From Anne Giles Clelland:
I first learned of the idea of the "inner child" from my mother when she was working on her master's degree in counseling. She studied transactional analysis in Born To Win by Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward, decided she wanted the people in her world to study it, and bought and distributed at least a dozen copies of the 1973 paperback to her friends and family members, including my father, my 13-year-old self, and my sister, 11.
At about the same age as my mother did, I, too, earned a master's degree in counseling, and found the idea of having an "inner child" very helpful. Wikipedia has a nice overview of the history and definition of the concept of the inner child.
Although it's hard to trace exactly, reading Born to Win as an eighth grader may have planted seeds that eventually flowered into the self-awareness tool Feel. Think. Choose. on She Chooses. The book helped me become conscious, very early, that I was having a dialogue within among what seemed to be parts of myself, and those parts seemed to have different feelings, thoughts and needs. Similarly, Feel. Think. Choose. is a way to help foster consciousness of feelings, thoughts and needs.
Through my own work with the idea of having an inner child, I felt I became aware of other inner entities of various ages. I termed them my inner child, inner teenager, inner college student, and inner adult. I write of my experience, rather than of any research-backed counseling principles, but I found having mental dialogues with myself at different ages very useful in getting some kind of idea of what was going on within and, once aware of that, how I might make different choices that might meet more of "their" needs.
My inner child, my inner teenager, my inner teenager, my inner adult, my inner everything - they're all in anguish. My mother is very ill and the complexity of my history with her and my grief over what was and what wasn't and what is about to be never more are overwhelming me. I feel skinned. I feel electricity running through my raw flesh.
I want to be present for my life, not overtaken by it.
During my regular Saturday workout, my trainer said, "It might rain this afternoon," and I was surprised to envision myself on our back porch, of all things, coloring with crayons in a coloring book. I thought, "I am working so hard as an adult to think all this through and figure all this out that I am exhausting my inner child."
I tried to be aware of what my inner child was feeling, thinking and choosing at the drugstore after my workout - a small box of crayons, not the big one, because the "right" color has be chosen, another decision added to so many that already have to be made, looking through every single coloring book before choosing this one, not that one - and out I walked, a sweat-soaked, 52-year-old woman with a Pretty Pony coloring book and a box of 24 Crayolas.
I colored, I took a nap, I chose to wear a skin-tight, thin-strapped tank top of which my mother would not approve, then we went to the bookstore. When I saw Sarah Jessica Parker on the cover of Vogue - even if it was "The Age Issue" - I could hear an inner defiant entity, not at all a child, saying, "Can't I have that? Do we have to be so serious about everything?!"
No. No we don't.
Factually, nothing has changed. My mother is still dying. But, I feel a little less overwhelmed, a bit more like I am present for living my life rather than it happening to me. I found the company of my inner entities amusing and their choices both wise and inspiring. For now, that's enough.