Our inner child is that child part of us that continues to inhabit us into adulthood and can guide us to act in ways that we may not love as adults.
When we don’t learn to regulate our emotions as children, we can carry those lessons of feeling disappointed or anxious into adulthood. When we’re in these reactive states—blaming others and abdicating responsibility for our own thoughts and how we feel—this is emotional childhood.
The antidote is embodied emotional adulthood.
Being an adult, in all the ways, is empowering compared to being a dependent kiddo. This framework has been so useful for me in my own health and healing.
I’m fascinated by human psychology and the choices we make to feel powerful over our bodies, minds, and spirits. It’s interesting to watch how we grownups can fall right into these child patterns of thought, feeling, and action. We can wind up in emotional childhood—stomping our feet, throwing little tantrums, declining to do things that are good for us.
Your inner child can lead you to hide yourself and to avoid being vulnerable if those things were scary for you as a child.
Your inner child, or children, because we have a range of ages alive and kicking within us, can drive you to be an over-sharer—filling the space in any conversation lest there be silence your little one finds scary or disconcerting. Your inner child can also point out the wonder of the world, the beauty and joy and amazingness of dogs, sunsets and flowers.
Being in touch with your inner child is not just a constant slog through old pain, wounds, and resentments. This connection can bring a lot of magic to your world as well as an awful lot of healing. Although we may be living in our adult body, we can interact with the world as a child, that is from and as that child self that lives within us.
In emotional adulthood, we can invite in more of this mature, confident, self-assured, responsible energy.
Focusing on centering myself in my emotional adulthood while honoring and loving my inner child deeply has been super healing for me.
One of the ways I know I am in emotional adulthood is that I’m taking responsibility for everything that is mine and nothing that isn’t. The emotional adult doesn’t need to blame or shame or guilt anyone else or to take on other people’s thoughts, feelings, or reactions as our own. Rather, you own your own stuff through and through.
When you start to bring your awareness to the moments in your life when you’re blaming others for your feelings you will start to see how you’re giving your power away.
You are embodying your inner child, someone who had little to no power, who was appropriately developmentally dependent on others. Your inner child had no emotional skills other than to blame and shame others or yourself when you felt like you were in the wrong and you got scared.
When you give your power over your thoughts away, your emotional inner child magnifies your challenging feelings because that’s what kids do.
While you may not throw yourself on the floor in the middle of a conference room when you feel like someone’s being aggressive with you, you may have found yourself raising your voice over something that doesn’t warrant it. We all have.
Kids don’t manage their minds because they don’t know how. They don’t realize that we take action because of our thoughts and feelings. When you take responsibility for your own feelings, you can connect with the thoughts that led to those feelings.
When you’re in emotional childhood, you blame others for how you’re feeling and blame yourself for how other people feel or react to you.
This leaves you no way to shift your thoughts. That is, the thought, “He made me sad when he said that,” takes you right out of the equation.
If he caused your feelings, where is your agency, my beauty? Where is your power? You handed it to that dude, the guy who made you feel sad.
Someone in fully embodied emotional adulthood faced with the same situation might have those first initial thoughts because those are habitual. But you can take a deep breath, center yourself, and choose to think something like, “Dude didn’t call after that date because he didn’t want to. That has everything to do with him and his thoughts and nothing to do with me.”
You might then feel neutral, or even calm and peaceful about the situation instead of blaming dude for how you now have chosen to think and feel about yourself. You could also choose to go into full emotional childhood and text him 1000 times. That’s always available to you. But it might feel better and serve you more to pause.
Write down your thoughts and the feelings they’re creating so that you can choose the mature emotionally adult thought.
I get it, it’s challenging. That’s okay. Things in adult life are challenging. Adulting is hard. Here’s the thing; you can do hard things. You’ve done them before and you can do them again. The more you own your own thoughts and feelings, the more you practice being your own watcher and living into your emotional adulthood, the less things seem to be about you. The less you take things personally and the easier life feels.
Building these new habits of stepping into your emotional adulthood feels hard in the moment. Not taking your power back—that feels hard for a lifetime.
Emotional adults take responsibility for both the challenging feelings—frustration, anger, disappointment—and your joy, peace, calm and groundedness. You are able to step back and acknowledge that only you can make you feel anything. You can release your expectations that other people make you happy, make you feel secure, make you feel safe, or anything else.
