“Your such a child” you snarl at your partner when he/she behaves in a way that is displeasing to you. Perhaps it actually was their child reacting to you in some way in a recent fight or argument.
In fact, for most people our “inner child” is often triggered when we are in an intimate relationship. When we were a child we learnt how to protect and defend ourselves when we felt we were being “attacked” or “restrained” or “blamed” or “neglected”. As a child, we also learnt ways how to demand what we wanted or needed when we felt our needs in the moment were not being met or heard. We formed our own “style” of demanding, defending and protecting ourselves. We soon learnt what worked, and what didn’t.
For many of us, it was not always the best behaviour that got the attention we deserved or our needs met! Or perhaps we learnt withdrawing into ourselves was the best way to protect ourselves. Regardless, a child does not consider or care what the best “behaviour” was to protect ourselves or get what we needed. We ran on our emotions and our feelings, not intellect or thoughts! We behaved in any moment according to how we felt!
So, when does this side of your inner child appear in your relationship?
Well, you may be familiar with this example …….
Your partner says something to you, or does something, or doesn’t do something that really annoys or hurts you. In fact you feel very hurt, blamed or rejected, so you start yelling and screaming at your partner how they are an idiot, their wrong, their not listening or they are a *very explicit word*, what ever it is, you react!
You feel the emotion in your heart and in your body. It is really heightened, and really you did not even give one second to consider anything else here, you totally just “reacted” to the feelings you were having.
After the storm, you can feel uncomfortable moments of silence, sulking, more “stabbing” statements etc, and maybe this lasts a few hours or days before it blows over or somehow forgotten, swept under the carpet or someone waves the peace flag. Regardless, both of you can be left hurt, angered, misunderstood, lonely and/or sad.
So, how can you manage your “inner child” here? The trick is to learn to become aware of when your are “functioning” in your inner child. If you take a moment right now, take a breath, and just have the intention to feel the energy of your “inner child” and feel the energy of your “adult” self. Can you sense the difference?
Take a moment and intend to connect with each of them separately. Feel your Inner Child in your heart and body and notice what he/she feels like. In comparison, do the same for your Adult Self and feel the difference.
The more you come to understand what it “feels” like in each of these different parts, the more you are able to recognise when you are here. A big clue to help you is to ask yourself “am I “responding” right now to my partner from my adult self or am I “reacting” from my child self?
Your Inner Child “Reacts” and your “Adult Self” responds
So what is the difference between responding and reacting? When you “react” it comes from a place in your past. It where you may feel powerless and react with opposition and defensiveness.
When you continue to “react” in your relationship you are actually “breaking down” the relationship rather than “building it”.
Reactive behaviour is filled with more self-consumed feelings, accompanied by behaviour that will not listen, reason or compromise with the other.
However, if you are aware of your feelings and can take a moment and say to yourself “who do I want to be here my child self or my adult self?”, you then can make a choice. If you still choose to react and be the child then that is your responsibility. Know that you are playing a part in breaking down the relationship also. If you choose to be the adult self than you are choosing to respond.
When you respond you are conscious; you take a moment to take control of yourself. Responding has power. You will know when you are responding as you will know you are deliberately turning your back on judgement, you have a sense of inner power and love for yourself and the other (however difficult in that moment!).
Responding may take some practice so begin with awareness. Here are some tips:
- Start becoming aware of when your inner child appears.
What does she/he normally “react” to?
What are the triggers or the sensitive points you usually react to?
- Write down some ways you can manage yourself in those moments. It is good to think about how you can respond to those triggered moments when you are not in a triggered state. Look over these response often. See yourself responding that way in your next fight or argument (hey, let’s face it, they happen!)
- Start observing people around you and notice when they are responding or reacting (without comment or judgement!) What are common situations where people “react”.
- Give your inner child some understanding. When you sense him/her reacting to something ask “what is it that I need to give you right now?”. Listen for the answers. As an adult you can then choose a healthy response to help heal your inner child without expecting others to jump at your inner child’s demands.
If both you and your partner become aware of and compassionate towards each other’s inner child and the triggers, you both can make vast improvements and growth together in your relationship.