#18 - My Frightened Inner Child
Updated: Aug 29
by KC Johnson
My fears are the last thing I want to face!
My Inner Child has spent years protecting me from painful experiences. For lack of a better analogy my inner little boy created sub-selves, a concept introduced by Drs. Sidra and Hal Stone back in the 1970s called Voice Dialoguing.
When our young Inner Child senses hurtful and traumatic experiences, or even perceives a possible threat, it has to find ways to cope with the confusing emotions using only its early life understandings.
My interest in Voice Dialoguing first started in the late 1980s as I tried to understand my emotional turmoil and confusion. This concept of us having inner voices was new to me and I was ready to try anything that would ease my troubled mind. I took a class on Voice Dialoguing and began discovering a whole new way for understanding my many convoluted and conflicting thoughts.
My most significant experience occurred during a one-on-one session with a facilitator in a nearly empty room except for a couple chairs, a candle, and soothing music playing. My facilitator asked me a few questions about what was troubling me. She sensed that one of my Inner Child voices was present and she asked to have it speak up. I had no idea he was crying out to be heard.
By speaking directly to my Inner Child voice my facilitator helped me create a distance between my dominant, more controlling adult voice and my little boy. At that time in my life I had been doing home maintenance work nearly seven days a week. My facilitator helped me separate the overly-busy-adult-life me from my lonely, frightened little boy. She had my little boy move where he felt more comfortable and I (he) got up and sat in the farthest corner with arms wrapped tightly around my knees.
After a few more questions my little boy started crying and saying he just wanted me to hold him, play with him, and love him. I had been so busy that I totally left him out of my life. With eyes filled with tears and speaking in my little boy voice I marveled at feeling both my little boy and my adult self both experiencing a deep emotional connection. I promised that I would always keep him in my daily life. Eye-opening to say the least!
Don’t forget to give your Inner Child(ren) quality time, every day!
For the next 25 years I customized the Voice Dialogue concept to fit my understanding of how we evolve from childhood into becoming healthy, loving adults. By blending these ideas with my sense of our spiritual/universal energies that we all have access to I was able to develop a more practical, less therapeutic model that worked for me.
We all learn in different ways and my preference is by visualizing simple connections explaining how my little boy evolved, how he was affected by his traumas, and how he continues to affect my everyday thoughts. I prefer using the term micro-voices rather than sub-selves because my inner voices were constantly talking to me, chattering away when I was trying to sleep, interrupting my conversations with others, and whip-sawing my emotions.
Another way of seeing my micro-voice selves.
My little boy created his pure micro-voices when he began discovering his new world of movement, obstacles, feeling pain and pleasure from touch, and being able to affect people around him. These skills empowered him to explore his physical world on his own terms without feeling fears other than errantly poking a finger into his eye or falling off the bed.
But he also had to learn how to interact with the adults who were dealing with their own emotional needs, values, and teachings from their own upbringing. The nurturing process when done well is a very fulfilling experience that empowers a child’s continued development. When done poorly it can create deep traumas that cause the child to wrap its pure micro-voices with layers of protective behaviors that attempt to provide it with feelings of greater safety.
The Way It Used To Be……Is It Still That Way Now?
For Too Many, It Still Is!
Pre-WWII techniques for child raising were harsh and insensitive to the infant’s needs. Psychologist B.F. Skinner believed free will to be an illusion. Applied in the context of the family unit, this researcher seemed to suggest that forceful detachment on the part of ma and pa were essential ingredients in creating a strong, independent future adult. Parents were simply there to provide structure and essentials like food.
In 1916, Drs. William and Lena Sadler, in their publication The Mother and her Child advised parents to:
“Handle the baby as little as possible. Turn it occasionally from side to side, feed it, change it, keep it warm, and let it alone; crying is absolutely essential to the development of good strong lungs. A baby should cry vigorously several times each day.”
John B. Watson, who wrote Psychological Care of Infant and Child in 1928, represented the early attitudes about child rearing. Watson and other child care experts obsessed over rigidity because they believed that irregularities in feeding and bowel movements were causing the widespread diarrheal (sic) diseases seen among babies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Furthermore, these experts, whose ideas were embodied in Infant Care pamphlets distributed by the U.S. government, warned against "excessive" affection by parents for their children. To maintain sterility and to prevent children from becoming spoiled or fussy, these experts recommended kissing children only on the forehead and limiting hugs or other displays of affection. (excerpts from Wikipedia)
These were the attitudes my parents were raise under. Then in 1946 Dr. Benjamin Spock released The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, revolutionizing child-raising techniques that were taking hold in the United States, so my loving parents tried to nurture me as best they could. Plus, they were the recipients of their own childhood experiences as they struggled as new parents likely all grapple with how to start a new family. Despite the Dr. Spock revolutionary ideas, my parents still relied in part on their own childhood experiences. Raising two children was scary as so many parents discover.
