People vary wildly on how they feel about kids: they can make us feel awkward, and uneasy, or joyous, and energized. No matter which end of the spectrum you fall on, these tiny people have a unique attribute that I think merits some adult attention.
With such fresh perspectives on the world, themselves and others, paired with minimal life experience, comes a unique gift. This gift is the simplicity and clarity between the person, and the person’s needs. For example, when a child is hungry, they need to eat; when a child is left out, they need to feel valued and included; when a child is hurt, they need comfort.
These needs are basic- human, really- but the relationship a child has with their needs is beautifully pure and powerfully wise. Children intuitively connect with their emotions and needs, and tend to express these needs pretty transparently and shamelessly too.
As we grow up, however, we create a lot of what I like to call “mental noise” between our emotions and our needs. For example:
Feeling hungry = I need to eat
Feeling hungry = “but I ate a huge dinner last night, I should probably skip this meal”; or “but I am too busy with work/errands/others, I’ll eat later”
Being left out = I need to feel valued and included
Being left out = “who needs them anyways? They should be so lucky to be my friend”; or “ I must be such an awful worthless person”
Feeling hurt = I need comfort
Feeling hurt = “I’m fine” or “its all their fault”
Do you see what I mean by “mental noise”? It’s the cognitive commentary that gets in the way of accessing our natural (biological and social) needs.
After the mental noise, we may eventually get our need met (e.g. eating when hungry), but sometimes the needs gets completely buried under the stories we tell ourselves about the needs, preventing us from even understanding what the need truly is (e.g. being valued or comforted).
The complicated relationship we develop with our needs comes from life experience that has taught us certain lessons- sometimes painful ones that direct us to protect ourselves at any cost. While these messages may have kept you safe in unfavorable conditions, they can also keep you stuck in an awfully heavy emotional place.
If any of the adult mental noise examples resonated with you, thinking about the wisdom of children can be so helpful. Lets go back to the basics. What are your emotions? What are your needs? How would a child express their need in the same circumstance? Try to turn down the volume on the mental noise long enough to notice what the pure and natural human need you are experiencing. Try not to get too caught up in how to get those needs met just yet. Discovering your “inner child’s” ability to connect with your emotions and needs is a foundational and crucial first step. The rest can fall into place fairly effortlessly after that.
The less noise there is between oneself and one’s needs, the easier it becomes to get those needs met, and in so doing, feel connected with yourself and those around you.