Parenting our inner children | Mark’s Remarks

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Sometimes you get some great advice. For me, it came in the form of a book called “Your Inner Child of the Past” by W. Hugh Missildine. 

The advice and the insights in this book changed my whole way of thinking about myself.

Missildine wrote the book in 1963, but it’s current and impactful in any decade. A psychiatrist, Missildine contends that many people go to therapy and counselors, yet there aren’t enough mental health professionals to fill the emotional needs of everyone.

This may have been true in the 1960s, and I’m not sure it applies as much now.  However, he makes a good point. If we were just aware of something called our “inner child” and how our thought processes operate, we could most likely leave the counselors and psychiatrists to those who really need them.

It is Missildine’s theory that we all have an inner child that was shaped, well, when we were children.  We learned behaviors and attitudes early on, and even after we grew up, that inner child is still there.

This is why we often find ourselves feeling things we view as childish. We feel like pouting, we want to throw a fit, or we want to go hide in our bedroom.  These are not childish feelings. They are simply our inner child acting out.

It makes sense.  A person does grow up, but our inner child still remains.  Why wouldn’t it?  This was a living, thriving person at one time. We carry this child with us as we grow older.

So what do you mean, Tullis? Are you saying we never grow up?

In a way, I am. Sure, we progress and gain an understanding of the world.  We continue to learn from those around us and our ideas and attitudes change somewhat.  However, some of the things we embodied as kids hang around.

So, what do we do with it?

The key to dealing with our inner child is knowing that, as adults, we have to parent ourselves. We don’t necessarily parent this part of us the way our own parents would have. After we have gained an understanding of who that inner child is, we can also understand the right way to parent this “person.”

Am I making you feel a little out of sorts yet? Let me illustrate.

A child grew up in a household where the father was critical and nothing was ever good enough.  The mother was subservient and passive. So, this child became someone who was constantly trying to gain the approval of others. A perfectionist. Someone who depended on what others thought of him.

When this child grew up, he too was critical of others. He looked down his nose at others, yet felt destroyed if someone he viewed as superior did not affirm him. He was angry toward people like his mother who seemed weak and out of touch. He was constantly worried about what people thought of him.

If this guy would get in touch with his inner child, he could recognize all of his conflicts as an adult.  When the “childish” feelings of not being accepted, being angry toward “doormats” like his mother, seeking the approval of others, and on and on would occur, the adult version of this guy could put a mental stop sign in front of his inner child and, as crazy as it sounds, have a mental parent-to-child conversation with himself.  

The adult, parent version of this guy could ask his inner child why he was feeling the way he was feeling. He could explain why his own parents behaved the way they did, and how they were only reacting the way they themselves had been brought up.  He could reaffirm things about the inner child and gently talk himself into feeling better about himself.

In a sense, he’s taking a step back and gently reprimanding or calming his own inner child. In the end and as an adult, he doesn’t experience heartache and might avoid conflict with those around him, simply because he is “parenting” himself.  

We have all known people who are hypochondriacs. These people are always sick and almost seem to find joy in their physical ailments. Do you know people like this? I can tell you right now that those people have inner children who feel alive and thriving when they are ill or have some physical issue.  

As silly as that sounds, it’s true.

You see, when these adults were young, their caregivers gave them the best care and the most attention when they were ill.  Some parents who also gain attention this way project these feelings and attitudes on their children. The kids eventually realize they gain love and acceptance from the people they need it from by being sick. Plain and simple. This type of person, this hypochondriac who is always sick or ailing from some malady, is one of the many outlined in this book.

It’s out of print, but you can still get copies online.  There is so much good stuff in there, I will most likely share more with you in the coming months. It’s all so sensible, I want to let you all experience it.  

Furthermore, you can use this knowledge and apply it to the truth of who God made you to be. Taking all those things into perspective, you can’t help but be healthier mentally, spiritually and even physically.

The only way for us to really come to terms with that inner child within us is to examine all the feelings we have that may seem “childish” to us. When someone says “grow up” or “you’re being childish,” it’s very true. We all have that capacity within us.

How we react and how we parent ourselves is the key to healing.

If you read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to email me at marksremarks10@gmail.com.

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