Still there was little mention of the continued need for appropriate touch, holding, and hugging a child still needs well into the later childhood years. Social norms, then as now, were still in place in the 1950s to withhold affections, especially for males. These arbitrary standards around appropriate touch and nurturing have given many generations of males a sense of alienation from their emotions and sense of self, for most, the alienation lasts a lifetime.
My Inner Child Little Boy Had To Negotiate These Mixed Up Ideas.
My Inner Child learned to respond in repeated ways to perceived threats from his painful childhood experiences, usually by withdrawing from any judgments thrown his way, and I continued using those same responses well into my adulthood. I continually practiced those responses that gave me some sense of protection. Even when my reactions to threats seemed unproductive my micro-voices would keep using the same responses because that is what they knew.
I certainly caught myself many times using protective behaviors that prevented me from having meaningful relationships, and even continued using these same behaviors well into my later years. Even when my attitudes were counter-productive to my happiness I persisted in keeping people emotionally at arm’s length. It was my little boy keeping his fears and vulnerabilities hidden.
“You are an idiot and a fool and I’m going to get even!”
Just try yelling at people in a threatening way and watch how their micro-voices’ practiced protective behaviors kick into action. Some voices will shrink away from the threat, some will start fighting back, some may argue, and some will look bemused and either try to understand why they are being yelled at or they may shrug their shoulders thinking the yelling person has a problem and just leave.
A whole host of inner micro-voices will respond to defend the person’s Inner Child. If this situation happens to you, try to identify what your responses are. Each emotion felt is one of your child’s defensive protectors rising to the occasion.
Once you recognize your micro-voices you can begin unwinding the emotional layers that often prevent you from acting in situations as you might prefer to do.
Remember, micro-voices are your personality, they are you. They are your ’eyes’ on to the world only wrapped in the emotions of your past experiences.
To begin releasing my fearful micro-voice energies I needed to help my inner little boy feel safe enough to let down his barriers. My Child and the micro-voices he created had been carrying painful memories for many years. And if I had never felt safe enough to explore my inner fears I would be carrying these negative energies and responses for my lifetime.
We are a composite of Inner Child energies
designed to manage daily activities.
For many of us our sense of self is tied to our strongest, most forceful micro-voices. These make up our dominant personality. But we have many micro-voices, some strong and dominant, some small and passive, some that are judgers, others can be explorers, warriors, negotiators, teachers, and our creative voices. We have manipulators, judgers, victims, victimizers, and dozens more. Together they make up our total personality and they are the tools our Inner Child uses to respond to our variety of daily experiences. People like to refer to these voices as our ego, but we are much more complicated than that simplistic description.
No one voice or no small band of micro-voices can be called our true sense of self, or who we really are. Each voice has a narrow role it follows to protect our Inner Child and can’t speak for our entire personality or our true self. Micro-voices use judgment to defend against their ‘assigned’ perceived threat areas as determined by our vulnerable Child.
To protect our Inner Child the micro-voices learn to present a safe image for the rest of the world to see. That image is a projection of what our Inner Child wants our outer public self to look like. It is our Child’s protective barrier hiding our inner most fears.
Our micro-voices do change over time. With guidance and effort the energies being held by each voice can release their held-fears, can slowly mature, and they can learn to respond differently to experiences in more effective ways. But absent the effort to help our micro-voices release the held-fears they can become stuck for a lifetime in patterns learned during their early formation.
Discovering our ‘true self’
We have to develop a relationship with our aware self, what some call the voice of our soul, to be able to purposefully create our true self. Our aware self (see section on does not judge, does not criticize, is not fearful, and is the residing place for our love of our self.
Think of our human being-ness as three components. First, when we are born we have our pure skill selves, our micro-voices that our Inner Child uses to navigate the physical world. These pure micro-voices haven’t learned to judge, other than discovering what not to poke in the eye or what tastes bad or what response it gets when it cries or laughs.
