Can you fire your inner child?

Bruce Dickson
4 min readFeb 16, 2024
Lo-res collage by the author

Can you fire your inner child?

When working with your unconscious, can you fire your inner child?

After many years of connecting with your own inner child, it’s still possible to feel so frustrated with them, you want to “fire” your inner child.

In Internal Family Systems, this is understood as the process by which “exiles” are created. We literally exile our unwanted internal parts, the parts we have no method to unburden and re-integrate.

How does this exiling come about? Mostly thru an addiction to willpower. This addiction is hidden, unconscious. We only become curious about our willpower as we come to “willingness to learn.”

Willpower

Willpower has useful, constructive applications. Top athletes and combat military personnel train to exercise and build up willpower because they employ it for goal-setting; and, as a survival strategy; as in, “the best defense is a good offense.”

My favorite thing said about the dangers of over-using willpower as a strategy is, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail to be hit on the head.”

Exiling children from a family

In a physical, 3D family situation, if a young child’s behavior is too upsetting to the family, it is possible to put your own child up for adoption. After 18, I think it is possible to disown your own child. These drastic choices to exile children are most common in countries; where social work, therapy and counseling services are rare.

However these drastic choices do violence to the family unit; and to the child itself.

That’s exiling in the Outer Game of Life. What about in the Inner Game of Life? Can you fire your own inner child if you dislike or can’t handle its expressions? Can you fire your own unconscious if you dislike its behavior?

Yes, you can. Many people choose this path. Sadly, sooner or later its most common manifestation is a physical stroke.

Strokes

If the head-brain is Top Dog (has more-practiced willpower) in your psyche, and succeeds in “firing” the gut brain” (inner child, unconscious); then, the person’s left arm and left side slumps and loses its nerve connections.

In your psyche, if the gut-brain is Top Dog (has more-practiced willpower), and succeeds in “firing” the head- brain;” then, the person’s right arm and right side slumps and loses its nerve connections.

The bigger topic here is “the war within,” the source of most or all auto-immune conditions.

Willpower as a personal strategy

It’s well known combat military personnel who train themselves into using willpower as a survival strategy for offense and defense often are confused when it comes to parenting their own small children.

Why? Because children age 15 or younger represent and reflect our own sub- and unconscious parts.

So what? Willpower, in parenting known as the “stern father” pattern, is not the most effective way to parent children. Why? Because it’s close to — or is — coercion, “Do what I say or else there will be violence!”

Successful parents understand “firing” their child is the last thing they want to do. In addition, in relationships, willpower has the unfortunate tendency to encourage rebellion and/or resistance in children. Have you noticed this?

The most successful parents, therapists and counselors have learned to avoid using willpower-coercion — except where physical force is warranted and justified; such as, escape from a burning house or an active shooting-war combat zone.

Curiosity can replace willpower

What replaces willpower? The most healthy antidote is Curiosity.

Why Curiosity? It’s the gateway to learning what you are unaware of.

Q: Why do I need to learn more than I already know?

A: Because an internal part behaving in ways you dislike, tells you, you have a burdened internal part. A part who requires the attention of healthy Self Leadership — even if consciously, you believed “We’re done with that.”

John-Roger talked about this as the Law of Reversibility. When the conscious self ego says, “Well I handled that!” and dusts off its hands; later on, the negative power can return the same or a similar situation to you, to test you, to see if you have really learned healthy self-connection and effective self-management — or not.

What else is Curiosity a gateway to? Other positive qualities IFS encourages in self leadership: Calm, Curiosity, Courage, Compassion, Confidence, Creativity, and Clarity.

As well, IFS’s five “P’s”: Patience, Perspective, Persistence, Perseverance, Playfulness.

When the above positive qualities are practiced and become more habitual, it’s easier to choose away from willpower-coercion. Why? Because it’s more obvious any attempt to “fire” your inner child, or any internal part, is like trying to fire your little finger or your left foot. You may be able to do it — yet later, you will regret it.

Impatience, the child of willpower

The child of willpower is impatience. Impatience is a milder form of willpower. In willpower, we say the quiet part out loud, “Do it my way or else!” In impatience, we don’t say this part out loud. Yet the experience is the same, “I’m not getting my way! Things are not going according to my plan!”

As noted many place online, the antidote for impatience is gratitude. Count and notice all the people and situations which are going your way now.

Gratitude is too weak to counter willpower. Start with curiosity. The reason this works especially with young children and internal parts is conscious Self rarely knows how burdened our internal parts are with trauma and how often their needs went un-met.

They suffered. This is why it often works to tell them:

The worst is over.

I acknowledge you suffered.

I apologize for not being present as a healthy Self when you needed me.

I forgive myself for not being present when you needed me.

I am here now.

We can go forward together now as partners.”

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