- Excerpts taken from Susan Anderson, The Journey from Abandonment to Healing
Most of us whether we are in the counseling profession or not, have heard the term, inner child. This is the little girl/boy in side us who was hurt a long time ago. We have held onto feelings of frustration, resentment and rage. Our inner child has needs that have not been met.
Susan Anderson took it a step further by introducing the concept of our outer child. The role of the outer child is to act out the inner child’s anger. Do you see where this can get messy? The good news is, once you have awareness of your outer child, you can gain access to your primitive, unconscious defenses that interfere with your relationships and your life plans. Now you’re interested right?
We’ve all been there. Cruising along and everything seems fine when out of nowhere, we find ourselves doing something extremely childish, against our better judgment, and ultimately sabotaging our lives in one way or another, be it in our relationships, our careers, or life in general. Sound familiar? I’d like to introduce you to your outer child. This has been the hidden saboteur in your life. It rationalizes its maneuvering by claiming it wants to protect you. It poses as your ally but acts out rather than asserting your true needs.
Left unrecognized, your outer child can subvert your best intentions. Recognizing behaviors that stem from your outer child is the first step towards positive change. Congratulations, you are on your way!
It’s important to see the difference. Your inner child is representative of valid emotions. Your outer child is acting out undesirable behaviors, especially entrenched patterns that stymie your growth. Once you can separate behavior from feelings, you’ll gain enough psychological distance from which to observe the interaction between the two.
Here comes the tough part. Read through the list and allow your awareness to build. This list is not all-inclusive, but there are plenty that will stand out to you. Trust me, these are less than flattering behaviors which can make it hard to own them. Read the list more than once until you begin to recognize your outer child. The better you come to know your outer child, the more likely you’ll be able to choose more constructive responses to stress.
Outer Child Inventory
1. Outer child is the selfish, controlling, self-centered part of all of us.
2. Outer child encompasses all of the outwards signs of inner child’s vulnerability – all the scars, the warts, the defenses that show on the outside.
3. Outer child is developmentally around seven or eight. Self-centeredness is appropriate for the outer child.
4. Outer child wears many disguises, especially in public. Since other people’s outer children are usually well hidden, you may think you are the only one with an outer child.
5. Outer child is the hidden Chuckie of the personality. Even the nicest people we know can act like a seven-year old with a full blown behavior disorder when they feel threatened enough.
6. Outer child is developmentally old enough to have its own little executive ego (much to our chagrin). It’ sold enough to forcefully exercise its will but not old enough to understand the rights and feelings of others. (Inner child isn’t old enough to have it’s own ego so it has to appropriate ours).
7. Outer child steps right in and takes over, even if we had every intention of handling a particular situation in a mature, adult manner. Outer child handles things its own way, leaving us holding the bag.
8. Outer child can dominate your personality if you’ve had a history of repeated abandonments. Many abandonment survivors of childhood are mostly outer child.
9. Outer child throws temper tantrums and goes off on tirades if it feels criticized, rejected, or abandoned. If your outer child seems emotionally disturbed, it’s because of what you’ve been through. Don’t blame your outer child – it doesn’t react well to blame.
10. Outer child takes revenge against the self. It sees itself apart from you and your inner child and will create a schism when an opening presents itself.
11. Outer child likes to blame it’s faults on your mate. It tries to get you to imagine that your unacceptable traits belong to your mate.
12. Outer child doesn’t like to do things that are good for you.
13. Outer child would rather do something that will make you fat or broke than thin or fiscally responsible.
14. Outer child is a hedonist.
15. Outer child talks about your friends behind their back.
16. Outer child thrives on chaos, crisis, and drama.
17. Outer child enjoys playing the victim.
18. Outer child distracts you when you’re trying to concentrate.
19. Outer child loves to play martyr.
20. Outer child is a world-class procrastinator.
21. Outer child makes huge messes that take forever to clean up.
22. Outer child makes you late for appointments.
23. Outer child loses things and blames it on others.
24. Outer child can find excuses for anything.
25. Outer child tries to look cool and make you look foolish.
26. Outer child is the “yes but” of the personality.
27. Outer child is reactive rather than active or reflective.
28. Outer child explodes when it encounters difficulties with its own abilities.
29. Outer child can never be wrong.
30. Outer child hates asking for help.
31. Outer child acts like a tyrant but is secretly a coward, afraid to assert its needs.
32. Outer child acts gracious when a friend steps on one of your toes and then holds onto the anger for the next twenty years.
33. Outer child specializes in blame; if it has uncomfortable feeling, somebody must be at fault.
34. Outer child uses crying as manipulation.
35. Outer child criticizes others to keep the heat off of itself.
36. Outer child has a phony laugh to cover up stray feelings.
37. Outer child acts on its own, rather than consulting with us, the adult.
38. Outer child needs total control to avoid having to feel inner child’s feelings, especially hurt, loneliness, disappointment, or loss.
39. Outer child can’t stand waiting, especially for a significant other to return your call.
40. Outer child doesn’t form relationships – it takes emotional hostages.
41. Outer child doesn’t like to show its vulnerability; it keeps its injuries hidden.
42. Outer child will demand, defy, deceive, ignore, balk, manipulate, seduce, pout, whine, and retaliate to get is needs for acceptance and approval met. It doesn’t see this as a contradiction.
43. Outer child ahs a favorite feeling: anger. In fact, outer child’s only feeling is anger.
44. Outer child has a hole in its pocket when it comes to either anger or money. Both must be spent right away and damn the consequences.
45. Outer child wants what it wants immediately. Yesterday.
46. Outer child wants to get right in the middle of things when you try to start a new relationship. It becomes more reactive, more demanding, and more needy than ever before.
