We are addressing in particularly Men’s Mental Health here, as it’s what I specialise in and try to support wherever I can.
In my many years working as an advisor to (exclusively) male leadership, one thing stood out like no other: those men who suffered or displayed the worst traits the most had one thing in common > unhealed childhood wounds and often worse, suppressed childhood trauma that wrecked their adult lives.
So, they perpetuated this toxic energy that affected ALL around them and let their demons run riot. To no surprise, as it was the only thing they had become familiar with. Our brains are wired for ‘familiarity’, no matter how destructive a form it may take. The display of their actions and habits was a clear enough indicator something was missing, and many tried to fill that void with: over-consumption of alcohol, sexualising everything, drugs, becoming workaholics … all to try and snuff out an old pain somehow; or to fill a void.
But in this ‘man-up’ world, showing emotions and sensitivity as a man (which, by the way, are all perfectly normal human traits) is still seen and judged as weak and vulnerable. The toxic alpha-male icon our society created over centuries, is like someone drinking poison over and over again, hoping to get well. It’s the greatest delusion. What many of these leaders, these masculine souls did not dare to address, were the root causes of their childhood wounds … going back to the very source where their pain, fear and terror started.
But the core truth of real healing is …
“You need to feel it,
to heal it!
No other way around it.”
I had many established and senior leaders in 1-on-1 meetings (due to the nature of my business back then), and somehow they often opened up to me about their private, emotional struggles too … and it was clear how desperately they all needed a safe space to express themselves. And how deep some of their wounds went.
But back to the inner child this article addresses. How can one possibly go back to such a time and address potentially very old wounds or even traumas that were suppressed?
You start with very small steps – just like a child – and an open mind …
I did a lot of inner child and re-parenting work myself, so the tips below have worked for me and are also scientifically sound. Some bits may seem unconventional and downright silly, but that is exactly the state you want to be in … silly, playful, and open to possibilities as most children are … fearless and without set expectations, but rather right in the moment. Yes, PRESENCE … children are masters at being fully present.
7 Self-empowerment tips on how to get in touch with your ‘inner child’
1) Find a photograph of you as a child that reminds you of something really good, happy, exciting, fun! Look at that picture daily, and reflect on that little boy and that moment in your life. There will be feelings stirring when you do it long enough … allow them all. Be kind to yourself.
2) Get yourself a journal, yes … it can be a truly life-changing tool … stick that photo on the first page and start writing down what you remember about that particular moment, if you can in detail … let that moment come to life and flesh it out in all it’s colours, sounds, smells, textures … sit with those happy memories and use them as your anchor.
3) When you look at that picture, deliberately send that little boy all your love … and now we come into deeper waters … as expressing self-love for your inner child is a path worth taking … it will help counteract many of the unloved bits in your adult self too. Self-love is a kind of healing alchemy. So take a few minutes daily to appreciate how far this little boy has come … all he had to overcome and … what he has achieved. Allow him to dream again too. This can be an emotional exercise, so be gentle with yourself, gentle-men!
4) Which leads me straight to one of my favourite exercises: *Gratitude Rampages*. Gratitude, no matter how much you think your life sucks, is nothing short of a super power tool. Gratitude is a way out … a way out of pain, a way out of negative habits … it is a highly underused tool. For in our world of constant comparison and competition, we are not focussed on what we have, but generally lean towards the ‘lack of” by default – plus, being brainwashed by the media 24/7 and this insane consumerism plays a great part in our collective depression and anxiety-central.
IF you dare to practice ‘gratitude rampages’ regularly – your life will shift. So, take that journal and make a gratitude list every day for a month, and you will notice how your focus slowly changes. Gratitude has it’s own powerful dynamic and energy – use it! Gratitude is also a tool of deeper awareness … always a good one to have in your self-help DIY belt.
5) Get CREATIVE … get the crayons out as I say. If you observe young children, they create and conjure things from nothing for the sheer joy of it. When have you last allowed yourself to make or do something for the sheer joy of it – not for the competition, not for the applause, not for the suppression of something else, not for the ego? Hmm … creativity in it’s most primal form of just ‘self-expressing’ is also a path to more clarity, more self-healing and a great asset for any future self-development.
6) Allow yourself to be silly, playful, funny and drop that serious act more often. Make more deliberate choices to engage and surround yourself with things and people that make you smile and laugh more. Laughter IS medicine. Be that watching a silly movie, or stand-up comedy, playing a fun game or reading a book from your childhood, make paper planes, or do secret karaokeee in the bathtub … as long as you smile and laugh more. Laughing is a real gift. You don’t have to become childish to become child-like … BIG difference. (and try to do that without the use of stimulants, you catch my drift … ) otherwise you never get the pure, untainted experience.
7) Explore more! Can you remember as a kid, you went on adventures or experimented a lot with life itself for sheer curiosity? Where is that innocent curiosity now? Try to re-engage with that little adventurer inside, the one who sees life more as a fantastic mystery … that boy who can still marvel at life and the universe. Take yourself star gazing or research something you always wanted to find out about but never followed through. Become an explorer of your own mind too … again, this is where your journal comes in handy, as you can use it also as a travelog to your inner child’s world … a map to some vital parts that will give you clues on how to overcome obstacles. Be that pirate, that detective, that explorer again …
Your inner child is always calling you, and can be a great ally in the things that you need to overcome as an adult … all those parts that need healing, IF you allow it.
So, befriend it again – and yes, I mean become your own best pal. It is one of the greatest things to experience when someone unites with their (lost) inner child. And it can be truly life changing if you integrate it, because it is already part of you… and always will be.
And not to go all religious on you here (as I am not) but I faintly remember something that – I believe – Jesus supposedly said … along the lines of:
“Unless you become like children, you will never know heaven.”
No matter what your faith may be, the essence of these words rings very true, for it is your choice to create heaven or hell here in this life. And you have the power within you to change it for the better.
Oh, and one more thing … never, ever, ever be ashamed to ask for help!