In psychology, inner child is our childlike aspect. It includes all that we learned and experienced as children, before puberty. The inner child denotes a semi-independent entity subordinate to the waking conscious mind. And this “inner child” continues to live and interact with the present, even as it reflects the past. The inner child is the source of a person’s vitality and creativity.
When emotionally overwhelmed, people tend to regress and revert to childhood strategies to get their needs met. When the mind is overloaded, it is natural to look for immediate gratification. It’s at those times that the id or inner child might wreak havoc on your relationships, or even your life. People who are chronically overloaded with stress, life transitions, medical conditions, or chronic relationship conflict may rely on childhood strategies to get their needs met.
Four examples of destructive “Inner Child” dynamics, how they can wreak havoc on your adult life, and ways to keep them in check.
- The Tantrum King/Queen: Think of the child who every time she doesn’t get what she wants cries, screams, wails and, if that’s not enough, throws herself on the ground. People around you will probably give in to your demands to keep from having to walk on eggshells. If you are doing this on a regular basis, every time you find yourself fretting about a need not being met, take 10 minutes before you respond to your partner. Step back and remind yourself that even though you are feeling something very intensely, you do not have to act on this feeling. Do something to distract momentarily — breathe, take a shower, go for a quick walk, try to take the edge off the emotion — then revisit your original feeling and see if you can either “let it go” or communicate it with less intensity.
- The Manipulator: Somewhere along the way you learned to scream out, “but you said I could and you said you would,” to your parents to get your way. Do you know someone like this? Are you always pouting if you don’t get your way? Some fall victim to still using manipulation as a way to get every need gratified or out of a fear of being direct with people. Constantly demanding and contorting things to get one’s needs met feels burdensome to others and can result in rage on the part of your partners. Instead of trying trickery to get what you want, realize that the more you do for yourself and talking directly with your partners about what you need and why, the less you will rely on manipulation.
- The Good Soldier: This learned trait is typically one who grew up in a hostile environment but had to learn to put on a good face in school, sports, church, and other events. They learned to tolerate abuse until they announce one day that they want a divorce, out of nowhere…and usually have been unfaithful trying to meet their own needs…while not disrupting the home base. If you feel your feelings are being neglected and you notice yourself doing this, try to be more real with those you care about; test the waters, there may be more room for the real you in your adult relationships than you think. If there isn’t, consider going into couples therapy so a trained professional can help you talk about your more complicated feelings and help your partner to hear you.
- The Rebel Without A Cause: Were you one to do anything your parents asked to put on the “perfect” child act but the moment they were gone, you did what you wanted? Did you not respect authority and still find yourself agreeing but rebelling in the dark? This person is the one who will have affairs, have substance abuses, and is like a teenager that never grew up. Know that continuing this way will burn you out eventually, either physically, emotionally or financially. Destructive behavioral habits can be broken. Start being your own best parent and tell yourself “no” to things that are going to make you feel worse later.
For those adults who were not adequately nurtured or made to feel safe in childhood, their inner child can play out destructively throughout adulthood. Even without childhood trauma, everyone has an inner child that needs to be kept in check. Developing a relationship with your inner child can also heal emotional problems that result from not honoring that part of yourself or even damage from a traumatic childhood. Life in the adult world can threaten to extinguish your inner child’s flame, but you can fight back against those pressures by embracing and reconnecting with your childhood source. Remember to always embrace and nurture the “good” inner child because this is the core of what you learned to love and enjoy.
Ref. Psychology Today, Wikipedia, CNN, Wikihow, MSN
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