#17 - Where Is My Inner Child?
Updated: Aug 29
by KC Johnson
“I hear the term Inner Child, but I really don’t know what that means?"
You have many micro-voices within you! We all have a pure Inner Child at birth that has to develop the skills needed to navigate its physical world. I refer to these pure, unadulterated skills as micro-voices. These micro-voices are the skills a child learns as it discovers its world.
“Our inner child is a part of ourselves that’s been present ever since we were conceived, through utero and all the developing years after where we were young and developing into tender selves: baby, infant, toddler, young child and middle school year.” Esther Goldstein LCSW and the Integrative Psychotherapy team gives an excellent description of our Inner Child in her article at https://integrativepsych.co/new-blog/what-is-an-inner-child.
These skills are the building blocks of our growing child.
We begin learning our functioning skills to help us use our bodies as we encounter the world of pleasurable and painful experiences. We learn through trial-and-error practice. When we discover pleasurable experiences like sucking our thumb or momma’s breast we develop positive memories. When we fall, bump into objects, poke ourselves in the eye, discover hard spoons and strange toys, we learn what not to keep doing.
These are the pure skills being developed without the emotional baggage of imposed emotions and judgment.
However, unless we are a feral child we have to interact with the adult world. These interactions with people, with their own emotional challenges, will affect our sense of emotional stability and sense of safety. Our Child has no tools or skills to help handle the challenges and traumas others present to us, yet we have to learn to cope in some way.
Our Inner Child has to learn to adjust to the behaviors of the people around it.
If these interactions are nurturing and supportive, we judge our situation as safe and no fears of being hurt are developed. When we don’t have our needs met like not being held, being allowed to go hungry, being ignored, and even being abused, our Inner Child develops protective mechanism over time that become judgments that we are unsafe.
The pure micro-voice skills that our Inner Child created to handle the physical world get re-tasked with trying to make ourselves feel safer. When we are well nurtured we don’t need to create defensive responses, so our loving nature develops and grows in healthy ways. We laugh, we giggle, we coo, and we enjoy being with our adults, siblings, and pets. Our positive experiences allows us to develop a positive, healthy sense of self.
However, a poor nurturing experience triggers our Inner Child to create defenses to try feeling safer.
Our Child uses its micro-voice skill-sets to develop ways to respond to painful feelings as a way to provide some degree of protection. We can see this beginning to take place with a lack of smiling, crying, unresponsiveness, and even striking back. These behaviors are signs of not feeling safe. As we grow older we develop greater sophistication in our learned defensive mechanisms. Fighting back, arguing, withdrawing, doing self-harm, running away become the tools our micro-voices develop.
We also use judgment towards our world as a protective barrier. But any judgment is a reflection of the fears we hold about our own sense of self. As we grow older our micro-voices become better able to respond with pleasure for our safe experiences or withdrawal and/or striking back when we feel unsafe.
As it turns out, our Inner Child is not a point in time.
My sense is that at every age we are constantly creating and refining our collective inner beings, our self-identity, and our responses to our world. We are more like a panorama of inner beings at every age. It’s just that during our earliest childhood years we are most vulnerable about feeling safe and our early experiences are the most intense, most impactful, and most relied upon for our personality development. The imprinting at these early ages on our future responses to our world are most strongly etched into our behaviors, on to our view of our world, and on our sense of inner self. Out of practiced habit we will fall back on those earlier childhood responses.
Discovering my micro-voices
I had the opportunity to discover this reality about my Inner Child when I was around 45 y/o. This was during a deeply traumatic and emotional period in my life when I felt deeply confused, unloved, had no direction, and I was exploring the New Age era of seeking inner peace and personal growth.
A very delightful crystal shop run by two dynamic women were holding classes using the Voice Dialogue concept that was gaining a following at that time. I had been working long hours running my home care business and joined a class with four others to explore my Inner Child and micro-voices. https://www.voicedialogueinternational.com/
The culmination moment for me occurred when my facilitator held a one-on-one session in a sparse room with just a fragrant candle, two chairs, and playing soothing music. After talking with me for a couple minutes my facilitator said, “I hear someone trying to speak.” It was my little boy!
She asked him a couple questions then requested that he find someplace where he felt comfortable. He (me) got up, walked to the far corner and sat down with his arms wrapped around his knees. After a few more exchanges with him she asked if there was anything he wanted to tell John. My little boy immediately teared up and bawled saying he just want John to hold him and to love him. I was aware of the dialogue, that I was crying, and I could actually feel my little boy talking to me
Then the facilitator asked my little boy, “Is there anything you want to tell John?” and he told me that he just wanted me to play with him and for me to not forget about him. I still tear up whenever I think about just how lonely and abandoned my little guy was feeling all of these years.
I promised my little boy that I would keep him in my life, play more, doing things he liked to do, and to love him always. Over the next few days as I continued talking with him during my quiet times I felt a deepening connection with him and slowly learned how to include him in my thoughts and activities.
It took another thirty years before my next break through led me to discover my other ages that held significant roles in my life. During my early and late adolescents I discovered new inner beings that expressed to me their well-developed fears. These newly discovered fears had been impacting my adult life behaviors and contributed to me eventually getting to experience prison and new growing opportunities.
To a lesser or greater degree every one of us harbors early life emotions that make up our Inner Child. Most likely we have lost the intimate contact with that core part of our inner being that we desperately need.
So what is our Inner Child?
It is the core energy of who we are, who we see ourselves being. It is the hidden part of us that may hurt too much to let us easily rediscover its presence in our lives. Our micro-voices that are tasked to protect our Inner Child from feeling vulnerable can also prevent us from connecting with our Child.
We need to take steps to make our Child feel safe. When we have done that our Child will let us in. As long as we are sincere, as long as we maintain that sense of safety for our Child, and as long as we remain open and supportive of our Child, then we can continue re-building a relationship between our early Inner Child and our adult self.
So our Inner Child is us, our core being, our deepest self-identity. We will hold onto these early energies for a lifetime until we find ways to reconnect with our fragile child and help it feel safer and become an important part of our daily lives once again. Without developing that connection and help our Inner Child feel safe, we will have a lifetime of challenging emotional responses to everything we do. More importantly, we will struggle with being able to love and feel love from others. - kc