Sitting in a cafe in Keynsham the other day, me and my friend Jules Allen invented a new self help technique based on something I do at work. It really helped me and I thought I would share because it might help you too! Particularly if you are interested in ‘inner child’ work.
During my day job working with ‘at risk’ young people, part of the process is that we hold something called a ‘Team Around the Child’ meeting. This involves sitting with the child and helping them to think about the issues in their life that they might need help with. We then write an agenda, and invite all of the people around them who might be able to help – family, professionals who might include teachers, a nurse, the local beat officer, youth worker etc. We try to find a place where the child feels safe, maybe their youth club, school or sometimes in their home, and then we hold the meeting. Sometimes, with enough support and preparation, the child will be confident enough to chair the meeting themselves.
I told my friend about this, and we agreed it would have been so helpful for us to have had this experience when we were going through difficult times in our own childhood. She suggested maybe we could visualise one now, for our *inner children*. So this is what we did…
We explored the issues in our lives using a life coaching tool called ‘the life wheel’, you can find a version of it here:
We rated the areas of our life as a 1, 2 or 3. 1 means we really need help with this. 2 means that it’s not perfect but we know what we are doing and how to do it. 3 means this area is going well.
We then did a visualisation exercise of all the people – past, present, people we admire, self help gurus – who might be able to help us with the ‘number 1’ issues. Some of the people on my list included my late grandad, all of the people I studied with on my art therapy course, my friends and teachers from clown school and fools club, my ex-youth worker, my counsellor, my personal trainer, my ukulele teacher, and Kate Bush.
We visualised a safe space that we could hold the meeting. Imagining what it looked like, what we could hear around us, and what feelings we had in our bodies. This is an NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) method of using all the senses to bring something to life in the imagination.
Pema Chodron the Buddhist teacher chaired my friends meeting, starting with a meditation. For each agenda item we imagined what advice the people in our team might give us.
And now, when I am feeling a bit unsafe or stuck, I can sit and visualise my team around the child, and what they might say.
I’ve been reading recently about a technique called the ‘Developmental Needs Meeting Strategy’, – a therapy tool to help with unmet childhood needs – which reminds me of this work we did. The strategy is used to get parts of the self unstuck, by using the resourceful parts of the self to meet the needs of the child parts. You can read more about it here:
I’ve learned that we internalise messages and ideas from the people in our lives who have helped us in some way, which can become part of our self talk. This can counteract the self talk of the ‘inner critic’, who is there to protect us from potential danger but who often has a negative impact on us – causing us to self sabotage and beat ourselves up over the smallest of things. This work helps quieten that critic and gives the child parts safety in the competent hands of these internal caretakers or cheerleaders.
I loved doing this work with my friend, not only because it helped me, but because it also gave me a whole new appreciation for the importance of the work that I do in my day job. I hope it might be useful for you too 😀💚