We all have childlike ways of approaching things in life and some of those ways are lovely. Playfulness, honesty, wonder: these are all states to admire. We also still have our child selves inside who may be making appearances in our current lives without our conscious awareness. It’s OK, this is just part of being human. To learn more about the importance of the inner child, click here.
One of the themes in the first section (yup, still in the first section because it is full of goodness!) of David Richo’s book is the difference between how an adult can deal with the givens of existence versus the ways in which a child might respond to these laws. See my previous post for an introduction to the conditions of human life as outlined by David Richo.
Look for where you see yourself dealing with the conditions of life as adult and as a child. I do admit, in the short run, sometimes the child’s way of doing things seems a little more appealing or tempting. But, in the long run, the adult’s way causes less trouble and leads to a more satisfying life.
1. Being alone. An adult can be resourceful and seek support if necessary. An adult can also tolerate the experience of loneliness, being curious, knowing the discomfort will pass and use it as a way to learn about himself. A child might look for someone or something else to take care of that discomfort, might run from it, believe it is not something he can handle or might make that aloneness mean something about himself (i.e. no one loves me, I am unwanted, something is wrong with me). It is natural for a child to put himself at the center of a story to make sense of things that happen in his world. This way the child can have some power and control over what is happening. Look, there are limited ways in which a child can control things! Of course, a child would respond in these ways because a child does not have the resources and maturity that an adult does.
2. Life is unpredictable. An adult can understand that there are things outside their control and that fighting against these things is a waste of good energy. A child is largely dependent (depending on age), so they rely on adults to handle this reality and are not exactly intimate with this truth.
3. Life is not fair. Every time you hear “it’s not fair!”, don’t you think of a child saying that? I do. It’s true, things aren’t always fair. However, as adults, we can process feelings about what isn’t fair and have the power to do something about it if that is necessary and/or worthwhile. A child will look for an authority figure or revenge to bring justice.
4. Suffering. To a child, suffering does not make a whole lot of sense. As adults, we are capable of reflection, having and tolerating feelings and seeing how the pain we experience is instrumental to our growth. We can make meaning out of it. Children are only really beginning to be capable of abstract thought at the age of eleven or so. Plus, for a long period of time, they are learning from adults how to self soothe and regulate their emotional experiences. Sometimes people don’t get good enough modeling for how to manage feelings and that has to be learned as adults. If not, this will cause a lot of trouble in the realms of relationship, finance, health, work, school, friendship or all of these. I will talk more in depth about this in future posts.
So what do you think? Can you see some areas where you might be approaching things as a child? As an adult? I can definitely see areas where I respond to things as a child. All we need to do is catch ourselves. The way a child responds to these conditions makes sense if you look at it from the limitations of a child’s life and capabilities. So, a child’s way of responding is not something to criticize. It is just something to realize we are doing, remind ourselves that we are adults and have the skills to handle it and then update our approach...for our own sake! Maybe other people in our lives will be relieved when we update this too. But, you know, that’s just the icing on the cake, right?
*To learn more about this blog and the author, please visit the About section of this website.
*This post based on the section "Fear and the Conditions of Existence" (pp. 11-15).