The wonderful work of Brene Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton has brought some much-needed attention to our essential vulnerability, which in Voice Dialogue is an inner self called the Vulnerable Child. This Vulnerable Inner Child is who we all are at birth and it holds our essence so purely. Discover how to re-connect with your Inner Vulnerable Child, learn to care for it consciously, and reap the rewards – especially in your relationships.
The Vulnerable Inner Child is one of the most significant inner selves as it is who you were when you were born and so it holds the essence of your nature. It is also a self that most of us disown as we grow up, which leads to all kinds of problems.
As adults (even as children) we identify with the more powerful primary selves that develop in us to protect us. These primary selves – such as the Pleaser, the Responsible Self, the Caretaker, the Mind, the Achiever – end up becoming the personality we believe ourselves to be and everyone else knows us as.
These primary selves don’t normally see much use for our Vulnerable Inner Child, for in their eyes it is a hindrance to our success. After all, our primary selves had to make us the opposite to vulnerable – powerful – in order for us to survive. (Read this article for an explanation of how your personality forms.)
Consequences of Disowning Your Vulnerable Inner Child
Without a conscious connection to your Inner Vulnerable Child your life is affected in the following ways:
- You may suffer from anxiety and experience panic attacks. Just because your vulnerable inner child is disowned by your primary self system doesn’t mean it doesn’t get affected by the events in your life. And just as with other disowned selves, if its feelings are not available to you consciously, they can be made apparent in physical and emotional symptoms.
- You may be insensitive to other people’s pain. If you are identified with a very powerful self, and don’t have access to your vulnerability, you will find it difficult to feel empathy.
- You’ll find it difficult to experience intimacy in your relationships, for it is this inner child who connects deeply with other people.
- You may find it difficult to handle vulnerability in others and you might feel judgmental of their vulnerability.
- If you’ve identified with a very protective primary self, you might be drawn to vulnerability in others, feeling overly protective of them.
Owning Your Vulnerable Inner Child Makes You Less Vulnerable
The irony is that if you reclaim your vulnerability and consciously address it, you will become less vulnerable in your life. You will still be able to feel your vulnerability but you will no longer be a victim to it.
You will have a more conscious connection to your powerful side when your Vulnerable Child is with you, and so you will be able to access both, as you see fit. Even the act of caring for your vulnerability is an expression of power.
For without a connection to your vulnerability, you automatically identify with your power side and its defences and therefore have no choice in the matter.
For example, if you are in a position of power in your job, and you are aware of your Vulnerable Child and its concerns, then you will have better relationships with your colleagues and staff. You will be able to listen to others better and understand any concerns they might have – personal and work-related. Others will feel heard and understood, and the workplace will function better because concerns and problems are being addressed.
Or if you are in a personal relationship and you are aware of the feelings of your Inner Vulnerable Child, then you will be able to address those feelings. That might involve taking care of some aspect of yourself or of the relationship, talking to your partner about your feelings, realising there is an issue that needs dealing with, or even simply being able to experience intimacy safely.
Or if you are a public speaker, and you know about the feelings your inner child has about public speaking (mine is terrified!) and you take care of that child regarding that, then you won’t be subject to the child’s feelings breaking out as a panic attack or crippling anxiety before or during a speech.
Following are some suggestions for enhancing your awareness of your Vulnerable Inner Child and its needs.
How to Gain Awareness of Your Vulnerable Inner Child
- Start paying attention to your feelings – don’t just dismiss them. You don’t have to necessarily do anything about them, just acknowledge them. Your Vulnerable Child has plenty of feelings about the things you do in your life, so by acknowledging your feelings you are acknowledging your inner child.
- If you feel vulnerable at any time, comfort yourself. Don’t just try to be not-vulnerable if that’s what you would normally do, but give yourself some gentle loving care. If you can bring in a stronger part of yourself to do this, such as a nurturing self, do so. Pay attention to how it feels when you comfort yourself.
- Notice when you are hungry or thirsty, and eat and drink then. Don’t wait until the ‘right’ time to eat. Your child will appreciate this as it is concerned about these fundamentals of life.
- If during a normal day you feel like resting, it might be your Vulnerable Child who wants to rest. This might be because your child feels overwhelmed by the amount of activity you’re doing, or by the number of people you’re in contact with, or by something major going on in your life, or it just wants some time out. Pay attention to how you would like to rest: lying on the couch, or lying in bed snuggled up under your doona, or curled up on a big chair with a window nearby to look out of.
Relationships and the Vulnerable Inner Child
Vulnerability is an essential part of deeply fulfilling relationships. When a couple don’t know about their inner children, their relationship can lack the intimacy and sweetness the child brings. That can create a distant, almost lonely feeling in the relationship or an overly needy one.
For without consciousness of vulnerability, relationships are between two primary selves, with each self feeling righteous and defensive of itself. And each person hands over the care of his or her Inner Vulnerable Child to the other, but in an unconscious way, with unspoken rules.
This leads to the formation of strong relationship patterns, called bonding patterns, that eventually – if not dealt with – stifle relationships and lead to their breakdown. To learn about bonding patterns, read this post on how relationships work.
When you consciously connect with and take care of your Inner Vulnerable Child your relationship will benefit enormously.
See my ebook The Perfect Relationship for an explanation of how bonding patterns and vulnerability affect relationships, and for how to make your relationship work in the long term in 10 fundamental steps.