Monday, September 14, 2015

Sweet (Inner) Child o' Mine


It is fair to say the image below largely impacted me and had a direct influence on my writing this post. An art installation from this year's Burning Man was shared on the World Wide Web by many and made it's way to a friend's Facebook page (thank you, Cherie!) where I spotted it for the first time a few days ago. This piece, titled "LOVE" by Ukrainian artist Alexandr Milov, depicts two adults (a man and a woman), backs turned and posing in a display of despair while their encaged inner children reach out to one another.

I'm certain this piece struck me in the same way it did most people: as a commentary on the way adults are often quick to turn inward during times of struggle, so enmeshed in their own suffering they cannot see they are not alone. In addition, this piece spoke to me, personally. It asked the questions: Is my inner child trying to tell me something? And if so, what?

The answer was painful to face: I haven't the foggiest.

As a student of psychology, counseling, and spirituality, the inner child concept was familiar, if not somewhat elusive. Wikipedia describes the inner child as:
"...our childlike aspect. It includes all that we learned and experienced as children, before puberty. The inner child denotes a semi-independent entity subordinate to the waking conscious mind."
In essence, the inner child represents our innermost desires and feelings, often screaming to be heard over the everyday humdrum of life we, as adults, face. In more dire circumstances, the inner child may be suffering along with the "waking conscious mind" of its adult counterpart, due to pain, suffering, and/or trauma experienced in childhood.

Having attended many Overeaters Anonymous meetings, I learned many twelve-step programs also adhere to this school of thought, suggesting healing the inner child is an essential part of addiction recovery. The implication is if our inner child represents our purest selves, our most independent and carefree parts of our being, when s/he is damaged in some way, it can (and in many cases) will affect our everyday lives. The idea being, as adults, we find ways to drown out the inner child's pleas through overworking, addiction, eating disorders, self-harm, distractions, escapism, anything really.

Having some knowledge of the inner child concept and viewing the Burning Man image opened my mind in a way I was not prepared. While the above image of the woman viewing herself and her inner child in the mirror can, upon first glance, appear to be nothing more than an animated horror movie scene, this is precisely how I felt after viewing "LOVE": alarmed and afraid. 

I was/am frightened of what I might have done to my inner child with my addictions and disorders, depression and anxiety, self-loathing, self-injury, and self-deprecation. I was afraid she was angry with me after yelling at her for not being smart enough, skinny enough, strong enough, or just plain ENOUGH. I imagined her cowering in the darkest corners of my mind and body, crying and feeling hopeless, longing to hear anything close to praise. But worse still, I was most frightened she was gone-given up on me the way I had given up on her. I feared she wouldn't trust me again, for all my failed attempts to nurture her in the past. And, in all honesty, she had every right not to. 

The twist is, when I went looking for her she was eager to connect with me again. She trusts me implicitly and expects no explanations for my failures. She welcomes me with open arms, as if she were there all along, waiting for me. Because that is exactly where she has been. She didn't leave me, I had left her. She waited, patiently, knowing I would return, understanding that my journey may involve letting her go for a time, but always confident I would someday reappear. She didn't scold or pout, she didn't cry or scream, instead she danced and sang and played with my comeback. 
She became radiant, glowing as if from within, as she laughed and joked, prompting me to do the same. I felt my insides begin to heal, both symbolically and literally. It was as if her glow of rejoice was beginning to consume me. The air felt lighter and  easier to breathe, my feet carried me with ease and purpose, I straightened my back and adjusted my smile. I felt honest, sincere, genuine...I felt like me.
Me, age 3 
As if this epiphany wasn't enough, in true Melissa fashion, I found a song to encapsulate this very feeling of "coming home" to my inner child-to acknowledging her and freeing her from the emotional traps I had kept her in. Interestingly, in the past I had tried to make this song fit with lovers and a couple months ago I heard it again and decided it was a love song to myself. Saturday night, this song happened to play on my iPod and I was paralyzed for 2 hours as this song repeated and the realization unfolded that this was me singing to my inner child. 
The song is "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri. The lyrics suggest that not only have I known and loved my inner child seemingly forever, but also that I have always known I would reconnect with her-seeing her alone in the shadows of my mind, wiping away all doubt of her existence. The opening line: "Heart beats fast, colors and promises, how to be brave, how can I love when I'm afraid to fall?" reminds me of the feeling I had (and continue to have) once rediscovering my inner child and inner spirit: reckless abandon, colors seem brighter, bravery reignited after being long forgotten and yet the oh-so-human response of "what if I fall?"
Granted, this song can hold some negative connotations for its association with the Twilight movie and it has been used by many as their wedding march. But, if you are willing to look past that, listen to the lyrics, and imagine what I do, I believe you may experience the same goosebump-y feeling I had Saturday night, when each time the song ended I silently said, "One more time..."

I suppose this means I am, indeed, "one step closer" to reconnecting with the me I haven't seen in some time. The me that loves to color and joke, makes up songs and poems, and dances around the house. The me that laughs uproariously at nothing in particular, has dreams and chases them, sets goals and is hopeful they will pan out. The me that plays. The me that leaps. The me that lives.

Me, 8 hours after my "A Thousand Years" reverie
Rumi said: "When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy." I think he was right.
*Title credit: Song: "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns N' Roses in 1987



  1. Hey luv. So, I am having a difficult time wit this piece and I'm not sure why. I don't know if I am having a problem concentrating, most likely. My attention span is very short at the moment. Or do I just have to re-read it and see if I even understand the concept. I have heard of our inner child, I just never thought to explore it. I will eventually have an answer for way or another.

    1. I'm sorry you're having difficulty. The inner child thing is a lot to take in. Hope you are well. Xoxo.