Does your Inner Child need attention?
When I trained as a counsellor in 2008, my work placements were ThePlace2Be (play therapy for children); Phoenix Futures: Bromley Community Alcohol Service (counselling for those looking to reduce their alcohol consumption; those looking for abstinence or those newly out of rehab) and Family Matters (child and adult survivors of sexual abuse), where I was employed for the next 15 years.
I found the work with Family Matters hugely rewarding, you could see the positive difference you were making to people's lives; the empowerment they were gaining and the autonomy you were helping them to access.
This was where my approach to counselling formed and has developed over the years, with Transactional Analysis (TA) and inner Child work coming to the fore more and more with clients.
TA was developed in the late 1950s by Eric Berne, a Canadian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, and focused on our relationship with others, the roles we take on, and most importantly of all, our relationship with ourselves. As TA for kids (by Alvin & Margaret Freed, 1977) puts it, "You are three people... For you and me to understand ourselves, to know why we do what we do at different times, we have to get acquainted with our three selves... Parent, Adult, and Child"
The Parent alter-ego represents the people who set examples to us in our past - what we acquired from them (they can be nurturing or critical.) The Child is who we are in the past (and is 'free' or adapted to their circumstances) and the adult is who we are in the present.
These alter-egos fascinate me, especially the child: "the part of you where your feelings are - so when your feelings are strong and in control of you, your Child is in charge" (TA for Kids.)
I began to understand myself better and to recognise when my Child was coming out; whenever I got upset - there she was, the first 'version' of me who learnt feelings (I call it the "Scrappy Doo" effect!) She would come out, all guns blazing to 'fight' for me - then retreat, because she is a Child and too young for whatever it is I might be struggling with - but she'd want to get involved ("Lemme at em Uncle Scooby!")
She still comes out - especially if I feel overwhelmed, she just wants to cry, but I am able to soothe her now and reassure her that she doesn't have to 'fight' my battles for me. I am the Adult, I can cope and it's okay.
In my work I have met a lot of people who have survived appalling abuse; trauma that can never be undone and this creates Adults who are carrying their 'frozen' (due to abuse) Child within them, in some cases Children (of differing ages.)
The number of people who have attempted to tell me, "Inner child? No, no, s(he) left long ago! - only to have to tell them, "Sorry, not possible - s(he) is you and you are her (him!)
A lot of people tend to blame their Child for their past: "many clients find it extraordinarily difficult to accept that their Inner Child is anything but a nuisance, needy, or 'pathetic' ( A Creative Guide to Working with the inner Child by Pauline Andrew, 2019.)
I have seen and heard so much hatred for those Children - and yet that's exactly what they were, defenceless, innocent, hurt Children and I realised that they needed to be met with compassion and kindness instead of being blamed for the abuse they endured.
Treating your Child differently, acknowledging them for starters (rather than denying their existence) and listening to them, reassuring them - can be a game-changer.
Counselling can show you that you can be the Adult who your Child (Children) needed back then. It can help to repair that relationship for you now, to get your alter-egos working together, rather than against you.
If you would like to explore this topic further then please feel free to contact
Geraldine Linley for a free initial conversation.