Oh, wee one, show yourself and let me be as happy as a child once again!
Or at least, if you Google "inner child," that’s what many (many many many) articles, quotes and people will have us believe. They will say, to experience joy and happiness again, we need to search for our inner child and relive the purity, joy and innocence we felt as children, and they suggest we do so by:
- Skipping into a field of wild flowers with the sun beaming down on us
- Journeying into our deepest memories to uncover our first moment of childhood joy
- Reliving the time we ran into the ocean with our arms outstretched leaping into the waves and laughing
But what they fail to understand is that the pop-psychology concept is not meant for the average person nostalgic for a more carefree time in their lives. It’s used to heal “unresolved childhood experiences and the lingering dysfunctional effects of childhood dysfunction.”
Not so much to learn to giggle again, people, but rather to get past serious trauma.
So where do these carefree inner child images come from? Why are they part of our collective consciousness? Movies. Advertising. Books. And other fiction. It’s pretend. It’s someone else’s imagination. Someone else’s version of what happy looks like. And they are willing to sell you that image.
But here's the real question: why do we buy it?
Maybe because it's lovely. The image of the inner child currently in circulation is indeed a happy one (never the barfy jerks that kids can be sometimes). And partially because it sounds easy. To be happy all we have to do is relive a happy memory from our childhood, which hits us right in our nostalgic sweet spots. There's no real work involved. There's no reflecting on your present or trying to determine, if you are unhappy, why. It seems to be just about reliving the past, and only the good parts of our past.
Is that what true happiness is? I'm not convinced. So I will end with a letter filled with anger and sarcasm (which, incidentally, makes me happy):
Dear counselors-in-training, happiness bloggers and self-help-book-bingers,
I’m sure you mean well, but please fuck off. I don’t need to act like a goddamn five-year-old to be happy. I don’t need my happiness to be infantilized, thank you very much. When I express joy, I am not releasing my inner-fucking-child. I’m just happy. As an adult. In the present. Try it!