Which Inner Child To Embrace?

By Nick Polizzi

One of my shaman teachers from the Amazon, Roman Hanis, has a saying that goes like this,“The goal is to become more child-like, and less child-ish.”  As often happens with spiritual mentors, they say something that makes total sense in the moment, but the full lesson doesn’t reveal itself to you until days or weeks later.

When I first heard the Child-like VS. Child-ish teaching, I immediately started to see the things I liked about myself as being more child-like and my bad behavior that often got me into trouble as being child-ish.  Fair enough, but which of these two tendencies came along first?

The following day I approached Roman with this question and he responded, “When we are born, we are all child-like. Somehow, as we grow older we tend to take on certain child-ish behaviors.”

Just enough information to set my mind reeling yet again. I decided to sketch out the two terms and list the attributes that I associated with each.

A short look at that hastily assembled 2 column sketch and it occurred to me that the first few years of my life were definitely child-like. Upon further reflection, I became keenly aware of when I encountered my  first child-ish category emotion.  This happened when I was 4 years old and it was time to leave the safety of my home and venture across town to nursery school.

Everything had been so gentle and forgiving until that age but nursery school and onward was a rude awakening for me (and probably for most).  Looking back on it, early schooling was a “conditional” love situation. There were strange rules we were given and those of us who could follow them correctly were treated more kindly than those who couldn’t.  This made me feel the following feelings from the child-ish column above: a) stressed b) jealous and c) suspicious.

After that initial dose of “you’re not special” at age 4, I began expressing many of the other child-ish terms above. This all culminated in me being crushed years later by the final item I jotted in that column – “shame”.

A dark mental drill I know, but sometimes exploring our murky depths (while in the right state of mind) can bring much benefit. I now realize that every wellness practice I engage in, whether it’s fasting, yoga, meditation, sacred ceremony, or long barefooty treks through the forest, stimulates and awakens the inherent child-like aspects of who I am.

Furthermore, I now realize that child-like is who we really are at our essence, and child-ish is the illusion that we sometimes trap ourselves in.

A parting question for you: What do YOU do to engage your child-like qualities? Do you do these things often enough?

Until next time,

Nick Polizzi

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115 Responses

  1. I would simply add that most of our child-like or childish characteristics are “unconsciously” shaping our experience as an adult and if not identified they will continue to usurp choice in our adult self.

    Also our “defendedness” is anchored in the body and frwuently outside the simple conscious process

  2. This is a great reminder on how we should live our life. I wonder how many spiritual teachers have taught this principle? I know that it is written that Jesus made mention of this also–that we must change and become like children or we will not enter the “Kingdom of heaven”, or from a spiritual perspective, we will not enter or attain the understanding of the spiritual realm.

  3. Interesting….your points of child like & child ish.
    I totally agree with you and often I remind people of this behavior . I am now a pensioner and nothing more I love is to paddle along the shoreline barefoot…also walk upon whatever green area I find…also meditate under a tree, also hugging trees for healing. I really enjoy gentle tai chi exercise that joins me with the universe.
    For the universe I am thankful for what I receive….and when we are not surround with so much cloud to gaze at the stars where I really want to return to.

    I am a better adult having grown through the challenges of what life has thrown at me….It has shaped me to who I now am.

  4. another point about being child like is having a vivid imagination. a friend once told me our reality we live in is made up of our thoughts, so we should be real careful about what we think about, or focus our attention on. i’ve been focusing my attention alot lately on permaculture, and alternative building techniques. i just got back from a six month sabbatical in mexico. the funny thing is people i was meeting were into the same things as me. one friend studied, and was actively practicing peraculture. ii also crossed paths with engaging in alternative building techniques. coincidence? i think not; life if a dream and our reality stems from our imagination. row row row your boat.

  5. Wow – this is so good – gave me chills! Speaks to stuff I have been thinking about these past few days (gotta love that synchronicity). Thanks so much for your perspective – very helpful!

