How Breaking The Bonds Of Childhood Beliefs Can Free You Now

February 26, 2023
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Categories: Self-Esteem
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0 min read
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Meet Adult Simone

Our child self is always with us, even when we’re ‘fully matured adults’. I’m going to illustrate with a real example. Let me introduce ‘Simone’ who is in her mid-30s. Simone is incredibly accomplished, a wonderful friend and person, smart, adorable, sweet, funny, awesome, kind, caring, loveable, and so much more, and yet if I was to say just ONE of these things to her, she would either recoil in discomfort, give it back to me (return the compliment by saying something nice about me), or outright refuse and tell me I’m wrong and that she does not agree. This is because Simone finds it extremely difficult to accept a compliment.

Child-Simone's Humiliation

Why Is This? Child development. When Simone was a girl, she recalls a memory in vivid detail about a time when she was at nursery and was put in a situation in which she felt ignored. She was placed in the “big teacher’s chair” and effectively, presented to the other children. The other children took no notice and continued playing. So, Simone was left sat in the big chair, ignored. She was left feeling insignificant, mortified, humiliated, and maybe even ashamed. The fact that she recalls a memory from such an early time also reveals how emotionally impactful it was to her and her development. After this Simone hated nursery and often played by herself, developing a shy disposition.

How Past Impacts Present

Well, Simone’s inability to accept a compliment reveals that she likely developed an extreme aversion to attention. Why would this happen? Because sadly, on a subconscious level, this experience made Simone believe she was unworthy of attention so will be ignored and rejected. Simone’s subconscious created a narrative; “attention is bad, and we want no part of it!”. This narrative allowed Simone to reconcile being ignored, and also formed a protective function. Indeed, by judging attention to be a bad thing, rather than feel invisible and bad about herself when she didn’t get it, Simone could feel relief. We can see how this process has developed and in it’s way, it’s very logical, that is, it makes sense.

The Cost-Benefit Analysis

But in order for this mechanism to take hold and embed itself as a protective factor, Simone’s subconscious had to nurture her extreme aversion to attention.  It could not merely be a dislike of it because this could risk bad feelings when ignored, it had to be a full blown loathing. Being ignored was no longer an option and Simone took pre-emptive action, she declined attention, she would ignore it. This meant that Simone would start to avoid attention. Unfortunately, what this did was replace the discomfort of being ignored, with a discomfort of attention (remember that compliment?). Child Simone interpreted very early on that she is not worthy of attention, that she is possibly unlikeable, and uninteresting. She also learned that being invisible was better than feeling rejected, as she had felt that fateful day. This narrative formed a deeply rooted part of her personality because it has been embedded in her subconscious for a very long time – without question or criticality.

The Thinking Brain & The Feeling Brain

Simone’s interpretation is actually a misinterpretation because it was fertilised in an innocent and naïve soil. That is, an immature brain which was trying to make sense of what happened with less sophisticated hardware.  Yes, Simone’s rational thinking brain was still forming and at this time would have been underdeveloped (the pre-frontal cortex deals with reasoning, judgement, and decision making to name just some of its functions). Further, Simone possessed less understanding, as well as life experience, and therefore had less data to consider.

 

So, although she made a seemingly logical assumption that day, it was in fact flawed, because it came from a child’s brain, and therefore the conclusion was inaccurate. Simone being a child herself, was unable to rationalise that the children were being children, they were absent-mindedly playing as children do. And also as children do, Simone’s relational-emotional brain internalised the ‘critical voices’ of the children. But these were in fact her own misguided assumptions and voice.

The Very Real Impact

This demonstrates how we still carry the inner child in adult life. Because we continue to operate using the logical, for-that-time, with-that-brain, thinking. These however, are inaccurate protective mechanisms that develop because of childhood experiences. In Simone’s case, and in many cases, these very things hold us back because we will avoid situations that could lead to great opportunities in life. We may also more readily accept mistreatment, such as criticism, because we believe it ourselves. All of these factors impact prospects in all areas of life, and therefore affect mental health.

Should We Get Rid Of The Inner Child?

No. The inner child is a part of us, and always will be. She should not be denied as she was in the past. Therapy can be the place that feels safe and facilitates connection with your inner child, tapping into the unconscious mind, and awakening the repressed emotions that wounded your inner child. The insight you can achieve can be liberating in many ways because when you realise what has happened to her, and therefore, to you, you can teach her the rational narrative that you will learn in therapy. One that counters her (and therefore, your deep rooted) beliefs, from a more developed and mature brain and mindset.

 

Being in touch with your inner child also allows you to show her love, compassion, and understanding – which means you will relate to yourself in a less harsh, and more forgiving way, such that you can thrive.  If it helps, think of a child you know and imagine what you might say to them if they had felt the same way you did, and possibly still do. This is how we can start to heal your inner child by making some dents in beliefs and subsequent patterns that were well-intentioned, but ill-judged, and that hinder, rather than help.

Table Of Contents
Meet Adult Simone
Child-Simone's Humiliation
How Past Impacts Present
The Cost-Benefit Analysis
The Thinking Brain & The Feeling Brain
The Very Real Impact
Should We Get Rid Of The Inner Child?
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About The Author
Rehanna Kauser, Psychologist
Rehanna has studied Psychology and Counselling Psychology at four UK universities. She enjoys working with individuals, couples, and families, and also loves learning, and writing. Having always been fascinated with the human mind and behaviour, her interests marry well with her naturally caring disposition, and affinity toward helping people.
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