Learning to Live

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I have been practicing caring for my inner child for many months now, focusing on providing it with the basic emotional needs I knew it needed but had never gotten. A sense of being held, of being ok, of feeling contained in compassion, of validation and safety.

As I grapple with a newfound exploration of my latest self-diagnoses of ADHD, I am beginning to understand that an entire new layer of intervention is needed – and may be very helpful.

My inner child must learn to live in the world. All action can only come through our inner child. Our inner parent may have all the clarity, and all the vision, but the inner child is the executor. And it was never taught to act. In my case, it was sent to prison from a young age, and taught neither how to regulate its emotions, or its schedule.

Most of what I have achieved so far has been through sheer willpower and brute force. like the adult self reaching in to the child like one might into a puppet, and grotesquely executing actions through him. The child is left violated and the results are grotesque at best.

I am inspired by the Montessori system, and the way my own children are learning. Processes are explained to them. Trial and error are encouraged. Slowly slowly, grade by grade, they learn to manage themselves in the world. It starts with scooping rice and dusting shelves and continues to deadlines and communal responsibilities.

I hope to teach my inner child to live in the world. Things that are obvious to my inner parent, but which it usually completely overestimates the inner child’s ability to execute. We’re starting from scratch here.

The inner child must learn to do unappealing things on his own instead of through force – whether externally applied, as it was in the beginning, or internally perpetuated, as my conscious brain continues to try to apply.

Chances are it can do a lot less, for a lot less time, in the beginning. The expectations the inner parent has on him are overwhelming and paralyzing. He needs to learn to cook and clean and do laundry all on its own, because until now it has never lived on its own. He’s lived in the inner parent’s basement and suffered continued abuse and resentment.

Graphic courtesy of lively minds.

There are eight distinct areas it needs to learn to exercise, some of which it may have more experience with already, some with less.

My inner child needs to learn how time works, because no one entrusted it with time; how prioritizing works, because everything was always defined for him; and how to adapt and leave things unfinished, because until now all change felt threatening and unfished business felt like a gaping void.

(We can start by gently re-reading this draft I just wrote, which is no fun at all. What’s creative about editing?

And we can continue with “It’s ok not to finish, you can trust yourself to continue later.”)

I hope to bring the same core compassion I brought to the inner child’s core existence, to this new stage of learning to interact with the world. It will take time, and goodness knows it feels like I don’t have any and I want it all to be done right now.

That itself is a lesson. Actually, contrary to what I have told you in the past child, there is no rush.

There is no rush.

There is no rush.

A thank you to Jessica for brining my attention to this hot mess, and to Gabor Mate’s book Scattered Minds for helping me understand the environmental influences behind ADHD and what can be done about it.

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