A few weekends ago Ned and I were totally emotionally wiped out. We laid as though paralyzed, tangled and unshowered on our couch. The piles of dirty plates, half empty soda cans and beer bottles had begun to tower. The only thing we seemed capable of was watching episodes of Babylon 5 for hours on end. As I tried to think of something to ward off the waves of depression and apathy, an idea came from within. I suggested we go to the store and let Little Ned and Little Rabbit pick out whatever toy they wanted. I think this was about the only thing that could have peeled us from the couch. I usually hate trips to Target and totally dissociate while there, but standing in wonder and excitement at the length of the pink toy aisle was totally different; I was aware and engaged. We lost over an hour combing through the shiny aisles, wondering at classic toys like slinky dog and light bright and marveling at modern toy sets and games.
This totally did the trick, our inner children were absorbed and excited. As I strolled through the toy aisle I eyed a lone furry blue puppet. I picked up the puppet and looked into it’s glossy googly eyes, “Hello”, Little Rabbit said, mouthing a “Hello” back from the puppet. While it was easy to connect with Little Rabbit and let her steer in the toy aisle it was not so easy to let go of Adult Rabbit. My adult-self nagged “Do you really need to spend $15 on a puppet?!” After about a half hour of helping Ned pick out his toys while cradling the puppet, it was too late: I had bonded with the toy and it was clear that Little Rabbit would be taking it home.
We stepped out of the store with pretty good haul: a domo doll, the puppet I would later name Gomez (posing above), a large squishy yellow ball, a pocket sized soft lion and a paddle-ball game.
When making any sort of life changes or doing self-work the most important thing I have learned to is to be extra gentle with yourself. So many times we push ourselves to keep going, going and going, the inner world becoming a mini dictatorship with that authoritarian voice as the slave driver. What if instead of being dictatorial with yourself you were more anarchistic, more free with yourself. I think there is a lot to be said for doing what you feel like. We are so conditioned to not do what we want: don’t eat what you are craving, don’t sleep whenever you’re tired, don’t scratch that itch. I think that it is sometimes healthy to submit to what your body craves — as long as you do a check-in as to why you need it and what it is doing for you.
Consciously being gentle with yourself is essential in negating some of that harsh backlash that often happens after self work or achievement. One of the most effective methods I have learned to help foster a sense of empathy and delicacy towards the self is to carry and cradle a beloved stuffed animal. That action of holding something softly in your arms creates a sense of nurturing, caring and compassion that then easily transfers to yourself. Since you will have to leave the house at some point and carting around a stuffed bear might not be the most optimal choice, try carrying something small that you feel soft towards in your wallet or purse. This is where that pocket sized plush Lion I bought comes in handy.
I’ve found that not only do these methods work in creating self love and compassion but also help spark and engage the inner child. Because the issues we work through as adults often are directly related to our experiences as kids, listening to your inner child are also big parts of this puzzle. Listening to your inner child could come in many forms, you could let your inner 10-year-old pick out what to wear for the day or when you go out for ice cream, ask that inner child what they would like to have, or try what I did and buy your inner child a special gift. It’s a little bit of self parenting but this time you get to call the shots — something Gomez made sure all passers-by knew on the car ride home from the store.
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