By JC Clapham
The single most powerful and liberating psychological practice I have ever done is reintroduce myself to my inner child, and show him who I am now. Yes, it sounds wanky and flowery but I truly don’t care. I gave this a crack and the positive change has been nothing short of AMAZING.
‘I want you to close your eyes and imagine that terrified and distraught six-year-old boy you were,’ the psychologist said. ‘Get a mental picture of him in your mind. Imagine his facial expression, the clothes he’s wearing, his hair style, his favourite food. Now imagine the thoughts going through his head and the pain he feels. Are you seeing him?’
I was, and I was sobbing a waterfall. That little boy, so far from a place of feeling physically and emotionally safe. So full of life beforehand and excited about what was ahead of him. But then he wasn’t.
‘Now imagine you as you are now. With all of the experiences you’ve had since then. The things you’ve been through, the times you’ve picked yourself back up. The strength you’ve found, even when you didn’t think you had any left. And picture this current you walking gently up to this younger you. How do you feel seeing your younger self, knowing what he feels?’
The gushing slowed, my torso slowed its shaking and I felt a warmth throughout my whole body. I smiled. And I began to talk to my younger self.
‘Hey little buddy. It’s ok, you are going to be ok. I know it hurts so much right now, and other things will hurt in the future too. But you will be ok, and you’ll get to feel a lot of happiness and love, too. Not just the bad stuff you feel right now.’
Little me looked at big me, and his eyes welled as his lips trembled. ‘How do you know that?’ he asked.
‘Because I’m you. The grown-up version of you. What you feel now is how I used to feel. And I don’t feel that anymore. I’m not scared anymore. And I don’t believe the bad things people do or say to me anymore. I’m a big grown-up and nobody else is the boss of my feelings anymore. Just me.’
A little scepticism showed on little me’s face.
‘I’m being honest with you, little fella. I am you, and I want to tell you this: it’s really unfair what’s happened and it’s ok to be angry about it. Totally ok to be angry.
And you are allowed to be angry at the people who didn’t help or listen. It’s ok mate. Everything you feel is ok to feel. All your feelings are ok to have. Being angry is ok. Anger doesn’t have to be yelling and screaming. Anger can be safe and you can be angry and calm at the same time.’
‘Feel all the feelings and let them be there, and they will begin to not be as big or scary. Feelings are messages, and we can listen to them. Ignoring them or squashing them down is more painful than feeling them. Do you know what I mean?’
Less scepticism now, more curiosity, from little me.
‘But feelings hurt and they make me cry and I’m not allowed to talk about them much, really. If feelings are ok, why do people say to be quiet or just do something else, and why don’t they talk about theirs?’
My heart drops at this reminder of what it felt like then.
‘A lot of people are scared of feelings, mate. Because they don’t understand them and they don’t want to have bad or sad feelings, so they push them away or change the subject and tell you to as well. But those people are wrong, and they’re just scared. Even if they seem tough and strong.’
‘People are supposed to have feelings and we’re allowed to have them and talk about them. Feelings make us strong, not the other way around. Feel them, little guy. Feel them all.’
Little me looked at big me, and his face relaxed a bit as he wiped his eyes. And I saw the faintest hint of a twinkle in his eyes.
* * * * *
Talking about this conversation with the psychologist afterward felt INCREDIBLE. It felt like I had travelled back in time and become ‘little me’ while some magical superhero grown-up version of me had come along with huge biceps and a cape and given me permission just to be myself! I felt lighter, freer, and more relaxed. There was more colour and less grey.
The psychologist encouraged me to do this whenever I wanted – to close my eyes, imagine my inner child at various difficult parts of my life, and to visit him and have a chat. And show him how I’m a strong adult now and even though there’s shit along the way, I get to be me and I get to feel so much good stuff, too.
Big me visited a whole bunch of little mes over the next few months. Little me at different ages with different things happening in his life and a whole diaspora of feelings and thoughts swirling around his body and head.
We cried together, these younger mes and I. We smiled, we walked and talked, and I even got all the various younger versions of me together for a play in the park. It was so, so healing and freeing. After our group play date I began to slowly open my eyes as I took in some slow, deep and gentle breaths.
I felt like I was home. I felt so comfortable, so relaxed, so fucking strong. And so, so, happy. I was me again. I am me again. And I do ‘got this’.