Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Bernard L. De Koven
Bernard L. De Koven

Your Inner Adult

Your Inner Child is not alone

Bernard De Koven
Source: Bernard De Koven

Somewhere in the depths of your being, your inner-child is still at play, brilliantly, miraculously at play. Probably not just playing, knowing how inner-kids can get. Probably throwing tantrums from time to time. Getting scared, maybe, even sometimes hurt.

Somewhere else in those same depths, there's an inner-adult, too. It's just as old as your inner-child. Just as powerful, as intelligent, creative. But it lives somewhere else. Or believes it does.

I can't tell you exactly how either of them behave because I'm guessing that your inners are as unique to you as mine are to me. That's why we think of them as "inner." Hidden from the outer, so to speak. So, I'll tell you about mine, as best I can, as much as they'll let me tell you about them.

When I was a child, I built my inner-adult out of all those childish promises I made to myself about who I'd be and what I'd do when I grew up (as if growing up is something I'd actually do or know when I did). And as I grew towards upness, I made new promises, remaining as faithful as possible to most of the promises I first made to myself. Other promises I changed, as I did. Others I put off. Others I decided to forget. And my inner-adult brought me comfort when I wanted it, listened when I needed it to, talked to me, sang to me.

In the mean time, my inner-adult was busy finding new ways to play, new things to play with, new reasons, new ideas, new skills, new opportunities, new people - some of them people of the adult kind. And because my inner-child was also at play, my inner-adult could play the way it wanted to, knowing my inner-child would be there, playing the way it could, inviting me to play with it whenever I needed to be reminded about the unchanging joy, the persistence of beauty, the infinite capacity for delight.

All of which reminds me of something I published a decade or so ago when I was working on a CD I called Recess for the Soul.

Here's me reading it (from the CD)

and here's the text:

Of all the players on my inner playground, Serious and Silly are the best known. They’ve played together for years. They understand each other intimately. They can play the most complicated games you can imagine. And, from time to time, they can really play beautifully together. There’s one particular game that they can never play particularly well. Yet they play it almost all the time, and seem to really enjoy it. It’s a variation of hide-and-seek and peek-a-boo and achieving enlightenment.

Typically, Silly suggests the game. Serious always wants to be Seeker. This, actually, is a good arrangement. Serious is an expert at keeping rules and being fair and defining what’s off limits. Silly, on the other hand, is remarkably good at being the Hider.

Next they decide on Home Base. The inner playground is full of potential home bases and hiding places, from Toe to Tongue, Throat to Lung. Silly usually picks the Nose.

Silly will play Hider, and Serious, as we already predicted, will play Seeker. Serious focuses all attention on being the breather, the nostril, the sensor of the air. And then begins to count (backwards, by primes, from 97). Silly is supposed to be hiding by the time Serious reaches zero. Despite years of practice, Serious just can’t ignore Silly for the whole count. So, as usual, Serious has to start over again several times before Silly is really ready to hide.

Finally, Serious completes the count. At last, the moment of truth. Serious, in a blink of the inner eye, reaches the unavoidable conclusion that Silly is definitely hiding. At this point, the game almost always breaks down. It’s just too much for both of them. For Silly, hiding is fun, but only for a little while. And for Serious, just the thought of being all alone, leaving Home, without Silly…it’s almost too frightening. Even Serious doesn’t want to have to be that serious.

Fortunately, both Serious and Silly have had a lifetime to play. All it takes to get Silly out of hiding is someone to say “Allee Allee Oxen Free.” I don’t know why they keep on playing Hide and Seek. Tag is a much better game for both of them. They’d never have to be apart. And, together, they could even find other players to play with.

I tried to ask them once, when I thought they were between games. And they started running after me, yelling “You’re IT.”

About the Author
Bernard L. De Koven

Bernard De Koven is the author of The Well-Played Game. He writes on theories of fun and playfulness and how they affect personal, interpersonal, community and institutional health.

More from Bernard L. De Koven
More from Psychology Today
More from Bernard L. De Koven
More from Psychology Today