Home Bookmarks My therapist suggested I talk to my inner child. I thought she was joking - but it changed everything

My therapist suggested I talk to my inner child. I thought she was joking - but it changed everything

Wow, this one really hits hard.

I’d been in therapy for decades, but I had a new psychologist helping with my anxiety who was teaching me about my young self. I talked to her about how I felt in the present day (afraid, tired, hungry, tired, angry), and she helped me draw links between those feelings and what happened when I was small. Then she encouraged me to talk to that little girl. Like, to have an actual conversation. “That’s stupid,” I said, pretending to be a rational person who’s not in constant dialogue with her cat. “Try it,” she said. “What would you tell yourself?” I tried it. From my therapist’s couch I found, in my memory, a small blond child alone on a schoolyard swing. She had been booted from class to “calm down”, so she was twisting up the chains and then letting go so they would spin her around. The air was cool. Autumn. Through the window, she could see other kids painting bright colours on to butchers paper. I imagined myself sitting next to her on the other swing. Why are you out here? I would ask, and she would say, I’m naughty, and the chains would clang as they unravelled. But what if, I would say, I knew you were trying your best? No one had ever said this to six-year-old Anna. They had only ever told her to be something different. I felt something click in my chest. After I had used up all my therapist’s tissues and gone home, I kept visiting this past self. I found her in classrooms where everything seemed too noisy. I found her hiding under the bed from people who would yell at her, panicking about report cards, forgetting her homework. I found her yelling, crying, laughing, wishing she could be somebody else. This anxious, bound-up kid fighting every single thing in her life.