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Now how’s that for a dramatic headline!

I wonder how many of you were shocked by it, possibly even drawn to it with shocked curiosity? Expecting to see some reference to a new article or some tabloid headline?

LOL Perhaps you just saw that it was one of my headlines and thought “There he goes again!”

Well, thankfully it is not from some news article or a tabloid headline – although sadly even in this day and age it quite possibly could be. Actually it isn’t even about a physical, flesh and blood child at all but about a child, about children, who are in many ways, at least in the opinion of this writer, just as important.

It is about something that I have been thinking about as a result of a statement my blogging buddy over at ‘underground‘ made in her piece ‘Self-sabotage and shame‘ (which is an excellent piece by the way).

In her piece she made the statement..

I could feel my (inner) child clinging to others,

It was a seemingly simple statement held within a much more complex article and one full of emotion and reflection.  But it was that simple statement which launched (as is often the case) my mind into hours of personal reflection and consideration.  One which led me to ask the question…

What happens to our inner child?  Especially when that inner child is held within a person who suffers from mental illness or poor mental health?

Is he, is she, permitted to live or did he or she get lost somewhere, buried somewhere, caught somewhere – between the cross-fire of suffering mental illness and trying to live a ‘normal’ life?

I think the reality is that for so many of us that inner child is suppressed, lost or buried as we get older.  In fact I would go as far as to say that in my opinion it is what we are taught and what is expected of us.

I am English by birth and come from a Royal Navy family.  Boys were expected to grow into men and to be men.  Attitudes like “Boys don’t cry”, ‘be a man’, ‘you’re not a child anymore’, ‘you need to grow a back-bone’ and ‘it’s time to man up’ were not unfamiliar to me.  Indeed they were almost the mantra of both my school, my recreational and my home life.

Likewise, girls were expected to grow into young ladies and to be little women before becoming women and wives and mothers.

Actually there is nothing wrong with either of those things in my opinion but I have to question whether it has to be at the total cost of our inner child?

I have to tell you that I for one don’t think so and I will go even further.  I personally believe that the loss of our ‘inner child’ – be it through denial, suppression or simple lack of contact, – can be one of the most harmful and debilitating things that can happen to us.

And here is why I believe this.  I am convinced that at the outset we and our inner child are one.

As we grow our inner child grows also and with balance and the right upbringing we learn to be able to be at peace with each other and to have an almost symbiotic relationship knowing when to be adult when we need to but also being free enough to allow our inner child to come out when it needs to or should that be when we need it to.

Afer all, aren’t some of the most precious and most beautiful moments in life when we see and are shown innocence, purity and vulnerability – child likeness in each other within the right settings?

But when the growth and development – that very freedom to be – is removed or stifled in our inner child it can cause many untold problems.

Being struck with mental illness – especially at an early age – can without doubt in my opinion do this.

We have to spend so much time focussing on or dealing with our mental health, on facing the torments, on winning over it – which after all is measured in many ways by how supposedly ‘normal’ we can be – that we somehow lose that innocence, that freedom to be childlike.

And let us be real here, very often that freedom is also partially removed from us by well intentioned others who focus so much of their efforts on encouraging us to be ‘normal’, ‘rational’, ‘sensible’, dare we say ‘grown up’.

And there is something else which we really do need to take into consideration here.

Mental illness can place tremendous strains on relationships and can serious alter perceptions.  Both of which in turn can impair or effect both our and our inner child’s development.  If this happens in early life it can be crippling and add emotional anguish and heartache to that mental anguish and pain.

I am fifty years old and a father, and a grandfather. I have serious mental health issues and I recognize that and face my responsibilities regardless of that.  But I know, and am not afraid to admit it, that additional to my mental health issues I have other hurts and issues and those hurts nd issues include the emotional hurts experienced by my inner child.  Hurts which only serve to complicate and add to my mental health issues.

The truth is I know I am an adult and I have no problem with that.  But I also know I have an inner child and I want that inner child to heal and be free because without that happening I seriously doubt I will ever heal or be free.

So I ask you.  How’s your inner child today?  When was the last time you let him, her out?  Is your inner child hurting?  Does your inner child need a healing and freedom that only you can permit?