Second, our Child has to eventually learn to deal with the emotional confrontations the adult world challenges it with. Nurturing issues, emotional supports, and a host of other factors causes our Inner Child to feel unsafe. It tasks our micro-voices with a new role, protecting the Inner Child from threats. Our pure original micro-voices can become buried over time in layers of judgmental, emotional energies, but the pure original voice never goes away and their fearlessness can be re-discovered as we release the energies that cloud their true abilities.
Third, we have our aware self that is the judgment-free voice of our soul. It is that quiet voice that bleeds into our deep thoughts that we know is telling us our ‘truth’. This is where our true self resides. It doesn’t criticize, it doesn’t nag like our micro-voices have learned to do. But it is where we begin shedding the fears held by our micro-voices and discover our authentic self.
Developing a healthy sense of self does require determined efforts to release the fears our many micro-selves accumulated from childhood and adulthood experiences. As with any therapy method the most important tool is helping our Inner Child open up about held traumas. We can rely on external methods like therapists and healers in various forms, and we can read self-helping literature and follow the many media programs presenting various points of view.
We hold within us an excellent tool for self-healing.
By learning to listen to our soul-voice, our aware self can provide us with amazing insights. Using tools like writing, self-talking, mirror work, and re-enforcing thoughts with mantras for healing can begin showing us glimpses of where our traumas are buried. Our aware self won’t let us move any faster than we are ready to proceed.
It can take years to slowly unwind the emotional entanglements we have created, but we can make progress as long as we are not artificially forced to unwind these entangled emotions from others pushing us to expose our vulnerabilities before our Inner Child feels safe enough to do so. We don’t need to be intimidated nor manipulated into exposing our fears, our Child needs to be a willing participant.
Of course, the progress can be sped up in the hands of professional therapists, and for deeply traumatized individuals this likely needs to be the case, but for our own self-explorations we can still make progress. This can become a lifetime of self-discovery, learning to eliminate judgments, and releasing old held-energies that no long serve a valuable purpose for us.
Why this is so significant for the world?
As we discover new ideas we begin changing just a little bit and our lives begin to slowly change direction. We begin having very different opportunities presented to us to learn from and we begin making very different decisions both for ourselves and for all of our communities we live within. We literally change the world by becoming more loving when we listen to our soul’s suggestions and follow this path for self-discovery.
In order for us to build healthy, caring, loving, supportive, and compassionate communities for ourselves we need to engage with honesty, what we need, want, and lack within us. The direction our countries evolve into reflects our collective individual ability to change and mature deep within us, to give and take lovingly, and to let go of the need to judge others.
Without this ability to self-engage by a majority of our citizens, no matter the country, no matter the leadership, no matter the challenges, we will be unable to stop the slow evolution towards the more autocratic, selfish, dumbed-down belief systems that destroy a people’s ability to manage themselves and to live happier lives.
So the greater question to ask ourselves is, ‘Why is it so difficult to explore our fears?’ And the corollary question is, ‘What can we do early in our lives to overcome the fearful emotions that hold us back from seeing the beauty life has to offer each of us?’ These aren’t idle musings.
Every decision we make is filtered through our micro-voice lenses composed of held-fear energies. Ask ten people to witness an emotionally charged event and their descriptions will all be quite different. They are not watching with ‘true eyes’ but instead seeing through their individual, unique micro-voice selves that are reflecting their unique cast of fear-ladened micro-voices.
I’m proposing it is possible to let go of enough of our emotional fears that are wrapped around our many inner pure voices to begin seeing the world through eyes not burdened with emotions and distorted by excessive self-need. Not only is it possible to do so, but I believe that it is our true purpose in life: to love every moment. To move in sync with universal pure energies.
The intention of our soul is to present us continuously with experiences to fulfill this purpose. These daily experiences are our lesson to move us into more loving directions. And the side benefit is this becomes the path for discovering genuine happiness.
This process for self-discovery starts with very small changes, just asking questions, reading from the many thousands of books written over the centuries about universal truths, and writing and talking to others about sharing these truths.
But my sense is that none of us really need to seek the answers outside of ourselves, we have the perfect guru within us at all times - our deep inner voice. That is the voice of our soul guiding every one of us at any moment. We just need to be willing to listen. It’s like we have this huge database of all universal thoughts at our finger tips, yet since we don’t trust our ability to access this holiest of informational resources available to us we go searching in far-off lands for answers we already can listen to within us. - kc