Happiness is... ...

learning to nurture your inner child
What is your inner child? Childhood needs are insatiable – they are irrationally high, and that is why no matter how good a parent you are, it’s so difficult to cater for all your child’s emotional needs successful that you never can. The trick is to be compassionate and forgiving and allow them to work through their disappointments and challenges to grow up and leave their scars behind, healed.

In childhood, the final authority was the other person (the older adult), and so we were guided and controlled by our relationships with these others. Either we did what they said, or we disobeyed. If we obeyed and were not being true to ourselves, we felt resentful for not doing things our way and play the victim, thinking that life is unfair. Or, we can disobey and play the martyr, knowing that life is unfair but that there is another way, but not trying to or knowing how to get to that other way – hence, we built our Helpless Child persona. If we disobey, we then feel guilty about rebelling because we do not know what the consequences will be, or do not want to be responsible for the consequences of our actions – hence, we build our Rebellious Child persona. “Other-controlled”: Response as a child: to think - “I should” Even when our guts tell us otherwise ↙ ↘ / \ / \ / \ Obey Disobey | | | | | | ↓ ↓ Resentment Guilt \ /

\ \ ↘ Blame ↓ Insecure ↙ /

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In each of these situations, we’re facing the hard end of the stick, with a no-win situation. The relationship between the child and the authority figure is damaged for the child. However, what we come to realise as we foster our Adult selves’ persona, is that even though the situation seems unfair, sulking and thinking that the world is a horrible place does not get us very far. Stepping up and being able to realise when we are right and when others are right is an important part of growing up. So is learning to be accountable to our word, learning that behaviours speak louder than what we think our intentions are, and that we need to be responsible for our actions, even the undesired or unintentional consequences of them.

The child thinking, “I should” is really thinking, “I don’t want to, but it’s not okay for me to do what I want or need in this situation, so I’ll act to protect myself and do it anyway.”

The link between healing our inner child and feeling fulfilled and happy with our lives and ourselves These childhood and adult personas stay with us, shifting to gain more power in more situations, and less power in other situations. In particular, they help us work through the Grief cycle, which has five stages: 1. Denial – Helpless Child persona 2. Bargaining – Rebellious Child persona 3. Anger – Rebellious Child persona 4. Depression – Helpless Child persona 5. Acceptance – Adult persona For example, if you’re having a really bad day and then it rains before you can get the washing in, and then you receive a phone-call to say your dog’s died, then you find you’ve failed a course at uni. In this situation, your Helpless Child might come forward and take over for a while, telling

you that the world is unfair and that it has time to sit down and feel sorry for yourself. At this stage, most people will either indulge their helpless child, feeling that nothing is ever right and they are not good enough, and perhaps take on the help of their Rebellious Child by trying to escape the situation, through distracting themselves with movies or books or music, or legal and illegal drugs. This is working our way through Bargaining and Anger and Depression, and they don’t necessarily occur in order. One thing to remember, though, is that it’s healthy to allow ourselves to work through the grief cycle – if we don’t consciously let ourselves work through it, we’ll just end up repressing emotions, leading to futher hurt for our inner child personas. If we can reach a stage of realising that we’re not getting anywhere with the situation by going around in circles feeling sorry for ourselves, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is our ‘Wise Mind’, our Adult persona starting to be heard over the din of our Helpless Child and Rebellious Child. The Adult persona, who can also be called the Adult Child, is the voice of reason, the linking of what the head wants and what the heart wants. It allows us to see what we need and what we want in situations, what is rational and what is irrational, what is realistic and what’s not realistic, and helps us lovingly, compassionately and forgivingly to be accountable for our actions and responsible for our choices. It’s not multiple personalities, just the recognition that we all hold scars from our past emotional, physical, mental and spiritual experiences, and that we need to consciously work through those in order to let them go. When we are able to work through our feelings, truly feel them, we are able to realise what they’re trying to tell us, and let them go peacefully, releasing negative emotions and the baggage they create. This is the integration of our personas, and the pathway to living authentically, true to our consciously chosen values, and without irrational core beliefs ruling our lives. Many people, even when they grow well into their adult lives, still haven’t worked through integrating their persona’s very well. They are still “othercontrolled” in many parts of their life. How can you tell how much you are “other-controlled” right now? A simple exercise can tell you– for the next day, think about how often you feel guilty or resentful. Be careful to be honest with yourself; otherwise you are just in denial about the existence of your childhood persona’s. If this is the case, it is likely you haven’t even reached the first stage of grieving your childhood irrationalities to reach the point of acceptance of your childhood

