Our inner child & Relationships

What does inner child mean & I am an adult in this relationship so why are talking about me as a child?

First of all I think about us humans as Russian / matryoshka / nesting dolls! We are essentially a doll within a doll, within a doll. Our 5 year old self doesn’t just disappear when we turn 6 & hasn’t disappeared when we are 38 years old. That child that we once were is still inside us & so are the experiences we have had. I explore here how this relates to our adult relationships & how our inner child is a part of that.

With this I think about unmet childhood needs, any wounds we developed in childhood, beliefs that we formed about us, others & the world, the defences & coping strategies we developed to stay safe… & that sometimes we are cast back in to childhood (often this doesn’t make sense why or how) & then we are ultimately responding as a child & thinking, feeling & behaving in more of a childlike way.  If I asked you this question…

When I am reacting to my partner how old do I feel?

What would you say, if you had to put an age to it? I know for me sometimes I feel like I am in my teenager & I am thinking, feeling & acting like I did when I was 14 or so. It’s a sense to, it doesn’t have to be accurate. And so yeah, I think about inner teenager too! We carry around our inner child or inner teenager with us. 

I know some people might think, feel or act more like a ‘parent’ or ‘grown up’. Ill come back to this bit in another blog at some point. 

So when we are in a relationship there are two dolls within a doll, within a doll trying to co-exist! 

And that can get tricky. Especially as a lot of the time this is all happening unconsciously & out of awareness. I also think about how us getting in to difficulty with our partners in the same way as we did with our caregivers / parents. 

How this can also play out is that one partner may become more child-like & the other becomes the parent. This symbiosis & imbalance can be harmful to the relationship & can end up with resentment & losing that sense of there being two adults in the relationship. 

How do I prevent this?

I would say it’s inevitable to a certain degree & isn’t always a bad thing. We could be in our ‘child’ & feeling free & creative & liberated & that’s all cool right. In terms of when it’s detrimental I would say in the first place it’s about awareness & learning about your inner child experiences. In TA psychotherapy we call this our Child ego state. And then learn about your partners held beliefs, experiences, traumas, how they got in to difficulty etc & how old they might feel in conflict with you. Consider what was modelled or not modelled to you growing up & how this has impacted you & carried through. Think in particular about experiences that weren’t processed or emotions that weren’t allowed or when you felt minimised. Think about if it all felt too much or not enough growing up (linking with attachment styles). And perhaps if you get really stuck then therapy could be a good option to work through your child stuff. And then to understand more about how it transpires & plays out in the relationship itself, Imago Relationship Therapy can be a really great way of exploring this. 

Get to know your dolls within a doll within a doll!