The relationship between Art/Play and our Inner Child

As children, we are perhaps more easily connected to our imagination and exploration than we are as adults. Responsibilities and daily life can overshadow our innate expression of creativity, and we may lose touch with that side of us during challenges.

Adolescence is a time of discovery, but it can also be painful. As we grow, we begin developing expectations of the world. Sometimes, those expectations fail us. We have broken hearts, we have frustrations, we have dreams that just don’t materialize. At some point, many of us stop playing and start letting our experiences dictate who we are and what we want.

Being allowed to play makes children happy, but growing up changes this and not for the better. Children play, but adults work. Consider your typical day and how you spend your time. For most people, work has pushed aside anything as frivolous as playtime, and leisure hours are spent as the reward for getting your work done. As work expands to fill more and more time, however, what suffers isn’t just the lost hours but the spirit of playfulness, which is meant to be joyful. Clearly there is an imbalance when life is all work, but how to reintroduce play into life eludes most people. To bring playfulness back into your life, you need to go back to the source of your awareness. On the surface of the mind is a constant stream of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and images. This stream of consciousness is distracting and demanding. It never stops; it never ends in its demands. Yet at a deeper level what really matters isn’t mind-made. All the qualities that make life worthwhile spring from a deep source.

The reason children love to play is that they are naturally connected to the source. On the other hand, the reason adults ignore play is that they are disconnected from the source. We are so intent on building a successful life that we become disconnected from our source, and the easiest way to tell is the absence of joy, playfulness, and creativity in our daily existence.

One of the saddest things about growing up is that we stop playing. We feel like to be successful; we must be serious. Since the stakes feel higher, and our futures feel like they’re always in the balance, we take ourselves seriously. But more importantly, we take our mistakes very, very seriously. We begin to let the fear of failure define us in ways that weren’t imaginable as children. Many of us never take the time to reconnect with these parts of our inner child. Over the years our adult life can become stifled, and we repress childlike qualities to be spontaneous, passionate, and expressive. This can result in negative life patterns in our work, relationships, and other life choices. 

Psychotherapists have studied the concept of the inner child and how it affects our basic personalities, our ability to form relationships, and our ability to function in society. The importance of connecting with our inner child cannot be overstated. 

For adults who want to keep learning and growing, to thrive in a fast-changing world, it might be time to reconnect with our inner child and tap into these emotions through Art Therapy. If you are interested in exploring creativity, but are unsure where to begin, the simple act of coloring may be a good place to start. It’s no secret that coloring books have become a therapeutic tool for adults. Coloring books are portable and can be a supportive tool for nourishing your inner environment while at home or on the go.

For those that have lost touch with their inner child, Art therapy can be a great way to induce your imagination and engage your creativity. You can transform the complexities of adult life, while healing the child self. 

During Art Therapy you will learn to express yourself with a variety of different art forms and mediums. Whether it’s drawing, painting, creating collages or sculpting, you are sure to unlock the child at heart. Intuitively, you make choices with art materials to express emotions or events. During Art Therapy you are encouraged to stay in the moment and use colors that you are drawn to, in the way you want to, without considering what the final piece will look like. This process accesses the unconscious to reveal the deeper desires of the psyche.

If you struggle to think back to enjoyable childhood experiences, engaging in creative play with children can help rekindle these memories and put you back in touch with the enjoyment of simpler days. Any type of play can have benefits. Games like tag or hide-and-seek can help you get moving and feel free and unrestrained again. Make-believe play can help you think back to childhood fantasies and what they meant to you.

When you play, play for fun. If a game becomes serious and grimly competitive, see if you can lighten the perspective, and bring back a spirit of playfulness. Be playful whenever you have the choice, in other words, lighthearted, accepting, approving, and appreciative of what life brings you. Making time to play with your children doesn’t just increase your sense of playfulness and youthful expression. It also has a positive impact on their own well-being, in part by contributing to the development of their inner self. If you don’t have any children of your own, you might spend time with the children of your friends or relatives.

No matter how our inner child might have been injured, it is important to remember that it is never too late to heal. We can transform that child-like part of ourselves into a source of strength, joy, insight, and great creativity. Art therapy and play definitely have a positive impact on reconnecting with and healing our inner child. 

Author: Seema Krishnadas,  Counselling Psychologist

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