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What Does it *Look* Like to Protect Your Inner Child?

By Phyllis Stein
May 05, 2010

Sometimes it seems really complicated to figure out how to keep our inner kids safe when so many people are trying to blame them for their feelings. Maybe this metaphor will help.

A lot of us have a core child who hid away to keep him or herself safe.  I know I did. I had a sense that there was a part of me that could not be touched, no matter what. She was safe behind a seemingly impenetrable shield, but that also meant that she was trapped in there, unable to come out.  In a recent session, Louise had the image of her little girl living inside a clam shell.  The shell could open a little bit, but it was not safe to really come out.

"What does she think would happen if she came out?" I asked.

"She would be rejected and hurt," answered Louise.

We were working in the imaginal realm, the place of metaphor, sensation and energy, and we created many one-way mirrors embedded in the clam shell so that Louise's little girl could look out safely yet not be seen.  The clam shell, by now, was floating in water so Louise could move, and see the world while still being enclosed.

"Is there any animal that your little girl wants to come and help her feel more safe?" I asked.

Louise giggled. "A baby octopus."

"What is he showing your little girl?"

"He has made a hole that he goes into to hide when he doesn't feel safe, but he can come out of that hole too, whenever he wants to."

"So is he showing your little girl that it is okay to hide but it does not mean that she has to hide all the time?"

"Yes, exactly," said Louise.

"What else does she need to make it safe to go out?" I asked.

Louise giggled again. "She needs a really loud horn, I mean REALLY loud, to scare people."

"Could this horn be used to get your attention when your little girl needs you?"

Louise laughed. "I never thought of that. I guess it could."

"So what would you need to do for your little girl when she blows her horn?"

Louise was a bit stumped. She had thought the loud, scary horn would be enough.

I offered her this metaphor. When our parents make us responsible for their feelings, it is like they are throwing their stuff at us and it is sticking.  In my mind, this stuff is black, like tar. 

"So, if your little girl came out of her clam shell and someone, either in the past like your Dad, or in the present, like your wounded self, started throwing their stuff at her, how could you protect her?"

"I guess I could tell them to stop," she said.

"That might help," I answered, "but what if it were someone like your Dad who did not know any other way to be? Wouldn't you be making the protection of your little girl dependent on your ability to stop him? Would that work?"

"No, I guess it wouldn't," said Louise.

In the end, Louise decided that to keep her child safe, she would have to show up as herself, perhaps larger than life and filled with light.  This compassionate, spiritually-connected loving adult had to stand between her little girl and anyone who was throwing their stuff at her, whether internal or external.  Maybe the stuff would bounce off or maybe, and this is the image I liked the best, the stuff would be absorbed by the light and sizzle into nothing.  But as long as the Loving Adult was there to block the incoming stuff, her little girl was protected.

So this is one way it could look like to protect your inner child, to make it safe enough for him or her to risk coming out of hiding.  My little girl likes it a lot.  Maybe you can tune in and see if it would work for your little one too.


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