While some people acknowledge having an inner child, I have an entire internal family. This includes a child who I call Sophie, but also an inner infant–a part of me that doesn’t have the words or the awareness to express what I’m upset about. This idea of an inner infant was confusing to some readers, so I thought I would describe her in more detail.
It is as though I am a new mother with a baby that is easily upset but I have no idea what’s wrong with her or how to comfort her. And obviously she can’t tell me because she’s a baby. And I am not a patient mother. I am in a hurry. I don’t have time for this.
My therapist would always tell me that I haven’t learned ways to soothe myself–to comfort myself, calm myself down–which is part of the reason why I’m so anxious. I sort of understood but not really. I was kind of like, well then tell me how to soothe myself!
But now I realize that learning how to comfort yourself is a lot like getting to know your baby. You learn from trial and error how to distinguish the hunger cry from the tired cry. You learn the idiosyncratic things that make her feel better–like driving around the block, or putting music on, or cradling her in a certain way.
I’m currently reading The Art of Empathy, and in the chapter I just finished, McLaren gives some examples of ways that babies and children soothe themselves. Some of them I wouldn’t have thought of as attempts to self-soothe–like toe-walking, foot stomping, and fidgeting. It made me realize how often we tell children to stop doing things that are annoying us when they are just trying to make themselves feel better.
I am slowly learning how to be a better parent to myself. I am trying to be more patient when I appear to be anxious for no reason. I am trying to be more compassionate. More comforting. More understanding. It’s unfortunate that being mean to myself comes so naturally but being nice to myself takes so much practice.
But that’s OK. I’m willing to put in the work to get to know myself better. And I have a lifetime to practice.