Sunday, August 7, 2011

Is Your Inner Child Angry? (Read Time: 4 min.)

Ever find yourself in a rage about what's missing in your life?
Do you ever hit a breaking point where you're fed up with doing everything for everyone except yourself?
Have you ever gone to bed or woken up angry because you're tired of feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders and no one to help you carry the load?

That anger is your inner child throwing a tantrum. It isn't pretty but it is a powerful warning sign that your most important needs aren't being met. Before you say something you don't mean or do something you'll later regret, you need to stop, breathe and parent your inner child effectively.

As children, most of us lacked the authority or vocabulary to say to others, "Enough. You're putting too much on my shoulders. Let me be a child." In fact, many of us saw taking on parental burdens as a way of being "good." What we didn't know then is how deeply embedded both our anger and our grief would be about the fact that we were not allowed to be children cared for in the way that children deserve.

What ends up happening, then, is this suppression of resentment that we aren't able to voice as children. It lives below the surface until, as adults, someone or something, triggers old pain. When we feel as if we're being pushed to the limit emotionally or physically, that inner child lashes out in defiance, "Don't put that on me! I can't do all of this! Let me be a child!"

As adults, that can show itself as irritability, moodiness, withdrawal, rage and even sadness. But the real work of healing comes not in demanding that other people step up to the plate. The answer lies in accepting the fact that you don't always have to.

Your inner child may feel like he or she requires other people's participation to feel safe but the only person's involvement that is needed is yours. As the inner parent to your inner child, you have the right and responsibility to protect his/her sense of safety, security and childhood. You can say no to people, requests, and situations. It's okay to say yes to what you need. It's healthy to acknowledge where you feel overwhelmed or stressed. The goal is not to stop the anger but to channel the hurt into a space of healing.

How do you do that?

Here are three ways:

1. Make the moment safe. Sometimes, you'll have an inner child tantrum where needs can't be met in that moment. If you're at work and your boss has requested you stay late to work on a new project and you've got three other unfinished projects, a doctor's appointment at five, and still have to do grocery shopping for the kids' dinner tonight, you won't be able to say 'No' to everything and sit for an hour to meditate. You will feel stressed, pressed and maybe depressed. What you can do in that moment is remind yourself that no matter how many different directions you're pulled in, your responsibility is to do the best you can with what you have... and not worry about the rest. Make the moment safe by reminding yourself that it's not about living up to other people's expectations. It's about knowing what your boundaries are and honoring those as strengths and not weaknesses.

Give up the "I'll make it work at all costs" attitude. Instead, say to yourself "I will do the best that I can and that is good enough. Whatever doesn't get accomplished today will be available to accomplish tomorrow. I have time and I'm using it well." Keep saying that until your inner child feels calm, less pressured and safe."

#2- Ask for what you need and give it to yourself. When your inner child is acting out, ask the quesiton, "In this moment, what do I need? What can I give myself that would make me feel peaceful?" Sometimes what you need is a long walk alone. Other times, it's an intense gym session. At other times, it'll be a good cry. Whatever it is, acknowledge things that you can give to you... and then give it.

#3- Separate the perception from the people. Children like to blame other people for their problems. That's how they intepret their personal power. With a child, it's "She made me do it!" or "He wouldn't let me" or "If you'd done this, I would've done that." Those excuses are normal for children but they won't get you very far in adulthood. When the inner child is throwing a tantrum, we need to be very quick about keeping the focus on inner work and not outer expectations. People won't always know what you need or how to provide it. That's why you have the ability to meet your own needs. There is nothing that you need that you can't provide. Don't take offense when others lack the knowledge or ability to make you feel safe or secure. Oftentimes, they don't know how and even their attempts make things worse. Resist the temptation to accuse people of not being on your side simply because they don't fully understand your perspective. Those who love you are responsible for loving you, not parenting you. That is a role only you can fill.

At the end of the day, your inner child will throw tantrums. He or she will get upset. As long as there are unhealed places, there will be pain-filled triggers. Don't worry about the triggers. Be prepared to handle them as they arise. Stay focused on parenting, not on projecting and your inner child will learn that peace, like change, is an inside job.

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