This one may be as mind-blowing to you as it has been for me—only you can hurt your own feelings.
Only you control your thoughts, and so whatever someone else says doesn’t have to hurt or upset you unless you choose to let it. It’s like the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
This too is challenging and I get that. It’s easy and tempting to feel like the victim when we feel like crap. But the fact is that no one can control the way you feel because no one can control your thoughts.
When you are in emotional adulthood, you recognize that no one can control the way you feel because no one can control your thoughts.
When you move through the world from a place of emotional adulthood, you don’t try to control or manage others. You don’t get to try to get them to speak or think or act in a specific way. You accept others as they are and recognize that you create your own neutral non-reactive state. You can release your inner child’s desire to attempt to control others.
The flipside is also true. If a person has a negative reaction to you saying, “I need some time to myself today,” then that reaction is theirs. Their thoughts create their feelings. You didn’t. Taking their reaction on as though you could control their thoughts, that’s just plain lousy for you.
Each of us can practice being an emotional adult every day and can manage our own mind.
If you recognize that you effed up, own it, take responsibility. That’s the name of the game in emotional adulthood—taking full and rigorous, honest responsibility for ourselves, our minds, our words and our thoughts. This whole process of recognizing when we’re in emotional adulthood or emotional childhood is exactly that—a process.
You manage your mind, other people manage theirs.
You choose your thoughts that create your feelings, other people choose their thoughts and create their feelings.
Emotional adults put ourselves first. I don’t think that’s selfish. It’s quite practical and it’s deeply self-loving.
You can’t take care of anyone else until you’ve taken care of you. It’s simple really. Folks socialized as women are taught to put everyone else first always, so I get that this can feel really challenging, especially to the parents out there.
Doing the work to attend to our bodies, minds, and spirits in whatever way works for us is the truest healthcare. It is step one in health and healing and cannot be skipped over or substituted with a supplement. It just doesn’t work, my love. We need to step into emotional adulthood and put our own wellness first.
When we’re in emotional adulthood, we communicate clearly and directly.
We are not passive aggressive, indirect, and we do not make jabs. We just say what we want and what we mean and what we need. We say what we’re going to do and we do what we said we would.
This is how we heal—by keeping promises with ourselves.
Your homework is to notice the moments when you’re in emotional adulthood as well as continuing to notice our inner child.
Notice when she directs us into emotional childhood. When someone cuts you off on the highway or on the sidewalk, do you just breathe through it or flip them off and go into childhood?
When the train is super late and you miss an important appointment, do you get all grumpy and let the train system ruin your day? Or do you take a deep breath and recognize that the train delay has nothing to do with you? It’s just what happened. You can choose a neutral thought about it so you can feel calm and peaceful, not all sorts of resentful.
If you do something you regret, you get to recognize the presence of your inner child in your words or actions. An adult you gets to take ownership and can apologize, knowing that you are responsible for your own behavior. You can name your mistakes without creating a child-like maelstrom of guilt, shame, or blame around it.
You get to bring your awareness to when your inner child is running the show.
Instead of abdicating responsibility, you can invite your inner child to play, while adult you says, “Oops, I really messed up there. I’m so sorry for my words. I’m so sorry for my behavior.” This process is challenging for sure, but the payoff is magnificent.
I want you to applaud yourself for the times when something within you might say, “Grumble about this. Let them know they made you feel bad.” Then you meet it with love, maybe smile at it.
Notice that inner child, and take a deep breath, and let yourself flow into emotional adulthood.
That place where you blame no one, you shame no one, you guilt no one. You just take responsibility for what you’re thinking and how you feel.
This is the work.
This is how we heal, by turning inward, by checking in, and showing up as our fullest emotional adults, every moment of every day.
When you invariably slip—because you’re a human and this may all be very new to you—take a deep breath. It’s likely not that big of a deal. Reset and make it right, starting with your own self.
Thank you for taking the time to read Feminist Wellness. I’m excited to be here and to help you take back your health!
I know not everyone is into podcasts, so I wanted to provide digestible blogs to go along with the episodes! If you’re curious about the podcast and haven’t checked them out yet, click here.