Updated: Oct 19, 2022
I was watching a video by Mark Rober on YouTube the other day. In case you don’t know, Mark is an engineer who used to work for NASA, but firstly in his spare time and now as a career, he creates amazing engineering and science projects and makes awesome videos about them. Anything from squirrel mazes to glitter bombs to rocket-propelled golf clubs, he’s made it. So if you want to know how to liquefy sand or are just trying to avoid work (and who isn’t) I entirely recommend you look him up. (Although not until you've finished reading this blog, obviously).
But that’s not really why I wanted to write about him, even though he is awesome. The thing that stands out about him is his connection with his inner child. Not only has this led him to make such things as the world's largest water pistol (it's 7 feet long) but it’s also the basis of his engineering ability.
Engineering is a very useful skill, whatever your opinion on the Mars rover (which Mark helped design and build – how cool is that?) It’s all about seeing a problem and figuring out how to solve it. While this involves some serious things like chemistry and sums, it also requires a creative mind and a willingness to fail. If you watch some of Mark’s videos you’ll see that it’s taken him a LOT of tries to get some of his projects to work. As young children we aren’t bothered about failing, and our minds are automatically creative. That’s why we can make guns out of sticks and a dragon’s lair out of a lilac bush. But somewhere along the line between childhood and adulthood, creativity and its essential brother, failure, are bred or beaten out of us. We learn that failure is bad, that it provokes criticism and mockery. Experimentation is bad too, because it can lead to failure. Much better to only do things the way they’ve always been done.
Obviously this is nonsense, otherwise we’d all still be living in caves. While that’s good for the environment the wi-fi connection is terrible, so we don’t do it. It’s probably ok because that was a change that we made a long time ago, although you can imagine the pursed lips and shaking heads that the suggestion originally provoked. We still have that inherent mistrust, even fear, of new things; just look at the Covid vaccine. It’s new, so it’s bad. It might be bad of course, but equally it could turn out to be the best thing that’s ever happened to medical science. We don’t know.
So without new things, and trying and failing to make new things, we wouldn’t have any of the stuff we now consider necessities. Electricity, smartphones, heart bypass machines, motor cars and digital watches all had to be conceived and invented – and you can bet that involved a lot of failures. People even died, all to create things that nobody knew we needed or even were possible. When Steve Jobs first had the idea for a little box that we’d carry around with us and that could do everything, there probably was no shortage of people to tell him he was an idiot. We all know how that turned out.
But our inner child isn’t just there so we can invent stuff and not care if it blows up the first time. The inner child is the person who has fun. We spend far too much time as adults being Responsible and Sensible, doing things we don’t like and don’t want to do because that’s what Responsible and Sensible Adults do. But the thing is, being Responsible and Sensible is also Boring as Hell. While your inner child can have a laugh at anything, anywhere. A healthy inner child doesn’t have depression or anxiety or low self-esteem. They don’t worry about the report that’s due on Monday or what your boss will say in your appraisal. They live in the moment, because that’s where the fun is. Now is the only reality, after all. Yesterday is memory, tomorrow speculation.
Of course some people’s inner children aren’t healthy, because during the transition from childhood to adulthood they got mistreated somehow. Perhaps they were neglected or abused, or inadvertently taught unhelpful things that have left them with a warped sense of how things should be. Or perhaps they're too much in control and prompt unwise risk-taking or unpleasant behaviours like spite and cruelty. But if you aren’t in touch with that inner child you won’t know why you now have a vague – or possibly not so vague – sense that things aren’t quite right. Just as you would have to connect with your actual child to find out that they were sad or frightened or feeling ill, you have to connect with your own inner child to know whether they’re healthy or not. And if it turns out they’re not, you can do something about it.
There are schools of therapy who say that digging into the past is pointless, because life is all about the present and the future. I’m not knocking those schools and if you want to work with or in one of them, you carry right on. But we’re shaped by our experiences and to ignore those experiences simply because they happened in the past (where else are they going to happen after all?) is in my opinion unhelpful.
So the work I do is with your inner child. If they’re happy and healthy and loving life, you won’t need me. You can go off and invent a new kind of glitter bomb, make videos about it, get 14 million YouTube followers and make a fortune from advertising sponsorship. If on the other had your inner child is nervous, sad, neglected or traumatized, then book in with me and let’s get them sorted out.
EDIT: When I wrote this blog in June 21, Mark Rober had 14 million YouTube followers. Today,16 months later, he has nearly 23 million. Don't let anyone tell you that messing about and having fun won't get you anywhere.
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Caeredwen is a counsellor, coach and physical therapist based in Coleford in the Forest of Dean. If you would like to contact her in confidence you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via her website at www.magichandscalmminds.com.
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