You’ve heard mention of that “inner child,” the needy, vulnerable part of you that you neglect or criticize. We therapists often talk about “the baby part of you” or “the child side of you” as a way to address dependency issues. You know you’ve got a kid inside of you, right?
A lot of the time, mine’s a brat. He’s very impatient, impulsive and demanding, and when he doesn’t get his way, he gets angry. He sometimes throws a fit in there, which can be very unpleasant, usually for me alone though sometimes he can be unpleasant to unfortunate bystanders. [Think Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: “I want an Oompah-Loompah, Daddy. I want an Oompah-Loompah now!”] Managing my inner brat can be a major challenge.
Humor aside, I believe this to be a serious issue for many people, and the hardest part in therapy is getting them to realize that the reason they’re struggling is because an immature part of them — a child who can’t tolerate frustration very well and has unreasonable expectations — is having a tantrum. Sometimes the child gets his or her way and the adult side gives in. This can lead to impulsive, ill-considered choices followed by shame and regret.
In more serious cases, the inner child goes into a destructive rage and wrecks everything, mostly the internal landscape but often external relations as well; this can lead to symptoms of depression. Most of my clients with this issue at first had no idea that internal rage and tantrums were the problem. They felt only the depressive aftermath. As I touched on in my prior post about depression, in debilitating cases, I often feel as if I’ve entered a wasteland: the person’s mind has been utterly devastated by rage, almost as if hit by a nuclear holocaust.
Freud thought of depression as aggression turned inward against the self. I’ve never found that way of thinking very useful in a practical way, but I do think psychic violence is at the heart of many types of depression. Helping clients to hear and recognize the violence as it occurs is the first step; helping them to cope with it is the second and more difficult task.
Finding Your Own Way:
Are you co-habiting with a brat but you’re not sure? Here are some places to go looking for him or her:
Bedtime – I won’t go to bed and you can’t make me!
Time to get up – I’m really tired. I don’t want to go to work. Leave me alone!
Mealtime – No, I will NOT eat a proper meal. I want chocolate.
Chores – It’s so unfair that I have to do this job! Nobody else does!
Humor aside once again, I think it’s an important area to examine, to find out what your inner brat hates and the ways he or she can be destructive when throwing a fit about it.