Being Kind to Your Inner Child
by Giselle Marrinan, Author of ‘Another Zero’.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”
George Bernard Shaw
No matter what age we are, there is a child in all of us. I liken us to the Russian Matryoshka doll. These are the wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. One positive thing that has come out of this imposed lockdown, is that we, as adults, have learned to make time to play again. Like children, we aren’t tied to schedules, rules and deadlines. Time seems to have expanded and with it, the time to be ourselves. The weather has also been kind to us and put us in mind of the long, warm halcyon days of summer of our childhood. We had time to dream, time to touch base with our needs and play with our friends.
Does any of this ring true for you? One of my favourite authors and healers is a lady called Dr Lucia Capacchione, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in London many years ago. She is passionate about giving voice to the inner child in us all and describes this part of us beautifully: “It’s the part of us that feels emotions and is playful, intuitive and creative. Usually hidden under our grown-up personas, the Inner Child holds the key to intimacy in relationships, physical and emotional well-being, recovery from addictions, and the creativity and wisdom of our inner selves.”
My dad was the one who really showed me the benefits attached to being playful. He never took himself too seriously and at any opportunity, would play. I remember as a very young child, mum and himself coming home from the office at lunchtime and going to the park to fly a kite. At Christmas time, he would be down on his hands and knees playing with my brother’s train set in whoops of laughter. He loved ice cream and would proclaim, that no-one could be sad whilst eating a ‘99’. This did not detract from the respect we all had for him. On the contrary, his bright playful spirit was loved by all, even at a professional level. So being grown- up all the time, isn’t always healthy.
Watching my dad, taught me to have a healthy balance and approach to life. If I fancy playing on a swing, kicking a football or throwing a frisbee, then I do. Like him, I enjoy cartoons and eating ice cream. When I let my hair down and have a good laugh, I feel terrific. I agree with Oscar Wilde, when he wrote; “Life is too important, to be taken seriously.”
• What were the messages you had around having fun when you were younger?
• Were you told to stop being foolish?
• Play equates to frivolity which equates to failure.
• Be quiet, you are making too much noise.
• Children should be seen and not heard.
• Quit acting the maggot – Irish saying.
• You are too old to play with those toys now or read those comics.
• Grow up. Stop being childish. (There is a difference between being labelled childish and being labelled child-like. The latter has a more positive spin)
Time to question all these ‘learned’ subliminal messages from our elders and relearn how to have pure unadulterated fun.
1. It relieves stress.
2. It improves brain function.
3. Stimulates the mind and boosts creativity.
4. Improves relationships and connections to others.
5. Keeps you feeling young and energetic.
Getting in The Zone
Happy Memories (Ask someone to facilitate this for you)
1. Make yourself comfortable, taking a few relaxing breaths and allow your eyes to close gently, to block out any external distractions.
2. Go back as far as you can, to a time when you have a clear image of what was a joyful/happy time for you: Was it a toy you received years ago, or in the recent past; perhaps a holiday vacation; maybe a birthday party. Whatever it is, really get in touch with those feelings in your body. What made you giggle uncontrollably? What made you want to punch the air with pure delight?
3. Allow these feelings of fun to wash over you. Take your time being with these memories…
4. Make the image as strong and clear as you can, add colour and sound…
5. When you are finished, open your eyes and return to the room. Try to picture when you have had this much fun recently, as an adult.
6. Note carefully what surfaces for you.
• Next time you pass a swing and think you are too old to hop on and have a go. Go for it.
• Surround yourself with people who make you laugh and feel good about yourself.
• Think about getting a pet. You can’t help getting involved in their antics.
• Watch a kid’s movie/ cartoon and see what it feels like to be in that zone. (Self- disclosure – I loved the 2015 Peanuts movie. People who follow me on twitter will not be surprised by this! Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor of the New Yorker describes cartoons in this way; “it’s a certain little anesthesia of the heart which is necessary.”
• Have a good old- fashioned pillow fight.
• Go for a bike ride with your partner or friends.
• Pack a picnic and head off for the day. Pack some naughty things like sweets, crisps etc…
• Play board games instead of watching TV some nights. It will take you away from the lure of sensory overload from electronic gadgets.
• Leave conversation cards on dining room table. Next time a few of you are seated over a meal, pull out a card over dessert and start the fun.
• Buy some adult colouring books. Keep a box of your own crayons and other fun arty materials in a box just for you.
• Write a list of activities that give you joy as a reference for when you are bored. I learnt this from one of my young nephews years ago.
• Share music together. If you have space and some privacy, play karaoke. The freedom of singing can be so freeing and can be the source of many laughs and memories.
• Carve out play time and some spare cash to just do silly things. A colleague of mine in London, used to keep a small box in her therapy room to throw in loose change. When we finished our work on a Friday afternoon, we would head off to a shop like Pound Land and buy all sorts of arty stuff for fun. Some of these were used in our workshops.
I am proud of the ‘Little Giselle’ in me who reminds me when I need to let my hair down. She now has a voice and airtime. So next time you see me playing, just realize which of the dolls is present!
I will leave the final words on the subject to the American author, Gary Zukav:
“You can just as easily laugh and play while you grow as become serious and overwhelmed.”