A good friend emailed me a while back and asked about my experience of the "inner child" on my road to healing. My inner child, who I called Little Danny, was an integral part of the book I had written, "Freedom's Just Another Word." My friend wondered if my experience of that inner child had changed over the years, or if that child was still a part of me in some ways. Here's how I characterized it:

My sponsor in one of the 12 step programs several times said that when a person goes through a traumatic event, the ego freezes at the age the person was when the trauma took place. Pretty psychological, but it certainly felt like what I experienced. It was the essence of Little Danny. Either an 8 year old, a 14 year old or a 17 year old, the ages of my major traumas. And my process was releasing that old frozen ego and allowing myself to mature like I didn't do at the time, yet also honoring Little Danny. I learned after a while that my abandonment fears are resident within him, and I have to get him to "buy in" to things I am doing, or he rebels, digs in his heels, and says "like hell you will!" I vividly remember driving north from Houston to do a sweat lodge to release some old traumas, and having to explain to Little Danny that I wouldn't abandon him as I did that work.

I've found that when he understands what's happening and I treat him like the bright, intuitive and gifted child he was/is, he goes along. And my recovery gets better. But it has also been my experience that he doesn't go away, nor do I want him to, but he just doesn't run my life in dysfunctional ways any more. My sponsor used to talk a lot about parenting the child, and I've had to learn to do that. I hear an interesting comment one time. A woman said something along these lines. "I hear everyone talking about the inner child, and how great and wonderful it is to get in touch with that child. But for me, there's the other side of the coin, that when that child gets out of control, she's gotten me into a lot of trouble. I want to honor that child, but not let them run the household any more!" I thought there was great balance in that - kind of like inventory work where you turn a character defect into a character strength, but using it more appropriately. So - my cognitive thinking skills don't get overused and thrown back at me as "you're so darn analytical all the time!" It works better if I listen to my inner child, but don't always let him run things!

Author's Bio: 

Dan Hays is the author of "Freedom's Just Another Word, a hopeful and inspirational memoir about his struggles to overcome the effects of growing up with a violent alcoholic. Dan also presents hopeful radio messages in his broadcasts "Minute to Freedom." On his roundtable radio show "Dialogues With Dignity," Dan discusses topics of depth and substance.