Remembering the inner child
Eric Berne (circa 1950s) is one of the psychologists attributed with coining the terms the “inner” adult, parent and child with regards to states of mind or personality – it’s part of the psychological theory referred to as transactional analysis. I am sure I came across this when I did PY101 at University all those years ago but it was a fact that remained dormant in the archives of my mind (a dusty and cob-webbed place) until I found myself “burned out” and attending a psychologist (about 23 years ago when I worked as a Speech pathologist, and was parenting a young child and managing complex relationships with my in-laws).
She mentioned the concept to me, and I was surprised how much it resonated. I expect she used some “poetic” licence but let me share her thoughts with you. The child state is the part of ourselves, often lost in our adulting, where intuition, creativity and spontaneous drive and enjoyment reside. The inner parent is a bit more complex, and reflects much of what we learned from our own parents or authority figures in our lives – essentially it allows us to make automatic decisions (that’s just the way it is done), without much take on whether these decisions are right or wrong or well-founded or justified. We hear our parent when we literally think “Oh no! I sound just like my mother!”. The adult is the responsible inner self, making countless decisions based on good information and managing many things to ensure day to day living happens as seamlessly as possible.
The psychologist asked me if I ever let my inner child out to play – did I ever do anything creative or spontaneously, “off the cuff” so to speak. Did my husband and I ever just go on a picnic or a date without planning every other aspect prior? What things did I do “just for fun”? She asked me to draw a visual representation, like the food pyramid, allocating the reality of my existence in terms of adult-parent-child – my pyramid was sadly very unbalanced – largely adult, some parent and non-existent child. At that time, I could not think of a single spontaneous thing I had done – it seemed like forever; nor could I identify what I did “just for fun”. This was a defining moment, when I was challenged to remember my inner child, to nurture myself and to deliberately choose to put back intuition, creativity, spontaneous drive and enjoyment – to rediscover my joy.
What does this look like for you? Do you live each day in “survival mode” waiting for things to get better? Waiting for the exam to be over? Waiting to progress in your training pathway? Waiting to snag that most desirable job? It’s time to stop and indulge your inner child – encourage your inner child to rediscover the things that bring you joy – phone a friend on the off chance they can meet you at the park; play that instrument that you have tucked away in your top cupboard; join a choir. I still find myself in “survival mode” far more often than I would like, but I recognise that my inner child needs attention – how about you?
With thanks to Meryem Brown, psychologist, for helping me find my inner child all those years ago.
Dr. Faye Jordan
Dr Danielle Scarfe