When in doubt, ask your child-self

Say you have a big ol’ reaction when you’re stuck in your creative project. Maybe it seems like more frustration and distress than the situation warrants. You might even feel silly later, or embarrassed for getting so worked up about nothing. All of these are quite common.

You may feel lost between your creativity and feelings. In those moments, it can be helpful to connect to your child-self.

~
As a sensitive child, I had big emotions.

But there was no room for big emotions in my environment. I learned that excessive emotions were unacceptable or humiliating. With messages like “stop crying,” I was perceived as stronger if I had control over or hid my emotions.

Messages through words, behaviors, actions showed me acceptable norms. Unfortunately, they didn’t leave much room for my emotions.

I didn’t allow myself to feel, because the feelings were too big. They ended up becoming confusing and overwhelming. So I shut them off… which of course made them come out sideways in unanticipated ways.

This might be familiar to you, too. It’s tied to a common cultural experience where thoughts are valued over feelings. And we’re told not to feel.

What I missed was validation, to know it was okay to feel what I was feeling. Because then I could parse through the feelings. Without the validation, I thought there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t process them.

As an adult, the good news is as I put effort into shifting my patterns, I’ve gotten better at managing and understanding my emotions. When times of distress inevitably happen, there are tools in my toolbox to support me in life as well as creativity.

~

When you’re having reactions to challenges that feel bigger than they “should” be…

  1. Remember your child-self still exists within your adult-self and needs care. Ask your child-self what it would like to express; and what old messages it got that said these feelings were not okay. (E.g. stop crying)
  2. What would that child liked to have received? (E.g. validation)
  3. Can you give yourself some of what your child is needing? (E.g. If it’s validation, remind yourself it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. It’s a normal reaction to what you’re experiencing. Name each emotion and trace its cause.)
  4. Feel it and let it in. That can mean both the pain of not getting what you needed and the comfort you can give yourself now.
  5. Let yourself observe how it is to do this for yourself. It might be easy, you might have to come back to it. Take a breath and appreciate yourself for whatever in this process was useful to you. However you do it, you’re making progress.

Be really gentle with yourself; inner child work can be extremely tender. Many of us didn’t experience complete safety in childhood, whether that is physical or emotional safety. So give yourself credit every time you’re able to connect with your child-self.

This is a great exercise to do in writing. It’s a muscle to strengthen; you don’t need to be good at it the first time you go through it. It took years for me to patch a rocky connection to my child-self.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

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