  6. As I have grown older, my “childish” within is stronger than my child-like. Also more obvious, I can identify
    her more quickly. But, overcoming is still a struggle.
    I would add, lonely, and hurt. These are more inner feelings to childish, but still a part of the picture.
    I speak to her this child behaving childishly,
    and taking a lead from “The Tapping Solution” I ask her not to be so
    harsh, I ask can we work together?
    The childish part of us is the wounded child. That could be from something big
    that happened or just a minor incident in which the reaction is greater.

    I can’t remember a specific incident causing my inner child to be childish.
    I know I felt I didn’t fit in as a child and that difference created what is on your list.
    The hardest thing is getting over, or through, what happens to us at such a young age.
    Emotional scarring is a major hurdle. There was one person, who was my god-mother who made me
    feel worthwhile, in a small way perhaps, but the impact… wow!

    Loving oneself is the way to healing… but learning that is difficult.
    the other thing I try to do is determine if my reactions are more cultural than innate. That helps me
    to put things in perspective and move forward in loving and healing.
    Great article, thank you.

    1. Dear Barbara;
      Your post really touched my heart. You see, you and I are walking the same journey; the one in which we must find a way to heal that broken child and overcome the “child-ish” list that Nick shared with us.

      Though we are not alone in our journey-by any means-it does not lessen the pain and struggle along the way. I will keep you in my prayers, and check this page from time to time-hopefully to read that you are making progress with your healing.

      Even someone who has also had a difficult childhood cannot truly understand our individual pain because no two of us are alike, and no two of us grew up in exactly the same circumstances.

      What Nick has done for us is to bring front and center the mirror image of our inner conflict and pain. That can be a difficult thing to look at-for once we recognize a thing, we are responsible to respond to it. How we respond is very telling; sometimes to others…sometimes to ourselves.

      Accepting the truth about ourselves is perhaps one of the most difficult things we can ever do. For most of us-forgiving others is easy, fulfilling and pleasant. But how many of us have truly forgiven ourselves? (For being human, for failing, for feeling the negative feelings that Nick has listed for us, and especially-for not measuring up to the standards that we feel that others set for us.)

      Your heart is tender, and open. You will find your healing-because you are a true seeker.

      May God Richly Bless You, Barbara.

  7. Awesome, Nick. Definitely a thought worth sharing. Thanks too, to the other posters. Sharing the good with others helps all of us. Chunyi Lin founder of Green Forest Qigong has a mantra that I find helpful: “To have a healer in every family and a world without pain”. Thanks also for the movie Sacred Science – it has become a regular part of my Healing Strategies class at our local community college. Peace & Blessings, Jack

    1. Thank you for the kind words Jack. I agree that having a healer in every family could transform the world.

      I’m honored that you’ve chosen to include The Sacred Science film as part of your curriculum!

      Many blessings,


  8. Loved your two columns, Nick,
    Will post them on my bathroom mirror to remind me how we must practice our child-like qualities more.
    Thanks and many blessings

  9. Thank you for sharing this with us. I am 55 years old and I love to color in coloring books, playing in the sand and playing with my 5 year old great-niece’s dolls.

  10. I like your lists. . . and I often remind myself, if I find my behavior is in the Child-ish column, that the way back to Child-like, is through love and acceptance of myself, compassion and understanding. NOT through blame or condemnation,

  11. Nick – thank you so much for sharing this beautiful pearl of wisdom! So profound!
    If we now can embrace the little child in us and others that gets scared/stressed and behaves “childish” and help to bring back the child-like state … – wow!
    With much love and gratitude!

  12. Nick….Do you communicate at all with Lissa Rankin, MD? ESPECIALLY today….your message has so much to do with her message on Facebook! If you don’t know her, and I can’t imagine that since you are “on the same page” spiritually, do check out her website and especially today’s FB message!

  13. Dear Nick;
    What a beautiful, thought-provoking and poignant post! It speaks directly to the soul, and there isn’t a lot these days that gets past the mind. Thank you for adding yet another empowerment tool to our “toolbox of life-fixes.” God Bless You-as you have blessed so many of us.

  14. I guess child-like activities for me include things like watering my garden, singing and playing the piano, playing with my cats, watching a movie I love for the umpteenth time, a good yoga class,
    – anything that makes me lose track of time and leaves me feeling content and relaxed.

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