Meet your childhood self

(Takes about 30 minutes)

Our childhood experiences can have profound effects on our personality and behavior. While we can’t erase or change these experiences, we can change our interpretation of them. This exercise tries to enter into a dialog with our inner child in order to become more conscious of its positive and negative influence on our lives. The exercise starts off with a visualization, that could also be incorporated into a meditation or even hypnosis session with a professional. If you do this as a visualization, try to find a quiet place where you can be undisturbed and set a timer.

The exercise

Perform this 10-minute visualization. I suggest you read all the prompts over and then go through the visualization from memory. Accuracy is not so important, and switching between reading and visualizing will break the mood. If you wish, you could make a recording of yourself reading out the below prompts with several minutes of spaces between them:
Take 10 slow deep breaths, breathing into your abdomen. Consciously, relax all your muscles on each out-breath. If you want, you could meditate for a few minutes to better relax and focus.

  • Picture yourself going back in time. Go back years, and then decades. Until you are in your childhood.
  • Picture your childhood self in detail. What are they wearing? Where are they? What are they doing? What are they thinking? Is there anything making them unhappy?
  • Picture a something going on around you, maybe involving other people. Just go with whatever comes to mind.
  • Imagine your childhood-self saying what they think. Have your adult-self stand next to them and support them.
  • Comfort your childhood self. Explain why things happening around them are happening.
  • Wake up slowly. Feel your hands and feet and return to the present moment.

Now, write a letter to your childhood self. Below are some prompts, but feel free to write whatever comes to mind. (10 minutes)

Dear young …,

I was thinking about you, and wanted to tell you that…
I think you are …
The things that happened to you are…
There are some things I want to ask you: …
I would like you to teach me how to …

Love,

Now, write a reply from your childhood-self to your adult-self, addressing the letter you just wrote. (10 minutes)

Postmortem

Note how you feel emotionally before during and after the exercise. Your emotional state can give clues to unconscious psychological processes that are going on. Hopefully, you should find that you’ve “lightened the load” of your childhood memories and experiences simply by reprocessing and sorting your childhood a little better and more in line with your current self. If you feel worse, pay attention to your mood over the subsequent days, and consider seeking professional psychological advice.

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