Updated: Jan 12
The concept of the inner child is central to many therapeutic approaches and is often considered the foundation of personal growth and well-being. The inner child represents the emotional and vulnerable part of ourselves that may have been neglected or unsupported during our formative years. When this part of ourselves is not properly cared for and nurtured, it can lead to negative self-esteem, self-defeating behaviors, and a lack of fulfillment in our lives.
Working with the inner child involves the process of "reparenting" ourselves, or taking on the role of a loving and supportive adult who is able to make choices that serve our inner well-being and lead to a better life. This may involve setting aside time to reflect on our emotions, seeking support when needed. It may also involve learning to recognize and manage our emotions, set boundaries, and make choices which are good for us.
Have you heard about Outer child?
Susan Anderson in her book "Taming Your Outer Child," introduces the concept of the outer child, inner child, and adult self as a way to understand and address self-defeating behavior. These three parts of ourselves represent different aspects of our personality and can often be in conflict with one another. By learning to recognize and manage these different parts of ourselves, we can better align our actions with our values and goals and make healthier, more fulfilling choices in our lives.
The Outer Child is a part of the personality that acts out the feelings of the Inner Child in self-defeating ways. It is impulsive, obstinate, and self-centered, and prefers immediate gratification over long-term goals. The Outer Child is resistant to positive change and tends to procrastinate, rationalize, and avoid tasks. It is also reactive to unresolved feelings of abandonment and can either over- or under-react to feelings of anger. The Outer Child may play games in relationships and create drama, disguising the person's true identity. It often poses as an ally but is really a gatekeeper, working to maintain self-defeating behaviors. By becoming aware of and taming the Outer Child, it is possible to create a healthy, integrated sense of self and break free from self-sabotage.
The inner child represents our emotional and vulnerable side, and is associated with feelings of hurt, fear, and pain but also abandonment, rejection, humiliation, betray and injustice. When our inner child is not properly cared for and nurtured, it can lead to negative self-esteem and a tendency to engage in self-defeating behaviors. The inner child is the source of our emotional core and is an important part of our overall well-being.
The adult self is the responsible and rational side of ourselves that is capable of making healthy decisions. It is the part of us that can recognize and manage our emotions, set boundaries, and make choices that are in our best interests. The adult self is able to consider the long-term consequences of our actions and make decisions based on our values and goals.
One of the key insights of Anderson's work is that the outer child and inner child are often in conflict with the adult self. When our outer child engages in impulsive or self-defeating behavior, it can undermine the efforts of our adult self to make healthy choices. Similarly, when our inner child is not properly cared for and nurtured, it can lead to negative self-esteem and a lack of self-worth, which can also interfere with the efforts of our adult self to make healthy decisions. To overcome this conflict and tame our outer child, Anderson recommends a number of strategies. These include setting boundaries, identifying and addressing the root causes of our self-defeating behaviors, learning to manage our emotions, and finding healthy ways to cope with stress and discomfort.
One important step in taming the outer child is to become more aware of our triggers and the emotions that underlie our self-defeating behaviors. For example, if we tend to overeat when we are stressed, it is important to identify the underlying emotions (such as anxiety or sadness, loneliness ) that are driving this behavior and find healthy ways to cope with these emotions: acknowleging and releasing. This may involve setting aside time to reflect or engaging in activities that bring us joy and relaxation, or seeking support form others or professional help from a therapist or counselor.
Another important step is to set boundaries with our outer child. This may involve setting limits on certain behaviors (such as setting limits on screen time), as well as learning to say "no" when we feel overwhelmed or unable to handle additional responsibilities. Setting boundaries can help us to feel more in control of our lives and better able to make healthy decisions.
Overall, taming the outer child involves a combination of setting boundaries, addressing the root causes of our self-defeating behaviors, learning to manage our emotions, and finding healthy ways to cope with stress and discomfort.
Susan Anderson, 'Taming Your Outer Child', Overcoming Self - Sabotage and Healing from Abandonment', 2011
https://www.abandonment.net - Susan Anderson website and more info about healing abandonment.