Exploring Workaholism through the eyes of my Inner Child

Inner Child work is some of the most frightening work I’ve ever done, simply because it is so very vulnerable. I wouldn’t do it, except for the fact that it is also some of the most revealing, freeing, and cathartic stuff I’ve ever tried, as well as being incredibly easy to do, and fun in the long run. Invariably, what comes out of it surprises me, even though it is me that I’m talking to!

If it’s so wonderful, why don’t I do it all the time? It’s the anticipation of vulnerability that makes me procrastinate. At least, that’s the story I’ve told myself. Somehow, it’s all beginning to feel like I was just waiting for the ‘right timing’ to roll around. Part of that timing is about sharing the experience with you.

So, here goes… I was at the airport this weekend, waiting to take off on a trip to visit my son. As I sat there in the Sunday afternoon sunshine, I pulled out my laptop, hooked up my chargers, and set to work on an article. After boarding the plane, I pulled out books and a notepad to continue outlining a few courses I will be facilitating.

Suddenly, the only thing I could see was that I was the only one around me who was working. My fellow travellers were playing games on their tablets and phones, napping, chatting, laughing, and I was working. I could feel judgments rising in me, and flashes of anger, too. I have come far enough to know that whenever I am judging someone else or engaged in anger, there is a message in it for me.

One of the books I ‘happened’ to have with me (are there really any accidents?) was “Recovery of Your Inner Child.” It was pulling me like nobody’s business, so I flipped it open, straight to the chapter on the Angry Child. Oh, boy. My Guydes know how to play me.

If you’re not familiar with the book, I highly recommend it. The link above is my affiliate link with Amazon, and I’ll get paid 4% if you use it. Please do not feel obligated. Just buy the book wherever you like, if it resonates.

The whole book is about learning to listen to self. The exercise I chose to do is an iteration of ones I have done before. Basically, it involves using the dominant hand to represent the ‘adult’ self, and the non-dominant hand to represent the ‘child’ self. When I started doing this work many years ago, I was appalled at how snide, judgmental, and rude my adult self was to my child self. It wasn’t what I wrote; it was the inner dialogue of impatience with waiting for the non-dominant hand to write whatever ‘the child’ was thinking. That was an education all by itself, and a story for another day.

For today, I want to share Sunday’s dialogue with you, as I suspect that I am not the only one who has these thoughts and feelings. Before I share what I wrote, I will preface it with saying that I do my best to release any self-censoring that I may be tempted to engage in during these sessions. If I can’t be honest with myself, I have little-to-no chance of getting to the crux of the issue and reconciling whatever is holding me back. You’re getting the uncut version, as much or as little sense as it may make to you. Unfortunately, the thoughts going on around it aren’t as easy to capture or convey as the words on paper. I’ll let you use your imagination to fill in the blanks, and we can discuss in the comments after the end of the article.

Here goes… a conversation between my ‘adult’ self and my ‘child’ self about driving myself to constantly work:

Adult: Who is this who needs to work all the time?

Child: Me. I’m me. I’m Angry.

Adult: Why are you angry?

Child: You don’t take care of me. There isn’t enough time or money, so you have to work all the time.

Adult: What would happen if I didn’t work all the time?

Child: Die. We would Die. Starve.

Adult: How do you know that is true?

Child: Daddy said so.

Adult: I don’t remember that.

Child: You don’t remember a lot.

Adult: Ok. Now what?

Child: I’m mad at you.

Adult: I’m pretty mad at you, too. I’d like to have more fun & you’re mean all the time. And I’m being petty, but we’re supposed to be honest.

Child: So, we get to be mad at each other?

Adult: Yes. We get to feel all the feelings.

Child: That’s pretty weird.

Adult: Isn’t it, though?

Child: That’s not what they taught us.

Adult: True. I learned new rules. They did not know everything. They just did their best.

Child: Ok. Do we still have to fight, or can we be friends?

Adult: Well, we can do both, or either, or anything else. What do you want to do? I don’t want to fight.

Child: I don’t want to fight. It makes me tired. Will you listen to me?

Adult: I will try. Sometimes I’m not a good listener. Will you help me listen better?

Child: I already tried to teach you. I make your stomach hurt.

Adult: That way hurts both of us. Can we find another way?

Child: Yes, but you have to pay attention. You don’t listen, so I make your stomach hurt.

Adult: I don’t think hurting is a productive way to teach. Punishment is mean. I like rewards.

Child: I’m mad at you!

Adult: What is that about?

Child: You said I’m mean. You’re mean!

Adult: I’m sorry. I don’t think YOU are mean. I think punishment is mean. You are not punishment. You are you. Punishment is an action.

Child: I am not my actions?

Adult: Nope.

Child: That’s confusing.

Adult: I think we’re on to something here.

Child: Yes. I am not good or bad?

Adult: Hard to answer. I believe we are all good inside. We have bad experiences and do bad things, but I don’t believe we are bad.

Child: That makes my stomach feel better. My insides relaxed. This is weird.

Adult: Weird is a fun word, isn’t it?

Child: Weird used to mean bad. I think it is good inside, too.

Adult: I think you’re pretty smart.

Child: Me, too. And I’m cool. Do you think I’m cool?

Adult: I think you’re very cool. And, I’m proud of you.

Child: Then why are you crying?

Adult: Because you’re special and I’ve missed you, and it’s really nice to not be angry. Sometimes my happy leaks out my eyes.

Child: I like that.

Adult: Me, too. It took me a long time to learn that.

Child: You did a good job. Now can we save the world?

Adult: I think so. It takes being really good at being vulnerable to save the world.

Child: That feels right. I love you.

Adult: I love you, too. Thank you. (drawing of a heart)

Child: (drawing of a heart) until soon. I’m always here.

Adult: Yes. No more tummy aches, ok?

Child: Not yet. There’s more to say, but not right now.

Apparently, my Inner Child and I are on a mission to save the world. No one could be more surprised by that than me. If I had to guess, my friends have probably known it for a long time.

Reading over this, I’m crying again. The words may not have the impact on you that they have on me, because they are my words, not yours. I can tell you that the outcome of this little inner dialogue is that I don’t feel as upset. I’m letting go of more projects in my life. I am more aware when I need to take breaks, and my stomach actually doesn’t hurt as much. That last part is pretty miraculous, because I’ve had serious gastrointestinal issues for most of my life.

What are you internalizing that is showing up in your body, your relationships, and your life? What is the kindest thing you can do for yourself around that? Let’s start a conversation of kindness!

Maybe I really am out to save the world. I know it is possible if I spread the word to be kind to ourselves first, then share the overflow of kindness with others. I love you!

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