Wayward Children of the Psyche

DiAnna Ritola
3 min readJan 30, 2019

Recently one of my clients used the term “wayward children” to describe the thoughts and physical sensations clamoring for attention when she was trying to focus on her work or to sit in meditation. She is a clay sculpture artist, and much of her work is created out of her personal experience and observation. She uses meditation and memory in conjunction with her intuitive sense of what the clay wants to express to capture fluid emotions and experiences in solid form.

In our sessions, we had been working with some of her past hurtful experiences. These traumas had informed and helped to create patterns of behavior that once kept her safe but had grown too restrictive for the life she wanted to live. I had been offering her some new mindfulness techniques to try when she felt her patterns rearing up and threatening to overwhelm her. When she named the thought patterns as wayward children, I was able to grasp her meaning immediately. It was the perfect description for the feelings of overwhelm and chaos that arise from trying to chase down all those thoughts and worries and to corral them into some semblance of conformity.

Teachers of toddlers through high-school age can tell stories of children’s behaviors before a storm or during a full moon. 911 dispatchers share similar tales of increased call volume during the same climactic events. All that outside activity ramps up our insides!

Most often, my wayward children show up wearing the “not enough” uniforms. They are running around, waving red flags, and shouting “Not Enough”. The list of fill-in-the-blank answers can be long.

Not enough:

money, time, space, respect, entertainment, energy, exercise, kindness, world peace, clean water, safety, food, reasonable humans in positions of power, understanding of different life paths, empowerment for oppressed people…and on and on.

Good heavens, those kids get rowdy!

Yet, if we sit and invite these wayward children of our imagination to come and join us and tell us what they are worried about or why they feel so out of control we can learn more about our inner landscape.

What I have learned over the past few years is that just like flesh-and-blood children, these rambunctious psychic jesters tend to calm down when I give them some love and attention and reassurance. Sometimes a bit of acknowledgment followed by “planned ignoring” is enough. It’s sort of like saying, “Yes, I see that you’re concerned, but I promise there is nothing to worry about.” However, when the red flags are still flying after this step, I know that it’s time to sit down and invite them into my lap, my arms, and my heart to listen deeply to the fears that my shadow-self is revealing.

With patience and love, I listen to their (my) worries. I journal and meditate and give myself space to truly be present with why the flags are flying and my thoughts are clamoring for attention. I’ve learned that gentleness works better than a dictatorial approach to determine what my true fear is and where it comes from within my own history. I do my best to show these children of my soul that I love and appreciate their messages and honor their concerns.

Through the wisdom I’ve gained after many repetitions of these antics, I remind them that everything has turned out OK so far, and there is every reason to expect that all will be well. I give them the time to speak; I don’t let them run the show.

It seems to be the journey of life to consistently come back to the place of sitting with our wayward children of the psyche in order to examine our behaviors and reactions to make better choices that reflect the person we are becoming. I don’t know if it will ever end, or if I will be practicing this kind of self-love and compassion as long as I have breath. I do know that it’s easier now than it was 10 years ago, so perhaps practice in this sense leads to progress. So far, it’s the best solution I’ve found.



DiAnna Ritola

Life Coach. Writer. Clergy. Lesbian. Fascinated with the messiness of humans. Celebrating kindness and adventure. www.diannaritola.com