experience for what it was, and moving forward to an adult state of strong and compassionate personal empowerment over your life, how you live it and where it takes you. A healthy adult perspective on life is that it’s yours to make of it what you will, and nobody else can tell you what to do – they can only give their experiences for you to ponder upon, and advice to aid your decisionmaking, but they have no right to expect you to live by their expectations of you. The only person you need to meet the expectations of are yourself, although this does not excuse you from being accountable for your actions and responsible for your choices. The problem with not being able to hone in on your Adult persona clearly, i.e. if you haven’t integrated your inner personas that effectively, is that you are often unhappy, angry, resentful and unsatisfied, and you’re never really sure why. You try so hard, but still life is unfair, and everybody else keeps treating you badly and never changing to make things right. This is, I believe, what Buddhists call ‘suffering’ – a state of being unaware of the subconscious reasons for your actions and the patterns in your life, hence perpetually being stuck in a ‘victim’ or ‘martyr’ complex, which you’re often not consciously aware that you have! I bring this up because of the question, ‘What is Happiness?’ Henri Bergeson writes, in Mathieu Ricard’s book ‘Happiness: A guide to developing Life’s most important skill’ (pp17-18): “Happiness is commonly used to designate something intricate and ambiguous, one of those ideas which humanity has intentionally left vague, so that each individual might interpret it in his own way.” The chapter goes on to say, “Sociologists define happiness as “the degree to which a person evaluates the overall quality of his present life-as-a-whole positively, in other words, how much a person likes the life that he or she leads... For some, happiness is just a momentary, fleeting impression, whose intensity and duration vary according to the availability of resources that make it possible...” Aside from the gender-binary pronouns, I think that this is still a pretty ambiguous definition, as it’s still entirely subjective and still dripping with big fat drops of ‘vague’. “For the philosopher Robert Misrahi, on the other hand, happiness is ‘the radiation of joy over one’s active past, one’s actual present and one’s conceivable future.’ According to Andre Comte-Sponville, ‘By

‘happiness’ we mean any span of time in which joy would seem immediately possible.” Seems like a bit of a tall order for us everyday folk. But this might just be because of our inner confusion and tension caused by the conflicts our inner persona’s have. This is the subconscious war we wage on ourselves, which seeps us of energy and motivation, belief in ourselves and belief that life can be good. This war is constantly draining us and leaving us devoid of passion, of interest, of zest for life, ourselves and our relationships. If, even as adults, we are not able to get past the state of being where we believe that others are responsible for our needs being met, then we will continue to live in a world of subconsciously thinking “I should” all the time, and feeling disempowered. Our inner persona’s have control over us, instead of our adult persona’s being able to parent our inner children and keep our inner-family happy. All of this, of-course, a metaphor – ‘inner child’, ‘inner persona’s’, they all mean our emotional selves, and whether it’s happy or unhappy. Co-dependency occurs when you are unwilling or unable to look after your own inner child, expecting others to meet your needs for you. Often if you are codependent, you will be in denial about this, and instead of being able to meet your own needs, you’ll rely on others to meet them for you, but at the same time, you’ll emotionally rescue other people, thinking mistakenly that if you fulfil their needs, they’ll be obligated to fulfil your needs for you in return. This is irrational thinking, and is not a reflection of how the world really is. It is just wishful thinking, as hard as it is to be able to admit that to yourself. It is only by becoming aware of these patterns that you can move past them, and be happy within yourself. Happy with yourself, the way you are. Resentment and guilt are the price we pay for keeping the approval of others, and it’s only by realising that we don’t need the approval of others, we need the approval of ourselves, that we can give ourselves permission to stop rescuing others and start taking responsibility for getting our own needs met.

