What’s the Kid in You Saying? by Rick Hanson

The Practice

Love your inner child.
WHY?

As long as you’ve lived, your experiences have sifted down in your psyche, forming layers like the bands of colored rock in the Grand Canyon. The most fundamental layers were laid down in your childhood, when your brain was most impressionable.

Because of experience-dependent neuroplasticity, the things you felt, wanted, or believed as a child have been woven into your nervous system. For example, crying as an infant until someone came, joy at beginning to walk, fun with friends, feeling bad about yourself when scolded about schoolwork, power struggles with parents, wanting your body to be bigger/smaller/different in high school, wondering if anyone will like the real you, the bittersweet excitement of leaving home – whatever your own childhood was, experiences like these have sunk in to you and travel with you every day wherever you go.

Taken as a whole, these residues make up your inner child – which is not a silly cliché, but actually a large-scale system embedded in your brain that continually and powerfully influences your mood, sense of worth, expectations, and reactions. This child inside is at the core of who you are. If you are embarrassed, ashamed, critical, controlling, squelching, pushy, or angry about this child, that will affect how you feel and how you act. Therefore, accepting the child parts within you, guiding them gently, and soaking your inner kid in cherishing nurturance will heal and feed the deepest layers of your psyche.

This inner child stuff can get conceptual, superficial, or merely sentimental. Instead, bring it down to the bone. Most childhoods are rocky, one way or another. As a kid, you probably felt hurt, were disappointed, felt like a loser, wanted recognition and love you didn’t get, shelved some big dreams, and made decisions about yourself and life with the “logic” of a child. This is real. It had real effects. And you have a real chance today to be the strong, wise, and loving friend, coach, and yes, parent that you’ve always longed for.
How?
Open to feeling cared about by someone. Next, move to feeling caring toward a friend, family member, or pet. Marinate in this sense of interest, support, and nurturance; let it fill your heart and mind. Then, staying grounded in the experience of caring, shift the target of this caring to yourself, especially yourself as a child.

Now, reflect back on your childhood as a whole, starting with your earliest memories. Stay with your experience of it, not the story line about it. What did it feel like to be a young child? To be in grade school? In high school? What were your happiest times? And most upsetting? What went well for you in your childhood – and badly? When did you feel really understood and supported – and not? What in you flourished in childhood – and what got bruised or wounded? What sort of kid were you – especially deep down? When did the best parts of you come out? What’s become of them?

As much as you can, try to hold a sense of caring toward yourself while you engage these questions. Stay with your actual experience as a child, not critiquing it or justifying it, and definitely not shaming yourself for it. The vulnerable child inside everyone usually expects rejection, so it’s afraid to show its teary, sniffly, snotty, whiny, needy, frightened, or angry face. Please don’t push this child away. It wants to show itself but is afraid to. Make it safe for it to show itself to you.

Look for ways to bring the child inside you out to play. For example, my friend Leslie told me about moving to Wyoming and wandering in its extraordinary wilderness like a big kid, not trying to accomplish anything, feeling free and delighted. Take different routes to work; pick up (or return to) gardening, crafts, art, music, or a sport; quit being so darned serious and significant (this one’s for me, too); goof off; play with your own kids; make messes; ask your inner child what he or she really wants to do. Don’t be so constrained by routines and presumed limitations; remember what it felt like to be a kid on the first day of summer vacation; in the same way, the whole rest of your life stretches out before you: have fun with it!

Accept that you will never have a better childhood. Yes, assert yourself skillfully to get appropriate caring in your relationships. But also know the hard truth that it’s on you, no one else, to be the main advocate, cheerleader, protector, and nurturer of the child inside – and the adult that kid has become. Keep both of them close to your heart.

This comes from Rick Hanson, Ph.D., psychologist, New York Times best-selling author, Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, and invited lecturer at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard universities. See Rick’s workshops and lectures.

