The Cost of Not Being a Kid

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A couple of years ago I was doing a self-esteem course. The course had a book with each chapter signifying an area of your life that you need to address. One of the chapters was on your inner child. The book’s author said that if you skipped the entire book and ONLY did that chapter, you would be better off than if you did the entire book and skipped the chapter. That’s how powerful he said it was to integrate your inner child.

Guess what I did? Yep, I said to myself “This is the part that I actually don’t need to do, I have no inner child, so I’m fine”

Fast forward two years later.

After experiencing a year of terrible depression, and battling things inside me I felt like I had no control over, I thought I’d look into that kid thing again.

Soon after the place I was renting was put on the market and I moved house.

I now live with a young boy named Daniel.  He has recently turned 5. His mother is my landlady. She is Russian just like me. Only from the opposite end of Russia. I am from European side and she’s from far east. Daniel has a Russian mother and a Korean father, who by the time I am writing this, is out of the picture.

When I first moved in I was concerned about living around a kid. I feel very edgy around kids. Even though they seem to like me, I never could understand them. They scared me. I decided that it’ll do me good to live with a kid. And it did. But it was a tough start.

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You see, our ability to interact with children comes from our acceptance and understanding of our own inner child. And I didn’t really do that with mine. So in the first months of living with Daniel I interacted with him as if he was an adult. Because I dissociated my inner child and couldn’t understand how a kid really functions. I couldn’t empathize with the human condition of growing up because I was unwilling to see the kid in myself.

I remember watching Daniel fall in puppy love with me and feeling a mixture of ego flattery and annoyance. The endless bids for attention, from pointless questions to crazy antics to violent outbursts…

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Then I realized one night, while watching Daniel, that this human had only been alive for just under 5 years. Only 5 years! And suddenly instead of being annoyed at his emotionally charged behaviours, I began to appreciate that for someone who has only been around for such a short a time, he is undertaking a monumental task of building his psyche, of learning and absorbing every bit of information around him, of making sense of things.

And I began to appreciate that some emotions were so big, almost too big for his little body to handle, that he needed help sorting them out. And that it was unfair to expect him to know how at 5 years old, when I sometimes don’t know at 33 years old.

That made me think about the things I blamed myself for that went as far back as 5 years old (being scared, being selfish, being foolish), the things and events I was unable to face. Why is it hard to face? Because I was blaming someone who doesn’t know any better and by never integrating it, I didn’t give it a chance to be heard and to learn any better.

My inner child and my inner adult were not related and therefore couln’t work together.

It is our job to integrate our inner child. Not our parents’ or caretakers. They have done their bit, as best they could. But the work is  not complete, we must finish what they started.

So what’s the cost?

The common myth is that if you aren’t in touch with your inner child, you will be extra adult, serious and mature in your life. And the only cost is that you do not play and have fun.

That is actually untrue. My personal experience and research have indicated that you lose much more.

Unaccepted, suppressed and ignored, the inner child doesn’t go away. Oh no. Have you ever tried to use these tactics with real kids? Do they go away? No, they become a real nightmare instead. Kids are biologically programmed to not tolerate being ignored, because if they are ignored and forgotten by adults, it means neglect and death for them. Your inner child has all the characteristics of a kid.

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So instead, your inner child gets pushed underground (into your subconscious) where it festers (becomes naughtier and naughtier), begins to rattle the cage and to affect the show (your life) from behind the scenes (without your awareness).

Your suppressed inner child is all those things in your psyche (irrational irritability, egocentrism, passive aggression, conformism, violent tendencies, lack of emotional boundaries) that run and ruin your life and relationships. And you seemingly don’t have control over them. You didn’t acquire them in your adult life, and thus your adult self cannot uproot and outgrow them. Only the inner child can be raised into an inner adult.

The above awareness comes at a cost, and the cost is…. a fair bit of emotional turmoil of course. For awhile. Because if you have been suppressing the inner kid for years it has turned into an unbearable little monster in an attempt to get attention and be acknowledged. It will throw many many tantrums. But once you begin to address it with compassion and mindfulness (that you have as an adult), you create a continuity in you that includes and transcends the child inside a higher, more evolved, adult consciousness.

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The reward is that it allows you to function better as a human, have awareness and control over your conditioned or lesser impulses, and it allows you to have more empathy for others (especially kids) who are still in the grips of the childhood growth process.

When working with children, it is essential to acknowledge your own and their emotions and thoughts without judgement (only actions can be controlled, emotions and thoughts are to be simply mindfully experienced). This gives them a great example  of how to begin to raise their inner child and grow up into integrated humans.

I was annoyed before but now I’m eternally grateful to little Daniel. He’s been one of my best teachers.