Co-dependency Co-dependency occurs when you are unwilling or unable to look after your own inner child, expecting others to meet your needs for you. Often if you are codependent, you will be in denial about this, and instead of being able to meet your own needs, you’ll rely on others to meet them for you, but at the same time, you’ll emotionally rescue other people, thinking

mistakenly that if you fulfil their needs, they’ll be obligated to fulfil your needs for you in return. This is irrational thinking, and is not a reflection of how the world really is. It is just wishful thinking, as hard as it is to be able to admit that to yourself. It is only by becoming aware of these patterns that you can move past them, and be happy within yourself. Happy with yourself, the way you are. Resentment and guilt are the price we pay for keeping the approval of others, and it’s only by realising that we don’t need the approval of others, we need the approval of ourselves, that we can give ourselves permission to stop rescuing others and start taking responsibility for getting our own needs met.

Blame Emotional rescuing is a sign of wanting to be emotionally rescued yourself, and blame is the precursor to feeling like you need to be emotionally rescued. Think of it this way – you start of as a child who’s told that they should do something that they don’t want to do. They can either obey or disobey, either way they’ll end up feeling either resentment or guilt, and this is internalised to become a subconscious blaming of someone else when things don’t go the way we want. This subconscious blaming saturates society – almost everyone blames something or someone at least once a day without being aware that they’re doing it. Stopping and examining your thoughts regularly, taking stock of the things that you say and whether you really mean them or not, and asking trusted friends and family about your behaviour and what they think of it, whether they can see any patterns, etc, can be helpful in learning to not blame and taking responsibility for yourself and your actions and choices.

Getting in touch with your inner child – what does this mean? How do you do it? Learning to recognise the presence of our inner persona’s can be difficult. We all have them, it’s not that we need to create them, but rather we have to become aware of them, and this is not always easy depending on how many mental defences you’ve got up. Our inner child is a permanent part of everyone, and in order to be truly happy and feel that we’re living an authentic life, we need to embrace and nurture our inner child personas as well as our adult child personas, whoever and however they may be. Learning to love ourselves unconditionally and forgivingly like this is, perhaps, the most important lesson in life.

Our emotional natures are the sides of us that concern our dreams, fears, creativity, vulnerabilities, aspirations, what we think is possible or likely, and our dependent sides. Our feelings come from our inner child, while our rationally thinking side, which is able to forgive and accept and move through situations, comes from our adult personas. If these are too separate, you’ll probably feel out of control of your feelings. That one minute you’re fine, you can achieve your goals, then next you feel like you can’t do anything right, you’ll never be able to do anything, there’s no point in trying, it’s too hard to battle with what everybody else wants you to do and you don’t have any time left for you. See how tiring this constant switching in how we think can be? The rest of your mind, and your body, can’t keep up. Often, neither can our work or our relationships, and our quality of life keeps going downhill. It is an important part of being in-touch with your feelings is to recognise that the reason we are so often run by “I should’s” is that in our childhood, living by these “I should’s” dictated our survival – or at the very least, determined our perceived ability to get our needs met, and the ability to get our needs met dictated our ability to survive. It had nothing to do with happiness, and everything to do with getting our intrinsic needs met. These needs are:
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physical (warmth, shelter, touch, food, water, access to medical care, etc), emotional (affection, approval, acceptance, encouragement, validation, ability to follow our interests and develop our passions, ability to express ourselves creatively and feel fulfilled by our everyday lives and our perceived short- and long-term futures, etc), mental (intellectual stimulation, ability to understand the world around us and how things work, ability to develop our problemsolving abilities, etc), and spiritual (ability to connect with other people, other beings, the world around us, to feel that our life has meaning and that there is a purpose in being alive, finding out what our values are and living authentically by them, working through our core beliefs to aid the integration of our child and adult personas, ability to have fun, etc).