47. Outer child may be found in our mates. Sometimes we marry a person who can act our own outer child wishes. Hopefully, our mate’s outer child doesn’t act out against us.
48. Outer child may be found in our children’s behavior. When we get into power struggles with one of our real children, we find ourselves battling our own outer child. Sometimes we secretly encourage our real children to fulfill our outer child’s needs. They act out the anger we don’t want to own.
49. Outer child goes off on a rampage if it detects even the subtlest signs of abandonment. This leaves your inner child in jeopardy, unprotected.
50. Outer child strives for its own self-interest while pretending to protect your inner child. But your outer child wants one thing only: control.
51. Outer child is a people pleaser with ulterior motives. It will give others the shirt off your back. And what have you got to show for it? Nothing. You’re left cold and naked.
52. Outer child is not old enough to care about others. Only you, the adult, can do that.
53. Outer child tests the people it looks to for security – to the limits.
54. Outer child tests new significant others with emotional games. Its favorite is playing hard to get.
55. Outer child can be very cunning, putting its best foot forward when pursuing a new partner. It can act the picture of altruism, decency, kindness and tolerance.
56. Outer child can also be seductive, funny, charming, and full of life. When it succeeds in catching its prey, it suddenly becomes cold, critical, unloving, and sexually withholding. Outer child makes us pity the person willing to love us.
57. Outer child is the addict, the alcoholic, the one who runs up your credit cards and breaks your diet.
58. Outer child enjoys breaking rules. Your best friends may have very dominant outer children living within. Their rebelliousness might be what you enjoy most about them.
59. Outer child actively ignores you, the adult, especially when you try to tell it what to do. Outer child just goes right on doing what it wants to do.
60. Outer child strives for independence. Maybe someday your outer child will become independent to leave home, but don’t count on it.
61. Outer child gains strength during dormant periods. Then, when you really feel vulnerable, your outer child acts out, jeopardizing the new relationship.
62. Outer child tries to defeat the task of intimacy, which is to get your inner child to become friends with your mate’s inner child. Intimacy is when you nurture each other’s inner child and don’t take each other’s outer child too personally.
63. Outer child loves to hook up with your mate’s outer child. They instantly get into power struggles. It is futile to try to control each other’s outer children. Your best bet is to find something for your outer children to do other than interfere in the relationship. If you can’t ignore them, send them out to play.
64. Outer child has enough vanity and pride to try to conquer an emotionally dangerous love, one who is potentially rejecting, distancing, and abandoning.
65. Outer child thinks emotionally unavailable people are sexy.
66. Outer child is attracted to form rather than substance.
67. Outer child wants what it wants – emotional candy. This goes against what is good for your inner child who needs someone capable of giving, love, nurturance, and commitment.
68. Outer child seeks all the wrong people. It can’t resist a lover who won’t commit.
69. Outer child refuses to learn from mistakes. It insists upon doing the same thing over and over.
70. Outer child developed during the rage phase of old abandonments when there was no one available to mitigate your pain.
71. Outer child becomes most powerful when You and your inner child are out of alignment.
72. Outer child believes laws and ethics are for everyone else.
73. Outer child obeys rules only to avoid getting caught.
74. Outer child can dish it out but can’t take it.
75. Outer child can be holier than thou.
76. Outer child loves chocolate and convinces you that its good for your heart.
77. Outer child beats up on other people’s inner children – especially the inner child of a significant other.
78. Outer child bullies its own inner child.
79. Outer child tries to get self-esteem by proxy by chasing after someone who has higher social status.
80. Outer child can deliver a subtle but powerful blow if it perceives a social slight, no matter how small.
81. Outer child covers up in public. Some people are better able to hide their outer child than to hers. Of course, some outer children are easier to hid than others.
82. Outer child can’t hide from your closest family members: they know. That is what intimacy is all about – the exposure of your outer children.
83. Outer child can express anger by becoming passive. A favorite disguise is compliance. Outer child uses compliance to confuse others into thinking that it doesn’t want control. But don’t be fooled; outer child is a control freak.
84. Outer child finds someone to take for granted and treats them badly without having to fear rejection.
85. Outer child expects new significant others to compensate it for all of the hurts and betrayals inflicted by old relationships dating all the way back to childhood.
86. Outer child protests against anything that reminds it of being on the rock.
87. Outer child refuses to stay on the rock. Unlike the inner child, outer child climbs down, picks up the hatchet, and goes on the warpath.
88. Outer child has a chip on its shoulder, which it disguises as assertiveness.
89. Outer child is like the annoying older brother who constantly interferes in the guise of protecting you.
90. Outer child doesn’t obey the golden rule.
91. Outer child obeys its own outer child rule: Get others to treat you as you want to be treated, and treat others as you feel like treating them.
92. Outer child needs to be disciplined, but don’t expect limit-setting to go smoothly.
93. Outer child provokes anger in subtle ways, then accuses others ob being abusive. Outer child loves to play the indignant injured party.
94. Outer child submits so it can seethe at being dominated.
95. Outer child knows how to wear the white hat.
96. Outer child is master at making the other person look like the bad guy.
97. Outer child behavior ranges from mild self-sabotage all the way to criminal destructiveness.
98. Outer child can gain control so early, the individual doesn’t develop any true empathy or compassion for himself or others. The extreme outer child is a sociopath.
99. Outer child needs to be understood, owned, and over ruled by an airtight coalition between the inner child and the adult.
100. Outer child holds to key to change. Inner child beholds our emotional truth, but can’t change. When yo9u catch your outer child red-handed, wrest the key from it’s hands and unlock your future.
If you’ve made it this far. Don’t give up. Recognize your outer child and begin the greatest journey of your life. I’m behind you all the way!