Kat

 

The Cost of Truth

This blog was born in the minds of two people – me and my ex. When we were still together we used to have these philosophical discussions about life and how everything is a trade-off. Many events and choices we encountered seemed to always lead to the one conclusion – if you want to have (or continue enjoying) something valuable, you must pay (or keep paying) with something else you also value, but a bit less.

 

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At first this notion seems rather cold and transactional – think like an economist. About your life? About yourself? About relationships? About kindness, love, spirituality and emotional intelligence? How can you think about those things in terms of trade-offs.

But in reality the trade-off view is simply the best way to play the ‘long game’ of life to the best of your ability. To live with purpose. To make your life your own creation. To be mindful of your values, your priorities, your long and short term goals with every choice you make. The cost of life is a mindset, in other words, that helps you have the will to change the things you can control, the insight to accept the things you can’t control, and have the wisdom to know the difference.

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So, since I think all those things are pretty important and I battle with them all the time, I thought that I would get the blog going and make our idea come true. After all, an idea, no matter how small, that is put into action is far better than an idea that exists only as an idea. Someone important said that.

Ironically it was my ex who gave me the domain for this blog as a birthday present. And now, 8 months after we parted ways, I thought about actually doing something about this blog thing. The reason is that both the relationship in all its tender beginnings from a beautiful friendship into romance, it’s turbulent and emotionally charged glory, as well as it’s painful decline and ultimate death, brought such an incredible transformation into my life, that all the suffering was 10,000 times worth the insights and breakthroughs that followed. Even though sometimes I wished I stayed blind but together. It was the ultimate cost of life. So now that time has passed and I gained an emotional and mental perspective, I will be writing things down.

I am not a writer, English is not my first language (Russian is) and I may not be very entertaining. But I like to write, it helps me think, and here I will simply do so, and maybe I’ll get better at it with time and practice. I have written in a diary since I was 12 years old and in love with my best friend. And since we used to read each other’s diaries, and I could never let her know of my inappropriate feelings (it was post-communist Russia and we were both female), I learned to hide myself really well, even from myself. Luckily I have fallen out of love with her and now we’re just really good long distance friends (I moved to New Zealand 16 years ago and she stayed in Russia and got married).

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So what is the cost of truth? How much bliss is ignorance exactly?

Truth can, and often is, initially painful and uncomfortable. Because truth (i call it reality sometimes) is almost always not what we thought was the case. We have one idea about reality, and truth comes along and says ‘oh no, THIS is the reality, honey”. So to know and accept the truth is to know and accept that you were wrong about something in your world. And if we don’t like one thing, it is to be wrong. And if others know that we were wrong, that’s even worse. And since others are often the bearers of truth (more on the nature of truth in another post), we find it extra distasteful to accept the truth in the presence of people. Especially the people we love, ugghh. After all, we want them to like us, to think we’re amazing and incredible and the sun shines out of out every orifice. And those people we love are the ones who hang around us the most, and often either deliver tidbits of truth to us or are there when life delivers it. So we absolutely hate it when we are wrong in front of people we love and yet the reality is that we are wrong in front of them most often. Hmmm. We are hating on reality. A losing battle. But only 100% of the time, as Byron Katie likes to say.

The truth is, that being wrong is the only way to grow. If a child thought it was right about everything, it would stay a child forever, but most likely not survive past 3 years old. So children know that there is nothing wrong with being wrong. But there is a cost to being a child too (more on that in the Cost of Being a Kid).

Therefore the cost of truth is the same as the cost of growth.

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Truth is information about our world and about ourselves. It is a collection of perspectives, as many perspectives as humanly possible, from as many sources as possible, as american philosopher, Ken Wilber, likes to say. The best way for us to operate in life is to base our actions on as accurate a representation of the reality as possible. So far so good. Truth rocks. What can possibly prevent us from ever wanting to know the whole truth?

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However there IS a cost. And that’s emotions. We do not just learn, we also feel. WE attach emotional meaning to our thoughts and our perceptions. And so the truth, whatever it is, will also have emotions attached to it. Positive and negative. And experiencing those emotions is the ultimate cost of truth. The emotionally attached you are, or better yet, the more skillful you are at identifying and experiencing all the emotions and then letting them go, the better you will be at handling truth. The more likely you are to seek truth out, the less afraid you are that the truth will shatter your fragile world of fantasy and plunge you into an emotional abyss of being ‘wrong’.

I have been there. It is called depression sometimes. But the other side of that river is transformation. And I decided to get to the other side. The price? To accept the truth and to commit to accepting the truth for the rest of my life. And that means handling difficult emotions and taming the ego (more in The Cost of Ego).

I am going to stop here and continue next week.

This is going to be a fun ride!

 

Kat