 

By Matt Licata

There is a tendency to look to our intimate and love relationships to make us feel better – as if this was their primary purpose. This of course is an old template that lives within us from the earliest hours, days, weeks, and months of our lives; when we intelligently looked to our caregivers to metabolize our emotional experience for us, to empathically attune to our developing nervous systems, and to hold and contain the wide-open vulnerability found inside our little hearts.
We can also start to see how we can subtly use our relationship with spirituality in this same way, to make us feel better. It is so natural, really, from a developmental perspective, to look to intimate relationship and spiritual practice to provide us with those thoughts, feelings, emotions, and states of consciousness which we so long for, which are safe, which feel nice, while simultaneously hoping they will remove from our experience those others which we just do not want to feel – which point to the uncertain, unknown, groundless dimension of love and its movement. There’s just too much exposure there, we’re too naked, and there’s very little room here for the confirmation of our personal identity project.
But is this the ultimate purpose of our intimate relationships – or for any sort of spiritual or transformational path? We so badly want to feel better about ourselves, about our lives – to somehow make contact with this deeply rooted belief and fear that we are ultimately unlovable, unworthy of love; that we’re not fully okay as we are. Deep within, under our stories of spirituality, intimacy, and awakening, we may find a life-or-death need for the other to confirm us – whether that other be our intimate partner, our guru, our parents, our children, or our friends on the path. Am I awakened? Do you love me? How do I need to change so that you will see that I am special and worthy? Really, I’ll believe *anything*. I’ll do anything to be seen, to be held, to be validated, to be recognized, to be confirmed – just let me know what I need to do. Please help me heal the wound of unlove.
In my conversations with many of you over these last few months, we have seen a lot of this together; how we’ve subtly and unconsciously asked our intimate partners, our love relationships, and our spiritualities to make us feel better, to feel safe, to provide some solid resting place. What a gift to be able to see this, despite the shame, the vulnerability, the anger, and the frustration that can accompany such insight. We’ve seen that holding these realizations in an enormous space of lovingkindness provides the fuel and the courage we need to keep moving forward, to not become caught up in self-denigration, self-hatred, and other ways of being aggressive toward our lived experience. We can even see that these defensive strategies and developmental needs arose out of an intelligence, a creativity, a clarity when we were little, during a time when our precious nervous systems were not able to fully digest our experience, not quite able to fully metabolize the lack of empathic, attuned validation which inevitably occurred in our families of origin.
Friends, can we create a loving, holding environment in which we can see ourselves as we are? To engage with this gorgeous sensual reality as it is, setting aside our fables of awakening and specialness? Can we somehow make a commitment, that no matter what, we will be kind to ourselves – that we will stay close to our embodied immediate experience as it is? For it is only in such a loving space that healing can pour into and through our lives, out into the hearts of others, and only then can we see clearly what is truly driving and motivating us – both in our intimate love relationships and in our spirituality projects.
And in this holding environment – designed out of the cells of your very own heart, out of the light-strands of your most precious DNA – we can finally come to some rest, to allow love to lead the way, to take us on its journey. We start to see that who we are *is* love, and that we need not frenetically or desperately seek it from another or from our fantasies of awakening or from our dreams of intimacy and what these will give us. These pathways were never designed to make us feel better, to reinforce our specialness, or to somehow compensate for our wounds of unlove; they are much more precious than that. For they are doorways into the center of your heart, waiting patiently for you to trust yourself enough, to love yourself enough, to be kind enough to yourself, so that you can step through, and somehow allow love to have you, to have its way with you, revealing its mysteries in each and every moment of this life as it is. And then it is only love that will show you the way home.
There is a tendency to look to our intimate and love relationships to make us feel better – as if this was their primary purpose. This of course is an old template that lives within us from the earliest hours, days, weeks, and months of our lives; when we intelligently looked to our caregivers to metabolize our emotional experience for us, to empathically attune to our developing nervous systems, and to hold and contain the wide-open vulnerability found inside our little hearts.

