why inner-child // self-intimacy work?
At first it usually feels a bit (or a lot) awkward to be speaking to yourself in third person. Many stories around mental health and stigma can naturally arise from this. It can feel really vulnerable. But what is intimacy if not letting yourself be seen in your vulnerability?
This practice was never something I studied, but one that arose naturally for me that I embraced.
It allowed me to step away from the inner enmeshment and attachment of being tangled up with my thoughts, and step back as the witness. From there, the ability to cultivate a more compassionate, mothering voice arises. This is where we begin to be able to re-parent ourselves.
I still use “I am statements”, but I lean more heavily on inner child work through 3rd person talk. I am statements feel very stale, mechanistic and lifeless to me, as though I am trying to force or convince myself of something, or that I am trying to change something that is broken.
But inner-child, 3rd person talk, is alive, it brings a sense of compassion, of empathy, of intimacy.
Sometimes, when I feel really out of sorts, I will use “I am” statements to create a bit of a foundation or a pillar to which I have more access to step back and into the self-intimacy, inner child work.
Recently I discovered the work of Dr. Rhonda Freeman, clinical neuropsychologist, who talks about the brain science behind this.
Those that know me, know how much I love the language of science, especially when it catches up to and validates experiences that many have been having for a very long time (science is beautiful, but s-l-o-w at catching up).
Here is a piece from one of Dr. Freeman’s articles:
3rd Person Self-Talk (Self-Distancing): This is one of my favorite ‘brain hacks‘ and one I use almost daily.
a. It can help to engage the regulation portion of the brain;
b. calm down some of the emotionality that could be causing you to feel worse rather than better.
Here it is: When you are contemplating what you are going through (or thinking back on the relationship) or trying to resolve a very emotionally charged situation within your mind, use 3rd person language. Rather than say “I” use your name. Change up your pronouns and use 3rd person pronouns in those moments of self-talk. Avoid thinking, “me,” “my,” or “I” in those moments (Kross et. al, 2014).
For example, when I am in a tough spot, feeling very stressed, and having trouble getting myself to problem solve, I help my brain engage my prefrontal cortex to help calm me down so that I can think a little clearer (and not feel in as much pain). I swap out 1st person pronouns for 3rd person pronouns. In my self-talk I say, “Her” “She” “Rhonda.” I instantly begin to ‘think’ in more gentler manner.
Using this form of self-talk increases feelings of kindness/ empathy for self, up-regulates portions of the brain that promotes emotional control, gives me easier access to my logic/reasoning, and will increase the likelihood that self-compassion will feel more natural and automatic (at some point) for you. Like anything … it takes practice. The brain will benefit from building and using those compassionate neuropathways. The more positivity happening in the brain the better.