Expressing the Inner Child
I came across this powerful image by Alex Boya a Canadian film director and expressionist. I felt the image justifies being published in its own right but have taken the opportunity to add a commentary which provides one interpretation of the inner child.
So, what or maybe who is the inner child?
Well, it is the version of ourself, acting and reacting with the emotions of a five-year-old, in the world of grown-up adults. Most often the inner child is characterised as the part of us which is hurt through emotional neglect, lack of validation, or significant traumatic events. It is rarely wilful or deliberate damage and not usually related to a single incidence, it is just a feeling of being damaged or not good enough.
The inner child in the adult world:
On one hand, the inner child must feel excited and enthralled with its environment. So much to see, so much to do, so many wonderful opportunities for engaging with all that surrounds them. Like any 5-year-old it remains firmly of the opinion that all which exists is within its field of vision or reach is, by definition, within their span of control and influence. Yet the events and the reactions of others around them illustrate that there is significantly more to the world than that which they can influence and control.
The inner child discovers it has more to contend with in the adult world than when it was 5 years old, more rules and expectations, more consequences and unexpected outcomes. It’s an uncomfortable awakening as the inner child realises it is not the centre of the universe anymore. It has to fit in with and satisfy the expectations of others in the adult world, far more than it ever did in the child world.
This rude awakening will bring about some significant discomfort as the inner child tries to adapt the environment to suit them and their needs. And an even harsher reality when they discover painfully, that there is more to life than their polarised view, and that they cannot manipulate as many events into their favour any longer.
It is during this attempt by the inner child to adapt their environment that they deploy their emotional skills as they did as a child. For example, crying and stamping of feet brings other changes in their favour. Or smiling, entertaining and being the clown maybe does it too. The inner child will work hard to get its needs met. Whatever the technique the inner child tries to use their emotional tools to make their adult environment adapt to their needs as it did as a child.
Then the shock comes. The shock that they cannot always manipulate their environment by deploying their emotional behaviour. Yes, it works sometimes but all too often it doesn’t. So they feel overwhelmed. The little 5-year-old doesn’t have the emotional resilience to come to terms with the fact that their environment isn’t entirely controlled by them, and that further increases their discomfort and pain along with feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness which in turn provokes feelings of not good enough, shame or self-loathing.
It’s these feelings which percolate within the adult. An icky uncomfortable feeling that things are not right. The inner child wants to hide away, but this is the adult world. People to see. Places to go. Things to do. Life to live. There is nowhere to hide. Suddenly the 5-year-old in the adult world isn’t exciting and enthralling. It’s anxiety, fear, uncertainty and doubt.
The inner child wants to hide away, it wants to go back to that safer place, adulthood feels so uncomfortable, let me out is the cry; or maybe its keep me in.