As adults, we are faced with decisions every day. All types of decisions involving all aspects of our lives. Some seemingly mundane, while others feel like our very existence hinges on the outcome.
As survivors, even the everyday small decisions can often become so overwhelming that our anxiety sky rockets and we end up completely beside ourselves with the fear of potential repercussions. It can be a perpetuating cycle of feeling insecure about our ability to even function on a daily basis, and worrying about what could happen.
There are multiple inner children inside all of us, each representing different times of our life. They can collectively be thought of as our Inner Child. It can feel like they are playing a proverbial game of tug-o-war with our emotions and decision-making. Each one can try to sway us in the direction they feel we should go based on our how our lives were during the prime of their existence.
I refer to my inner children as:
1977 Matt – Around the time of my life when the sexual abuse started at the hands of the teenager up the street from where I lived. Also, the time when I began to feel as though I had no one to run too or feel safe around, and began experiencing invalidation at the hands of elementary school teachers.
1982 Matt – The beginnings of experiencing being bullied in late elementary school and throughout middle school.
1987 Matt – The year I began to take my life back. The summer of ’87 when I changed everything about myself and decided enough was enough. The time that I still hold in high esteem and cherish more than almost anything else in my existence to date (next to my kids).
Those “dated Matts” are all trying to get me to see life from their point of view, and all have very viable and realistic arguments as to why I should follow their advice and make the decision based on what’s best for them. It’s an exhausting and strenuous battle to try to please each of them without invalidating the ones who don’t get their way.
They all have my best interests at heart because they’re all emotionally vested in my very existence. Each one of them has played a part in shaping my life to where it is today, so it’s important to acknowledge and love them. To simply dismiss any one of them would be an injustice and complete invalidation of who they are and what they have meant to me.
Even the most normal, everyday, basic decisions we face on a daily basis are influenced by our inner children.
1987 Matt wants me to just spend money because it feels good to buy myself something, whether it’s healthy or not, or necessary or not. That’s how I lived my life back then; the seat of my pants and just doing whatever I felt like, without thinking of any potential repercussions.
1977 and 1982 Matt want me to avoid relationships because of the fear of getting hurt. They know all too well what being emotionally beaten down (and physically) is like and they want to protect me. Those 2 often agree because the feelings they experienced were similar in some ways.
Just by those 2 examples alone you can see where there is a constant struggle, and how the differing opinions can come into play in any number of scenarios that pop up in life. Not only potentially romantic relationships or finances, but also friendships, work relationships, family relationships, decisions about projects at work, physical health, etc.
There is 1 other aspect that I need, that we need, to account for in making decisions that affect us. It’s something that I know I have sometimes over-looked in a desire to compartmentalize my decision-making; keeping everything nice and neatly accounted for…. our Adult Self.
The adult self that has lived through our entire existence to date, and gleaning insight along the way from the culminated experiences of all of our inner children. The part of us that is here and now, living each day as it comes and shapes our life in real-time.
It’s important to make sure that our adult selves work in harmony with our inner children. Each of those little dudes or gals inside has a role to play, and needs to be heard, acknowledged and validated but it’s our adult self that makes the ultimate decision. Again, while each has valid reasons why we should do what they say, our experienced adult self can see things from a high-level view.
We aren’t always in danger now like we may have been when 1977 or 1982 Matt was in their prime. But that’s what those parts of us know and relate too. As grownups, we can access how we should handle a situation or decision, and make the appropriate call based on the culmination of all we have learned.
Sometimes one of our inner children doesn’t make the right call, but it’s important to assess when their voice should be put into action and when we should say, “Thank you 1983 Matt for your concern; you are validated little dude and I got your back, but I think I can go in a different direction and be OK.”
What do your inner children look like? How do they affect your daily life? How can you as an adult take their feelings into consideration and use the experience you have now, to do what’s best for you in your healing journey to move forward in a healthy way?
Pictures courtesy of Pixabay. Social Media Images created by Matt Pappas.
Such a relevant post, Matt. Thank you for sharing this. Many of our community members struggle to even embrace the concept of having an “inner child”. I can of course only speak for myself. I struggled for several long years of my healing journey to the point of burn out. Until I chose to embrace the fact that I had an inner child, I was in essence “stuck in child mode” during extended periods of my adult life. Due to my unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious, my relationships suffered, my work suffered, my parenting suffered, my finances suffered, my health suffered. I lived a life filled with very real suffering as I numbed, stuffed and avoided, choosing to remain in contact with toxic loved ones from my childhood and young adult years. I became suicidal and had a mental breakdown when my adult son deployed overseas during a time of war.
Everything changed almost instantly once I fully embraced my past trauma and realized there were “parts” of me who had never felt safe, been acknowledged, heard, embraced or loved. So much has changed and shifted for good as a result of my embracing my younger selves’ fears, thoughts, struggles, dreams and hopes. I no longer avoid those moments when I sense an inner struggle. I no longer numb my fears or pain through busyness. I no longer stuff my feelings in an effort to “keep it all together”. As a result, I feel more whole and I am finally free.
Thanks once again for starting a critical conversation in our survivor community; a much needed topic of discussion right now in 2017.