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COMMENTARY

What is the child in you?

05:04 AM December 23, 2017

Adults must keep the “child in [them]” amid the tests of time and tribulations if they want to fulfill their purpose in life. As Chinese philosopher Mencius put it, “The great man is he who does not lose his child’s heart.”

In these confusing and troubled times, psychologists and psychiatrists are working hard to help “adult children”—adults with unresolved childhood issues—rediscover the child within them. Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David recently wrote about the advocacy of Dr. Honey Carandang, a psychologist who guides traumatized, fearful and troubled adults in reuniting with the child in them, the child who “trusts, prays, finds affirming friends and communities… and knows how to play and finds strength and positivism from it.”

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Dr. Charles Whitfield, an American physician, psychotherapist, and author of “Healing the Child Within,” refers to the inner child as the “real self,” which he describes as “energetic and creative” and “whose innate desire is to grow and express itself.” The opposite, he says, is the false self: pretentious, self-absorbed, constricting, rebellious.

Sadly, the inner child or real self can be stifled, stunted, or wounded by stressors such as armed conflicts, natural disasters, family dysfunction, abandonment, neglect, abuse (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual), and shaming. These can drive a person into either explosive or “numb” behavior, paralyzing fearfulness, depression, drug addiction, and alcoholism. Resolute advocacy programs including therapy, validation and compassionate care for at-risk children and adult children are crucial in easing these problems. Of utmost importance is full support from the government and the private sector.

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In the inspirational book “When Life Begins at Sunset,” some older adults share pointers on how they hold on to the inner child and stay young at heart:

“Our attitude should be childlike, not childish. One aspect of being childlike is to be attuned to the times and understand the culture and needs of the young.”—Nelly Valloyas, Makati City

“With childlike faith, I feel so secure in my age (over 70) that I can maintain friendships with younger people. I know that spiritually, I am still growing. As we become sensitive to His leading, we are given the opportunities to serve Him according to our calling, ability, and situation in life.”—Tessie M. Guerrero, Muntinlupa City

“I believe the key to having a child’s heart is to be confident that God is with me when the going gets rough as I get older.”—Thelma Giron, San Diego, California

“Every morning … I give thanks to God for giving me a brand-new day. I may not be as strong as someone 30 or 40 years my junior, but the enthusiasm is still there. And for that I am so grateful.”—Salome Pangilinan, Glendale, California

“If I can live up to a hundred with a sound mind and a healthy body, I’ll continue to have food trips, learn magic tricks to entertain my grandchildren, tell them funny stories, and encourage others to love life and God.”—Phil Simmons, Temecula, California

My hometown friend Nellie Aro-Bernabe and I seldom see each other, but when we do, we happily recall the days of our childhood when we painted beautiful dreams and mapped out the paths that we had to take toward their fulfillment.

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The inner child will always choose the right path and will not hesitate to let go of anything that will cause harm to him or her and to others.

We look around us and wonder: What happened to the inner child of the man who turned traitor to his country, the consistent honor student who became a scheming and corrupt politician, the promising young man who became addicted to gambling and drugs?

Jesus Christ, who came to earth as a child to offer us hope and redemption, exhorts us to be like little children in spirit: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” ( Matthew 18:3)

We take this to mean that as we grow older, we must do our best to keep the child in us hopeful, grateful, creative, willing to learn, full of wonder, and faithful to Him.

Prosy Badiola Torrechante once edited a limited edition of a magazine for single parents and their children.

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