How Our Emotions Can Be Tied To The Little Kid Within

Sometimes on TV shows, I've seen situations where a person is visiting a therapist or psychologist, and the doctor says, "Tell me about your childhood."

One reason for that is because the things we experienced as kids can have a huge impact on the way we experience life as an adult. There has been a lot of scientific study about this. So it can be really helpful to reflect on what things were like as a kid, and consider how they may be influencing the things we feel, say, and do as adults today.

Each of us is different, so doing that sort of a reflection is a very individual exercise.

I'll identify the steps you can take to do that reflection and share my own childhood experiences to use as an example. For each of the items in this article, it might help to focus on the age of about seven years old, although any age is ok.

First think about things you loved to do as a kid.

When I was seven, these are things I loved to do:

1) Play home run derby in the front yard with my brother. (And then calculate the stats on our performances!)

2) Go into the nearby forest and explore and make forts.

3) Go to baseball games with my dad and brothers.

4) Ride my bike and make ramps to go over.

These were the things that made me come alive!

What were your favorite things to do as a kid? Consider taking a moment and pausing here to think about it. Perhaps a smile will show up on your face as you remember the fun that little kid used to have.

Now think about the things you feared the most as a kid.

For me, these are some things I feared:

1) My parents or other authority figures being disappointed in me.

2) Being seen as a "loser" by classmates.

In my case, I knew that if I didn't get good grades, my parents would be disappointed. Also, if I got in trouble or didn't follow the rules, there would be disappointment. I tried to avoid that disappointment at all costs.

What are the things you feared as a kid? It's a good time now to pause and reflect on it. Maybe even notice if any feelings come up inside you as you do this.

Now consider why you feared these things.

This is where it can get deep. In my case, my dad was always so enamored by the "best and the brightest" people in the world. He was obsessed with people who made tons of money. I feared I wouldn't be special if I didn't somehow get onto that same pedestal.

In other words, I feared that he wouldn't love me unless I was special like those people.

As I write this, it brings a tear to my eye thinking about it! That poor little kid, little Eric, just wanted to be loved, and his biggest fears were ultimately based around not being worthy of love. Of course my dad absolutely did love me, and my dad and I have an awesome relationship! But at that time that's what my fear was, even though I don't consider it anybody's fault.

What comes up for you when you think about why you feared those things as a kid? Do any feelings come up for you as you reflect on this?

Now think about whether you still fear those things as adult.

For me, there is absolutely a part of me that still fears these things as an adult. Let's talk about money specifically.

As a kid, I learned to associate my self worth with my performance, and what better gauge is there of my "performance" than money! The ultimate scorecard supposedly?

So when my personal monetary resources go down, sometimes it can feel like a part of my identity is dying or something, and like my self worth is on the line. These feelings can be very intense at times, and they tie back directly to the experiences I had as a child about feeling like I needed to perform at the highest levels in order to be loved.

Do your childhood fears still exist in you today? In what ways do they manifest?

Now that you know your adult emotions might be tied to your childhood experiences, could it change how you respond to those emotions?

In my case, I think about that little boy, little Eric, and think about whether he deserved to be loved even if he hadn't performed well in school or other phases of life. The answer, coming from deep within me, is a resounding, unequivocal "YES!!!"

That little boy, who is ultimately still within me (as seen by the adult emotions I mentioned above), deserves to be unconditionally loved. Performance has no bearing on the love that little boy deserves.

And with that in mind, I can choose to respond differently when that emotion comes up for me as an adult. If I take a loss in the stock market for example, and a feeling of fear or anger comes up, I can step back and acknowledge, "Hey I can recognize that this emotion is coming from that little boy in me -- that part of me that thinks I need to perform. But deep down I know I don't need to perform. I'm lovable regardless of how much money I have. So it's ok to feel this emotion knowing that in reality I'm lovable and I'm safe."

Orienting myself in that way toward those emotions enables me to avoid being enslaved by the emotions.

How about you? How do you WANT to respond when these childhood emotions show up in your adult self?

Ultimately, there is a lot of potential healing that can happen for most people if they consider doing this exercise, and certainly some potential wisdom to be gained. But it's a practice. I've benefited from spending plenty of time doing it, and thinking of plenty of childhood experiences to reflect on. I've been practicing it for years, and I still practice it today.

You can contact me if you want to talk. Let's support each other!

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