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If we can’t get these needs met when we’re children, we repress them – this means, we operate by “I should’s” instead of following what we want to do or what we feel, and over time we internalise the feelings of resentment, guilt, blame, anger, frustration, and disempowerment, fooling ourselves into believing that we’ve put the issue behind us. This is where

the helplessness of the Helpless Child and the rebelliousness of the Rebellious Child come from – these repressed internalised destructive emotions. The more we internalise, the more out of touch we get with our inner child, and usually the less happy we are. In order to get back in touch with our feelings, respect them and ourselves and live authentically – stop this inner self-waged war – we need to rediscover our inner child. Think about what ‘fun’ means – not to your adult self, but rather what are the things you always wanted to do as a child but never could? It doesn’t matter why you couldn’t do them to start off with, but we get to that later, because if you think of that at this stage you get caught up in hiding from the pain of your inner child instead of being able to emotionally connect with that part of yourself that remembers what fun feels like. It could be going out into the bush and exploring, building a tent cubby-house in the backyard, making fairy bread and chocolate milk for dessert, dressing up in non-co-ordinates clothes and trashy make-up and dancing to the pop-songs you grew up with with your door closed, painting or drawing, icing a cake with colours, playing in the sprinkler on a summer’s day, making mud pies in the backyard, watching a Disney movie from your childhood, etc. It can be anything you want – all that matters is, by doing it, you give yourself permission to have fun, to be happy, and to stop living in ‘should’s’. Although you don’t have to, doing it by yourself is advisable so that you actually allow yourself to connect with yourself and don’t feel stupid or that you’ll be judged by other people, no matter how well you know them. That may not work for some people, and if you’re one of those, try this method: Pause from reading, from thinking about your life’s troubles or what groceries you need to buy on your way home, and clear your mind. Take some deep breaths, breathing in a sense of calm and lightness as you breathe in, and letting go of tension, anxiety and worry as you breathe out, letting your body and mind relax. It can help to have a physical object that you hold as you’re doing this – often a cushion or a teddy bear can work well. In your mind, go back to somewhere you enjoyed being as a child, somewhere you felt safe. Picture yourself as a child, and gently allow yourself to say “Hello” to yourself. Watch for the way your inner child reacts – they might be wary, not trusting you, and so not responding at all for a while. They might anxiously say ‘hi’ in a highpitched voice back. They might hide behind a piece of furniture. Whatever happens, just focus on sending patient unconditional feelings of love, forgiveness and acceptance towards your inner child, letting them know that you’re sorry for the hurt, pain and sorrow that they’ve gone through, but that you’re here to hold their hand, protect them and guide them

lovingly. Just focus on letting them know this, don’t expect anything in return. It will probably take some time for them to trust you. You may be surprised by what you feel when they let you in – you might feel like you’re two people at once, that it’s all a bit surreal and you wonder if you’ll remember this after it happens. If you can, and you might have to work through a number of meditation sessions to get to this stage, allow your Little Self to talk to your Adult Self – what does your Little Self have to say? How do they feel about the current problems in your life, be they your job, your relationships or friendships, your body image, your confidence, anything. Let them tell you how they feel, and when you know they’re done, talk to them as your Adult Self. Allow your Adult Self to reassure them that things will be okay, point out the irrational or illogical reasons in their thinking kindly, and help them reframe situations so they can understand them more lucidly. Sometimes it can help to talk to the cushion or teddy bear as though it’s your inner child, so it’s easier for you mentally to grasp that you’re having a conversation with different aspects of yourself. Sometimes it can help to use a book, and use your non-dominant hand to write as your inner child, and your dominant hand to write as your adult self. Don’t feel bound to play by any rules or feel that you ‘should’ do this a particular way – do what feels right to you, allow yourself to be creative with how you converse with your inner personas.

Summary points: These three points are appropriated from Barbara and Terry Tebo’s Book ‘Free to be me’ (p 49), and are a useful summary of key points of learning to get in touch with your inner child: 1. My happiness, success and wellbeing has a lot to do with my needs being met – the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs of my inner child.
2. Some of these emotional needs are conscious, but many of these

are subconscious. Nonetheless, they are still alive and active within me; they are valid and worthy of attention and being met.
3. In childhood, I was totally dependent on others to meet my needs,

and meeting my needs was an issue of survival. I was bound by “Other-approval” and in fact had to give my personal power away in order to get these needs met, i.e. do what others wanted me to do,

in order to get my needs met and survive. These experiences have left scars of anger, guilt, blame, frustration and pain, and it is only by allowing my Adult persona to integrate with my Inner Child personas that I can reclaim my personal power and feel in control of my life and happy within myself.

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