I must have been eleven or twelve when I saw this film. What I remember most vividly about it were the main characters: grown men and women actors with the voices of young children. And not only that, they also behaved like children: they bickered, grabbed, pulled hair, pouted and threw tantrums when something wasn’t going their way, they made poor choices when trying to solve problems, and cried for mama when they had run out of options.
How these children got into their adult bodies, I don’t remember. Maybe by some curse or bad joke. But there they were, stuck in a cloak that commanded maturity but being unable to wear it with grace.
In psychotherapy, we call this phenomena the inner child. It is the part of us that hasn’t received the care and love it needed when we were little (or worse, were neglected or abused), and so it keeps asking. This is what children do. Ask to be cared for and loved. Do they always know how to do this, or do it well? Way no! How could they if they weren’t taught? How could they if they keep hurting?
So they bicker, demand, rage, fall apart. So we bicker, demand, rage, fall apart.
Healing our childhood wounds is the work of anyone who wants to wear the cloak of adulthood well and enjoy fulfilling and loving relationships, freedom from approval, self-criticism and dependency, spiritual growth, and trust in one’s inner compass to govern personal choices. Therapy can help with this healing, as can the following:
- Create boundaries to avoid further injury. If needed, place physical and/or psychic distance between yourself and your parent(s). You are not your parent(s) pet or their karmic redeemer.
- Remind yourself, daily, that you are a loving and lovable human being and that your childhood experiences are not a punishment or reflection of a faulty, flawed individual.
- Remember your innocence, nobility and goodness. This too is your inheritance from childhood as the realm of mystery and wonderment.
- Practice loving kindness, a simple Buddhist meditation practice for compassion and self-compassion. My personal favorite verses are as follows: May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be free from inner and outer harm. May I be free. Repeat as needed.
- Practice loving kindness, if ready and able, with your parent(s) in mind: May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be free from inner and outer harm. May you be free. Repeat as needed.
- Connect with ancestors, role models or spiritual figures who embody the qualities you are looking for.
- Forgive (including yourself).
- Try to employ humor and playfulness. Is there anything about your situation/conflicts that is comical? Can you playfully joust instead of seriously battle?
- Become bored with hurting yourself and others.
- Remember that your parent(s) will die and so will you. Remember that all this will end, and we don’t know how soon. Ask yourself how much of your hurt matters and how much time you are willing to give it.
- Ask yourself what matters.
- Ask yourself what will endure.
- Endure what is worth enduring.
If you want to explore any of the above more closely, give me a call. May you be free.