From Believing in an Inner Child to Reaching One's Goals

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“Suzanne Gelb Image”

Dear Readers:


Answers to the questions in today’s column can be supplemented with excerpts from my book “Welcome Home. A Book About Overcoming Addictions” (p. 85 for Answer 1; p. 86 for Answer 2). For more information visit my Web site at

”Inner Child – What Does it Mean?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

This idea of the inner child floats around a lot. I hear about it on Oprah and Dr. Phil and there are books about it. I can’t for the life of me picture an inner child, even though I love children and I am a mom. To me, I was once a child and now I am an adult. Can you shed some light on this?

Tender Years

A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Tender:

It is no secret that many adults experienced unfairness, emotional pain and frustration while growing up. And along with that, they developed fears, guilt and shame that persist into adulthood. This is often called one’s frame of reference and it helps us relate to others and to make decisions. The inner child concept that people talk about can be understood as the child that we once were — in many instances, scared, gullible, and frustrated.

”Visualizations – Do They Work?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

My friend has cancer and is using visualizations for healing. I am not sick, but my friend encourages me to use visualizations to reach my goals. I want to share my friend’s life with him as much as I can, but I don’t know much about visualizations. Should I take his advice?


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Friend:

Many people find it difficult to visualize or form some type of mental image in their mind. An effective alternative can be to use the imagination. It is not hard to imagine being somewhere and doing something. It is not hard to then imagine someone else being there as well. This type of mental behavior is closely related to visualization.

Visualization tends to be most effective when one is relaxed. Some disciplines, such as yoga, teach states of relaxation that can facilitate visualization. So, instead of using the word visualize, I like the idea of relaxing and then imagining that those things one wants to happen are actually occurring.

Continued practice and repetition of this type of imagining can produce positive results in a variety of areas. I found visualization to be useful when I was studying for the bar exam. I visualized myself reading the question, and that as I was doing this my mind recognized the answer immediately, and then I visualized myself writing down the answer. I passed the exam on the first try.

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

”’Email your questions to More information on Dr. Gelb’s services and related resources available at”’