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December 2000
YOUR INNER CHILD'S SELF-ESTEEM
By Sandy Plone, Ph.D.

The experience of helping adults and children to heal wounds of the past has confirmed my belief that self-image, self-respect, and one's level of self-esteem is the core system that informs, even dictates our life choices. We human beings seem to be in a constant struggle for happiness-evolving from choices about love, relationships and work, and connected through value systems and personal history. Also, most of the effective literature about raising children refers to self-image as being a child's most significant characteristic emanating from parents and teachers initially, but later impacted by many other relationships. Helping parents and teachers to create strong feelings of self-worth within children is a major challenge, with how-to books and articles offering suggestions and information to guide the way.

The parents of children I have worked with in therapy often will seek such material, making good use of it to improve their parenting skills, but privately acknowledging the pain of their own childhood experiences, and the limitations of their own parents. "If only", they often lament, "I had received this kind of empathy, or sensitivity, or had parents with the awareness that I'm developing, I wouldn't be struggling with these issues or problems now!" The words may vary, but the "music" is the same--we want to have experienced what we learn we are able to give, and we know we can't change our history, or even the way our own parents relate to us as adults, if they are still alive. If they are not, it can become even more frustrating to develop this awareness, as we may doubt whether our view of the relationships could be changed.

A consciousness of positive parenting skills can help us raise responsible, productive and happy children, and can increase family tranquility and joy. However, it can also create a kind of bittersweet awareness in parents whose "inner child" is still hurting. The focus of child guidance counseling sessions then may turn to longings for individual work. At this point these parents wisely realize that the work of healing begins internally, before it can be extended towards other relationships--whether it be towards spouses or children. Our challenge then broadens--without assigning blame--to heal the child inside. The core issues consistently lead us to self-concept, self-esteem, to beliefs about one's sense of self that may be distorted and negative. Sometimes I will suggest that adult clients think about their "inner child" with the same wonder, love and tolerance as they had thought about their own child, or any child in their experience who seemed innocent and malleable. I suggest that they think about themselves reverently as babies or children, who deserve forgiveness for past perceived transgressions, as if they were a "wonderful child" at birth, ready to develop in the most positive way. Skeptics may question if any psychotherapy could ever effect this type of profound change. IT CAN, AND IT OFTEN DOES. The following poem exemplifies the creative expression of this type of change, graciously shared here for you, the reader, by the author:

©copyright by Sandy Plone, Ph.D. 2000

WONDERFUL CHILD

Wonderful child, magnificent one,
You are your own first born.
Born unto your self,
mingling chosen body and eternal spirit,
you are wanted, needed, loved, and whole,
coming into being with a gentle whisper,
"I'm so glad you're here."
You are the embodiment of the miracle of life,
choosing this life to do your soul's work,
beginning with the blessed event of your birth.
You are essential to a divine purpose.
You chose you and you chose well.
Longing and the search for belonging can turn the path into a maze,
but you are never alone.
Wonderful child, magnificent one, you are your own first born.
Lynn Garner Simon

So take heart, patient reader, and trust--healing one's inner child can heal one's world!

Dr. Plone is a psychotherapist in practice in West Los Angeles. She is a member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network.

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