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            One of the things so many of us love about children is their ability to surprise and even astonish us with some of the the things they say and do. I was around a gaggle of my little cousins last weekend, ranging in ages from six to sixteen, so I was witness to an endless stream of entertaining behavior. I started asking myself why we as adults are so enthralled with what children do and say.
            One of the reasons I came up with hits very close to home with me. Children are usually much less inhibited than adults. A child will do something, like get wet, roll in the sand, cover their head with seaweed and put on a diving mask so that they resemble an alien, simply because it’s fun. Simply because they want to. Simply because they can. They’re not worried about what people are going to think of them. And if they are, it’s most likely along the lines of “Oh boy, this is going to make people laugh. I’m going to get some juicy attention for this!”.
            This sort of attitude allows children to be much freer in their range of behaviors. Obviously, they have to learn how their behavior effects others, and therefore develop boundaries and governing systems. But I’m not talking about behavior like that. I’m referring to the kind of stuff like looking like an alien at the beach. Behavior that is undertaken simply because it’s fun, simply because it's self expressive. Behavior whose environmental impact is limited to people’s opinion of it.
            In children, it’s all about fun. It’s all about being yourself and doing what feels good. Children know how they feel, and they express it. They express what they like and what they don’t like. Self expression is a key element in being a kid. What they do. What they say. What they wear. It all screams “Here I am! This is me!”. That sort of outgoing, innocent, somewhat irreverent, self expressive energy is a beautiful thing. And something we lose so much of when we “mature”. Maybe that’s one reason people find artists, particularly rock musicians, so fascinating; that gonzo-out-there-this-is-me energy is so alive and well in them.
            I’m focusing on the attitude here, not necessarily on a particular behavior. As we get older, we learn all types of lessons regarding how to act and what to say. Many lessons are valuable, and help us with our self control, develop our boundaries, and make us cognizant of the rights of others. And some lessons are rather worthless. These are the lessons that create so much inhibition and fear in us that we literally forget what it means to be ourselves. Lessons that raise our self consciousness to such dizzying platitudes that we won’t do things that are harmless but loads of fun strictly because we’re afraid of what people will think of us. Lessons that completely alienate and stifle the child within.
            In my case, when I was a child, I was much more like an adult. I was very self conscious. Prohibitively so. I was incredibly inhibited. More than even many grown ups. I didn’t like myself much at all. In a way, my life has run in reverse. I feel more like a kid now than when I was a kid. I have more fun now than I ever did as a child. I’m exponentially more expressive. I’m more myself. I’m far less self conscious or inhibited. I very much want to be loved and liked, but I’m far less concerned with who doesn’t like me, or even if they do or not.
            By no means am I suggesting that I don’t have these self conscious inhibitor gremlins inside of me. I do. I’m very aware of them, and sometimes, their voices are loud. I struggle with them constantly. But I’ve had some success in taming them. I’ve had some success in realizing where they absolutely do me no good. I’ve had some success in telling them to shut the fuck up.
            What I encourage people to do is get in touch with the kid inside of themselves and rediscover who that kid is. He or she has much to teach you. Not only about who you really are, but about who you really aren’t. If you’re willing to get to know that kid intimately, he or she will help you re-ignite fun and joy and uninhibited energy. That kid will tell you a lot about what you really love. And about who you really love.
            And that child will also tell you a lot about the pain you are still in today. If you truly open up to your kid’s unbridled joy of self expression, then you will also open up to whatever residual pain still lives inside you. Pain that still effects your behavior today. Pain that still effects who you are. And who you aren’t. Maybe that’s one reason why so many people shut out that child within. Because of the pain that’s still there. Because they are afraid that once they rediscover that kid, it’s not going to be all fun and games.
            And it usually isn’t. My own journey involved opening up to the pain first, which is usually how it happens, and another reason people are reluctant to re-discover the inner child. The pain usually comes before the joy, and who the hell wants more pain.
            But I can tell you from experience; it’s unquestionably worth it. The payoff for dealing with ourselves is a fuller life. The freedom we gain in our emotional lives is invaluable. We are able to access energies in ourselves that have been dormant for years and maybe weren’t even aware of. Our self expression flows through us and out of us and back into us again like high voltage through a cable of high conductive copper, re-energizing our lives. We start recovering who we really are. We become open to pain as well as joy, true. But that is so much better than being numb, which is where so many of us reside, so much of the time. I know. I was there for a long time.
            The child within will teach you about your latent pain, and help you get in touch with that ache deep inside of you that hasn’t yet healed. But once you’re in touch with it, you can start the process of releasing it. The child within can teach you about love. About unconditional love. About joy and self expression and fun. They will teach you about feeling. About being. About living. Ultimately, getting in touch with your inner child is about freeing yourself, on many levels, about many things. And how the hell can that be bad?

    ©2009 Clint Piatelli. All Rights (and a house full of very self expressive Wrongs) Reserved.

    Reader Comments (2)

    I recently acted like a child and ended up naked except for a well-placed empty cigarette pack. A couple days later, one of the people that witnessed this uninhibited behavior wanted to make sure I didn’t feel bad or embarrassed about what had happened. Having read this blog, I now feel sorry for him and anyone else who is not capable of letting it all hang out. It is a catharsis we all should witness. I want no part of the status quo. Latch on to that life-in-reverse idea because that would mean it all ends in an orgasm.

    August 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGlen

    Bravo! Glen. Life ending in an it.


    August 16, 2009 | Registered CommenterClint Piatelli

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