Lesson #8: My inner child is real. She needs a hug and a cupcake.
Similar to my resistance of lying down on my therps' couch, I didn't like the concept of an inner child. That was some sort of pop-psychology myth, I'd concluded. If not for others, then at least for myself. Even after I had started to delve into early experiences and memories as a child, I was too cool for an inner child.
And then there was a turning point. Over a series of conversations about my own rigidity, self-judgment and criticism, she broaches the subject again. "A part of you is extremely critical and harsh about yourself and where you "should be" in your life. And you describe another part of you, who wants to be more forgiving, more compassionate. Who are those parts protecting?"
"I don't know....this like....vulnerable part of me. Like a 2 year old Nina. Little Girl Nina."
"Who is Little Girl Nina?"
"She's this girl, I don't know. She's this younger part of me that needs protection and care and wants to play and be loved and seen and I'm simultaneously protecting her and also ignoring her."
We sat in silence.
"Fuck." I say. "She's my inner child isn't she."
Little Girl Nina (LGN) makes her appearances regularly now. One time I tried talking to her in a chair across the couch from me. Add that to the list of therps things I thought I'd never do. I cried the whole time. I apologized for stifling her voice and not wanting to listen to her in an attempt to Be An Adult, whatever that means.
But she's real guys. My inner child is real. She's a personified, soft, squishy bunch of memories and vulnerabilities. She squeaks out her feelings and wants to be heard and seen and hugged. She also wants a cupcake. But she doesn't want to be silenced with 5 cupcakes.
I talk to her. Sometimes, when I'm overwhelmed and on the verge of tears, I ask myself quietly, "LGN, what do you need right now?" and try to hear the answer. Healing. Space. Rest.
"We are the parent and we are the child," Therps says. The parent cares for the child, keeps her safe, gives her space to play and grow. The child reminds the parent to loosen up, to be emotional and raw, to take life less seriously. The child reminds the parents of old wounds that the parent must then process for the both of them.
One of my favorite excerpts from Thich Nhat Hanh is about the inner child.
Sometimes I have a dream that I'm holding a small girl's hand on the beach. She pulls away from me and gets close to the water. She gets pulled into the waves and I feel so terrible but I think about waiting, to see if she'll come back to shore on her own. She doesn't. And so I dive in. The water isn't cold - it feels like soft jelly. We grab each other's hands and we hug each other tightly and the water pushes us onto the sand. I burrow my face into the top of her head and think, "our hair is the same." And then I wake up. But she's still with me, burrowing deep in my heart.