We can also start to see how we can subtly use our relationship with spirituality in this same way, to make us feel better. It is so natural, really, from a developmental perspective, to look to intimate relationship and spiritual practice to provide us with those thoughts, feelings, emotions, and states of consciousness which we so long for, which are safe, which feel nice, while simultaneously hoping they will remove from our experience those others which we just do not want to feel – which point to the uncertain, unknown, groundless dimension of love and its movement. There’s just too much exposure there, we’re too naked, and there’s very little room here for the confirmation of our personal identity project.

But is this the ultimate purpose of our intimate relationships – or for any sort of spiritual or transformational path? We so badly want to feel better about ourselves, about our lives – to somehow make contact with this deeply rooted belief and fear that we are ultimately unlovable, unworthy of love; that we’re not fully okay as we are. Deep within, under our stories of spirituality, intimacy, and awakening, we may find a life-or-death need for the other to confirm us – whether that other be our intimate partner, our guru, our parents, our children, or our friends on the path. Am I awakened? Do you love me? How do I need to change so that you will see that I am special and worthy? Really, I’ll believe *anything*. I’ll do anything to be seen, to be held, to be validated, to be recognized, to be confirmed – just let me know what I need to do. Please help me heal the wound of unlove.

In my conversations with many of you over these last few months, we have seen a lot of this together; how we’ve subtly and unconsciously asked our intimate partners, our love relationships, and our spiritualities to make us feel better, to feel safe, to provide some solid resting place. What a gift to be able to see this, despite the shame, the vulnerability, the anger, and the frustration that can accompany such insight. We’ve seen that holding these realizations in an enormous space of lovingkindness provides the fuel and the courage we need to keep moving forward, to not become caught up in self-denigration, self-hatred, and other ways of being aggressive toward our lived experience. We can even see that these defensive strategies and developmental needs arose out of an intelligence, a creativity, a clarity when we were little, during a time when our precious nervous systems were not able to fully digest our experience, not quite able to fully metabolize the lack of empathic, attuned validation which inevitably occurred in our families of origin.

Friends, can we create a loving, holding environment in which we can see ourselves as we are? To engage with this gorgeous sensual reality as it is, setting aside our fables of awakening and specialness? Can we somehow make a commitment, that no matter what, we will be kind to ourselves – that we will stay close to our embodied immediate experience as it is? For it is only in such a loving space that healing can pour into and through our lives, out into the hearts of others, and only then can we see clearly what is truly driving and motivating us – both in our intimate love relationships and in our spirituality projects.

And in this holding environment – designed out of the cells of your very own heart, out of the light-strands of your most precious DNA – we can finally come to some rest, to allow love to lead the way, to take us on its journey. We start to see that who we are *is* love, and that we need not frenetically or desperately seek it from another or from our fantasies of awakening or from our dreams of intimacy and what these will give us. These pathways were never designed to make us feel better, to reinforce our specialness, or to somehow compensate for our wounds of unlove; they are much more precious than that. For they are doorways into the center of your heart, waiting patiently for you to trust yourself enough, to love yourself enough, to be kind enough to yourself, so that you can step through, and somehow allow love to have you, to have its way with you, revealing its mysteries in each and every moment of this life as it is. And then it is only love that will show you the way home.

Matt Licata from FB

Releasing Judgment

A Marriage with Soul

Andrea Lee Avari, Ph.D.

No one ever said that it would be easy except the glossy beautiful pictures with happy faces running down the aisle. Even as a young girl as I was entranced with these images of married bliss, I noticed a certain jaundiced eye of mine glazing over at the idea. Sparkling bottles of coca-cola won’t bring me exciting adventures and so many good-looking friends as the ads suggest. I knew that. But could a ceremony filled with colorful flowers and a white dress bring ecstasy to my heart and mind? More

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