Children are born naturally spontaneous and carefree. The vision of a child skipping down the street freely is one that portrays an image of a free-spirited child in her natural element. Children bring curiosity and a sense of wonder along with them on their journeys. They actually take the time to “smell the roses” and live in the moment.
When nurtured adequately, a child brings joy and aliveness to his or her surroundings. When a parent values, protects, sees and cares for a child’s needs, the child can develop their personality and creativity. They are in the magnificent process of blossoming and they are thriving within their true potential. Children also need direction so they don’t get lost and distracted in their quest for truth. Proper guidance and limit-setting will ensure that a child has the appropriate freedom to explore who she is within the safe parameters of a Torah-true value system.
A child who grows up nurtured in all five core areas will develop into a strong, healthy functional adult (FA) with empathetic qualities and relational skills that will enable him to be in meaningful and rewarding relationships. Such children will know their inherent value and see it in others. They will be able to protect themselves while respecting the other person. They will know their reality and share it appropriately with others. They will know how to care for their mind, body and spirit while being interdependent with others. And they will have spontaneity and find balance in all things.
While the above described FA looks and sounds ideal, in a real world most people will have lacked some nurturing in their developing years. Many will have enough stamina to get by, while others may struggle just to get through each day. The goal isn’t to reach perfection, but to learn moderation in all things.
A child who was not allowed to be carefree will shut down and lose their spontaneity. They may become uptight and rigid or take life too seriously, growing up too fast and losing the playful childhood that should rightfully have been theirs. On the other hand, when a parent is too permissive and does not set limits for their child, the child will learn to be uncontained and undisciplined. This often shows up in the adult, described by Pia Mellody as: “in control of being out of control” or “out of control of being in control.” Both extremes are symptomatic of developmental immaturity in this core issue of moderation and balance.
Your FA should be able to be spontaneous and playful while having appropriate self-control. If you find yourself looking for outside intensity to find joy and life, then it’s likely you need to free up your inner child and give her permission to express herself.
You may find these resources helpful to reach your inner child and get her creativity flowing. By now (if you’ve been following the exercises and doing the reparenting strategies) you have hopefully bonded with the precious child inside you, and have a rapport going. Consistent valuing, protecting, knowing and caring for her will set the stage for the «character» to play her part. Get your FA grounded and find your little girl in your mind’s eye. Breathe in her image. Find the age. Stroke her arm and give her a warm and beautiful smile. Observe her reaction to you as you make eye contact. If she looks like she wants more, put her on your lap and caress her cheeks. Notice the details of her surroundings. Ask her about herself. Show genuine interest and curiosity. Then ask her if she wants to play. Make it about her. Watch as her creative juices start to flow.
You can «play» in your mind’s eye or in real life. Take her to the beach and play in the sand. Build sand castles and play along with her imaginary characters. Swim with her in the waves and notice her instinctual patterns in the water. Does she like to splash? Kick? Make tumble sauces? You can draw and paint with her, take her bike riding or go to the zoo. The options are endless. It’s not what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it. Being and playing with your precious inner child mindfully is what’s important. You’ll learn what you need to know by observing and connecting with her.
At the end of the day, or at the end of the year, what matters is that we are better people than the day or year before. What counts is that we want to grow and do the will of Hashem. There is no greater sorrow than someone who wants to grow but can’t because they are stuck. Sometimes all we need is the awareness and tools to unlock the potential within and grow into the magnificent person we were born to be.