I’ve been contemplating my inner child and the emotions that arise from her lately. I hold the belief that emotions should be acknowledged, felt and processed, however, a recent encounter with a friend revealed a different perspective.
“What have you been studying lately?” he asked.
“I was just journaling about my inner child,” I replied, “and how she should be acknowledged when emotions arise from her.”
He thought for a moment and responded, “I see where you’re coming from, but I think emotions are delusions. They hold us back and are products of expectation. Depending on the extent to which our expectations are fulfilled, an emotion is felt.”
He is discrediting what makes us human, I thought. Does he not feel? I let what he said soak in and replied, “What about joy, excitement and awe?”
He said, “Those are also a product of expectation.”
I thought about this. “How our expectations are met cause us to feel certain emotions, but is this wrong? To expect? What about desire? And will?”
He responded, “I think they hold us back. They are delusions, attachments we cling to that prevent us from growing and moving on.”
As we parted ways, I said, “To expect things for ourselves in life is what keeps our dreams alive!”
My friend’s perspective holds much validity. Emotions can hold us back if we do not process them fully or allow them to grow. We can get stuck in them, unless we “expect” them to change. Unless we will ourselves to understand them, they can become unhealthy attachments or reactions that repeat over and over again.
I know my emotions are valid, not delusions, as I feel them with my whole heart, and every cell of my body. I have little control over them, as they are hardwired into my entire being. Therefore, I do not believe it is the emotions that are delusional, or even restricting, rather the relationship we have with them. They are hardwired in us, yet we break ourselves down as if it is our own doing. How do we treat ourselves when we feel a certain way? What is our relationship with this inner child that has the ability to provide so much insight for us?
But first, a little bit about the inner child. Throughout my process of healing, it has become clear that my blocks, issues or stresses arise from a special place inside of me.
This place is very familiar. It is a place I go to when I feel helpless. In fact, this place is a reservoir, a well of resources I have accumulated over the course of my life, primarily in my childhood.
Unfortunately, some of these resources are outdated and no longer effective in my present life. That little girl, that inner child, might express her frustration and impatience through tantrums, fits of crying and even physical outlash. They’re quickly followed by shame. “Why did I react that way? That wasn’t me. I wish I didn’t do that. I messed everything up.” When the resources we assume should work fail, we easily become destructive and hurtful to ourselves. We begin to blame ourselves for something that is not our fault, as if punishing ourselves will change the way we react next time.
Instead, I’m learning to be more curious and compassionate toward her. When I feel her reaching out for attention, I will ask, “What is it that you are asking for? What do you need? What are you wanting right now?” I will allow her to feel to the depths of her soul, and even act out if she needs. And with this feeling, acting and acknowledging of her needs and desires, she will progress as she outgrows the resources holding her back. This little girl within me will not grow by dismissing her as a ‘delusion’, rather by feeling and acknowledging her repeatedly, until I gain the wisdom to choose another way to cope.
Although we are not responsible for where we begin, we are responsible for where we go. I have realized it is not the little girl’s emotions I become shameful about, but it is the actions I take as a result. It is contradictory to ‘act’ like a child, when I am, in fact, an adult. Therefore, it is important to use discernment during the time between emotion and action, to decide how to express her. For me, it’s often healthy to be by myself, in a safe space, to let her come out.
With time, she will become independent and able to express herself safely and freely, creating more room for expression, spontaneity, deep joy and freedom.
Author: Chelsea Andrews owns Outside In, a natural home cleaning business, and is our intern at Continuum Healing.