, but by allowing myself to “time travel” by looking at old photos, I realised that I had actually lost the best part of me. I made time to reflect on the things that brought me joy as a child, going back into those memories and experiencing them in my mind. I had focused a large part of my life on the reasons why that little girl had changed, and I realised that to rediscover her, I had to focus on the time when she was still happy and playful. This brought me great joy and each time after I did this, I felt closer to myself.
I love seeing the innocence of children, and I deliberately made time to be around children. I would watch them while focusing on being wholly present, and I realised that that was a game changer for me – learning how to be present. To allow myself to enjoy an ice cream or a conversation with someone new. To not think about anything else, but just to focus on and enjoy whatever I am busy with.
As a believer, I made time to allow the Holy Spirit to work in me and to reveal parts of myself that I had become accustomed to hide or ignore. We all grow up learning from a young age how to mask our true feelings and emotions. I deliberately embraced those emotions that used to scare me and as I grew in my emotional wellness, my inner-child matured.
I am still on this journey. I am continuously allowing that inner-child to shine, and I realise that those around me love seeing her surface. Not as a little girl, but through my reactions and responses as an adult. I am no longer trying to survive, but thriving in who I am. Loved, accepted, cherished and embraced, by myself and others!