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What Is Outer Child? 12 Tips for Overcoming Self-Sabotage

04/23/2015 11:10 am ET | Updated Jun 23, 2015

Most people know they have an Inner Child -- a tender emotional core -- but many don't realize they have an Outer Child -- a hidden nemesis sabotages their life. Whereas your Inner Child is all about feelings, Outer Child is all about self-defeating behaviors. Outer Child is the part that breaks your diet, runs up your credits cards, procrastinates, and gets attracted to all the wrong people. The more you learn about your Outer Child, the more you can prevent it from blocking your goals.

Here is how the framework works:

You have an Inner Child that represents your emotions and primal needs.

You have an Outer Child that represents your self-defeating behaviors.

You have an Adult self that needs to get stronger so it can nurture your Inner Child and tame your Outer Child so you can reach your potential for greater life and love.

12 Outer Child Pointers:

1) Outer Child acts out your Inner Child's feelings in self defeating ways -- without giving you, the adult, a chance to choose a more reasonable course of action.

2) Outer is the "yes but" of the personality. If you let it, Outer will tie your life up in knots.

3) Outer Child's patterns are deeply entrenched. Outer acts out your Inner Child's feelings inappropriately. When you feel hurt, angry, or insecure, Outer acts like your obnoxious older sibling who is "only trying to help" but who bungles everything by lashing out or acting too demanding or clingy. Let's say that you, the Adult, want to become more assertive at work, but Outer swoops in to overprotect you by getting you to stay quiet at the meeting. In spite of wanting to shine, you remain invisible.

4) Outer grabs for quick fixes because it doesn't have the patience to delay gratification. When Outer succumbs to immediate gratification, it sabotages your long range goals. Let's say you decide to pay down your credit cards, but Outer gets you to buy a shiny new boat on impulse. You decide to go on a fitness program, but Outer talks you into paying for the annual membership at the gym and then stalls you when you're trying to go there.

5) Outer Child is a master procrastinator, rationalizer, avoider. Outer's favorite time to do things is Tomorrow. Outer's motto is: Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.

6) Outer is the impulsive, obstinate, self-centered ten-year old within all of us. Outer wants what Outer wants NOW, and overrules you, the adult, in getting it. Outer prefers to veg out in front of the TV instead of letting you finish your paper work. Outer says yes to a third glass of wine when you had decided two drinks is your limit.

7) Outer fights positive change -- especially positive change initiated by you, the Adult. Outer enjoys doing the same pointless things over and over. Outer balks at doing the "right thing" and only wants things that are bad for your health, figure, bank account, or love life.

8) Outer Child is extremely reactive to unresolved abandonment. For example, if you feel insecure, Outer aims its emotional suction cups at your partner and scares them away. Stealthy, quick, and misguided, Outer can intercept love before you ever know what happened.

9) Outer is also fueled by anger: Outer either overreacts or under-reacts to your anger. For example, people with abandonment issues tend to feel too insecure to risk expressing anger or assertiveness to someone because they fear it might break the connection. So, Outer takes advantage of this fear and gets you to take your anger out on yourself, damaging your self-esteem.

10) At the other extreme, Outer takes your anger out on innocent bystanders and makes you look like a monster.

11) Outer Child likes to play games, especially when you attempt a new relationship. It wears many disguises including "hard to get" and "Florence Nightingale" (where Outer panders for "love-insurance" by over-caretaking). Outer thrives on creating drama, distorting who you really ARE.

12) Outer poses as your ally, but is really your gatekeeper. Outer hates change -- especially self-improvement. Its covert agenda is to maintain your most self-defeating ones.

But there is a way to deconstruct your Outer Child defenses. Taming your Outer Child involves using tools that create a healthy new relationship within the self. As your Adult Self becomes integrated, you are longer driven by your hidden nemesis.

People have been emailing me for years with their own Outer Child traits, and they number over 300. By taking your own Outer Child inventory, you undertake the first in-depth self-reckoning of your lifetime. As you gain Outer Child awareness, you own up to character defects most people prefer to deny. You see the bigger picture -- the overall pattern -- which empowers you to deal with traits that form an invisible infrastructure of self-sabotage deep within your personality.

Outer is a powerful self-awareness tool. In discovering Outer, you bring it out of the bunkers and into the daylight, so you can subvert its mission, rather than let it subvert yours. You are able to overcome your self-defeating patterns, improve your relationships, and become the self-possessed adult you always wanted to be, finally able to achieve your most important goals and dreams.