It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
I stood staring at the crumpled, wind-battered flyer on the noticeboard. Something had stopped me at that moment, something had driven me to contemplate those words, chewing on them slowly in my mind.
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood …
I sat down from afar, starting from my solitary bench at the baby blue and sunflower yellow words, the cliche associations of flower-power, group hugs and fairy-cherubs bombarding my thoughts. Certainly, the notions associated with healing your inner child are not always universally appealing, but at that moment I instinctively knew that there were some deeper truth and value there, something powerfully healing.
And so began my quest to re-parent myself, my journey to reconnect to that lost and lonely inner child.
If you are interested in creating more wholeness and happiness in your life, keep reading what I discovered.
What Was Your Childhood Like?
A simple enough question, and something we all have a unique answer for. While some of us had supportive, loving and open-minded upbringings, others of us experienced neglect to varying degrees.
If you had a wonderful childhood, chances are that you are quite close and connected to that creative, childlike subpersonality within yourself as an adult. If, however, you consider your childhood as lacking or deficient in some way, you most likely experienced any combination of the following types of neglect:
Your parents/guardians didn’t show interest in your emotional needs for love, support, protection and/or guidance. They either didn’t pay attention to you or condemned emotional expressions of need from you. The likely outcome of this was that:
- You developed low self-worth and esteem for yourself.
- You began ignoring your emotional needs.
- You learned to hide from, avoid or repress your emotions as they were associated with feelings of neglect from your childhood.
- You developed psychological or physical sicknesses connected to your inability to listen to, accept and deal with your emotions in healthy ways (e.g. emotional repression).
This type of neglect was manifested in childhood by your parents/guardians who failed to listen to, embrace and nurture the person you were. As you grew older, you likely developed any variety of these symptoms:
- You developed low self-esteem issues due to forms of abuse such as ridicule, put-downs, overly high expectations, being ignored, rejected, or constantly punished.
- You developed deep-seated anger issues both from unresolved childhood trauma, and an inability to love oneself.
- You developed addictions and neurosis to create a misguided sense of comfort and safety within your life.
- You developed psychological and/or physical illnesses.
- You have problems sustaining healthy and respectful relationships.
At a basic and fundamental level, physical safety and nourishment are one of the most intrinsic elements of a loving relationship. We can see this in nature, with mothers and fathers nourishing their chicks, pups, and cubs with food, shelter, and protection. When this is lacking, however, the following issues can develop:
- Low self-worth resulting in physical neglect/abuse of oneself, e.g. eating disorders (anorexia, obesity), maintaining an unhealthy diet, self-harm.
- Intense safety-seeking behaviors (psychological complexes such as OCD) or extreme risk-taking behaviors (e.g. unprotected sex, obsessive daredevil feats, etc.)
- Addictions to drugs, alcohol, violence, food, etc.
- Sexual dysfunction or promiscuity (often due to sexual abuse).
It’s important to remember that while some, or even many, of our problems, stem from childhood neglect – grudge-holding, blame, and self-pity will get us nowhere. People are victims of victims, meaning that the reason why our parents/guardians behaved the way they did was most likely because of their neglected upbringing, and their parents were the way they were for similar reasons – and so on and so forth.
The real culprit here is a lack of awareness for oneself and one’s actions.
How to Re-Parent Your Inner Child
Sitting on that lonely bench staring at the blue and yellow flyer, I realized something. Our parents or guardians may not have fulfilled all our needs or any of our needs, but we can. The concept is strange, even foreign to us, but we can be our own parents. Not only that, but we can actually re-parent ourselves if we put in enough time and effort.