The Intelligence and Courage of Children

Q. As a child, I often played the role of being a “good” child which I now regret. Sometimes I would say or do things that I now see as manipulative and self-serving. Rather than being authentic, I was a coward who tried to make everything nice. Is there any way for me to resolve my feelings of disgust for what I did.

Subhan:  We are unaware how intelligent and courageous we were as children.

Because we have a very strong judge inside, we have come to accept its view that the child was “manipulative” or a “coward” in what he did. What is missing is the understanding that every adult owes that child a large measure of gratitude for the strategies he created that got him through difficult and painful times.

By being “good,” you were probably getting some kind of reward, or at least diminishing punishment. Isn’t this an intelligent thing for a small child to do? And choosing to try to make everything nice, that child was able to find some control over the chaos of the moment. Remember, children who were unable to do this had grave difficulty in surviving. Many of them either left the planet in some fashion or escaped below the mind and became what we call “mentally ill.” They were in fact too sensitive and unable to adapt to the challenges that they were confronted with. So it is important for each of us to inquire into our childhood to see and experience how remarkable it was in the way we used our intelligence then to deal with pain, fear, shock, shame and anxiety that felt like it could destroy us. As “surviving” adults, we are living proof of the effectiveness of our childhood decisions.

The judging part within us does not consider any of this. For most of us, this judge sees little value in what we did as a child and much to be improved upon. Not only is this myopic, it serves as a continuous distraction from the wisdom of the adult within us who is growing up! If we can find gratitude for the child’s actions, then perhaps we can minimize the judge’s role, and we will be able to see new possibilities.

One new understanding that can arise is that while these actions were brilliant for a 5-year old, they are no longer effective for a grown adult. It is like building a boat to get across a swollen river: once it gets you across, there is no need to carry it on your head on the other side. If we are identified with the child’s mind and implement the decisions it made long ago, we will be unaware of the adult part within us that is able to cope with present situations. Instead we will continue to see the world through the eyes of that child, even though the situation has drastically changed; and we will react the same way the child did. Then, we are simply adults experiencing the world as a 5 – year old and dealing with it the same way that the child did.

So give your child some credit for surviving the obstacles in his life. This will help keep the judge in tow. And now put some energy into bringing forth the grownup within who can make effective, intelligent decisions based upon this moment!

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