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Growing Down Self-Assessment

Chapter 1  A Growing Down Self-Assessment

Growing Down - Tools for

Healing the Inner Child

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

& Constance M. Messina, Ph.D.

Self-Assessment Exercise 1: Picture you as a child


Directions: In your journal draw a picture of yourself when you were a child. Choose a time from one to twelve years of age. In drawing the picture use a pencil, pen, or crayon. Use your non-dominant hand to draw this picture. (The non-dominant hand is the one you usually do not use for writing.) The reason for using the non-dominant hand is to stimulate the creative side of your brain which is usually not called upon when you use your dominant hand. Inner child work attempts to stimulate the creative, under-utilized and often stagnate compartments of your mind.   Once you have completed your picture, write your name under the picture using your non-dominant hand.

My name is:  

Now in your journal answer these questions about yourself as a child. You can use your dominant or non-dominant had to answer questions. But always draw with the non-dominant hand.


What age are you in this picture?

What was going on in your life and in your family at this time in your life?

What are five positive descriptors of you at this age?

What are five negative descriptors of you at this age?

How did others react to you at this age?
  • At home
  • At school
  • In the neighborhood
  • In the community

List five things you were ashamed of as a child.

List five things which you did as a child for which you have not yet been able to forgive yourself.

How visible were you as a child?
  • At home
  • At school
  • In the neighborhood
  • In the community
  • List five feelings you felt as a child.
How well were your boundaries respected as a child?
  • Emotional boundaries
  • Physical boundaries

List five games or playtime activities you enjoyed and had fun playing as a child.

What do you recall being told about yourself by your:

  • Mother?
  • Father?
  • Siblings?
  • Relatives?
  • Teachers?
  • Classmates?
  • Neighborhood playmates?
  • Playmates' parents?

What positive things told to you as a child do you still believe about yourself?

What negative things told to you as a child do you still believe about yourself?

What ten positive messages would you have liked to have heard about yourself as a child?

To conclude this picture of yourself as a child, using your non-dominant hand write a description of you as a little child.

Self-Assessment Exercise 2:  Picture your childhood family of origin


Directions: In your journal, using your non-dominant hand, draw a picture of your family as it was when you were the child drawn in the first exercise. Draw in all the family members, significant others, and pets present in the home who had an impact on your family life.


After you have drawn a picture of your childhood family, write with your non-dominant hand the family name and label each member of your family

My family's last name was:

Now answer the following questions about your childhood family.

In Laying the Foundation, James J. Messina, Ph.D. describes nine personality patterns in families. Any person can display one or more of these patterns in a family.


In your journal, write in the names of your family members who displayed the specific personality patterns in your childhood family.

  • Looking good
  • Acting out
  • Pulling in
  • Entertaining
  • Troubled person
  • Enabling
  • Rescuing
  • People pleasing
  • Nonfeeling

We know that people often take on new behavioral patterns once they leave their families of origin.

  • Which of your family members took on different behavioral patterns later on in life?

How would you describe your childhood family of origin and identify it in your journal with your reasons for your selection of familial description?

  • Overly enmeshed (where physical and emotional boundaries were blurred)
  • Overly detached (where everyone was distant physically and emotionally from one another)
  • More on the enmeshed side
  • More on the detached side
  • A good balance of enmeshment and detachment

What were ten rules of interrelating, communications, and dealing with feelings present in your childhood family of origin?

Were boundaries of individuals respected or violated in this family? If violated, how were they violated?

  • Emotional boundaries
  • Physical boundaries

Name five family secrets this family kept hidden during your childhood.

Name five feelings you felt while living in this family.

How did others describe your family?

  • At school
  • In the neighborhood
  • At church
  • In the community

How visible were you and the other family members?

  • In the extended family
  • In the neighborhood
  • In school
  • In the community

Name five things you and your family did together to have fun.

What things happened in your childhood family of origin for which you still harbor anger and resentment?

How is your reaction to your family of origin holding you back in your efforts to recover from low self-esteem and depression?

Self-Assessment Exercise 3: Picture your childhood home's floor plan


Directions: In your journal, draw a floor plan of the home in which you as a child and your childhood family of origin lived. Use your non-dominant hand to draw this picture with a pencil, crayon or pen. Now that you have drawn a picture of your childhood home, use your non-dominant hand and write in the address of this house and label each of the rooms.Next, with your non-dominant hand, draw in each of the family members, in the one room of the house you most remember them in. Some family members may end up in the same room.

Our address was:

Now answer the following questions in your journal:

How many different homes did you live in as a child?

Which home was your favorite? Why?

Which home was your least favorite? Why?

In looking at your childhood home's floor plan, can you get a better picture of the following issues?

For each issue listed, describe how your picture clarifies the issues of:

Boundaries in the family

  • Emotional
  • Physical
Closeness of family members
  • Enmeshed
  • Detached
  • Self
  • Family members
Family rules
  • Communications
  • Interrelating
  • Handling feelings
  • Family secrets
  • Parenting of you by your parents
  • Personality patterns in the family
Impact of neglect in the family
  • Emotional
  • Physical
Impact of abuse in the family
  • Sexual
  • Physical
  • Verbal
  • Emotional
Identify in your journal all the characteristics this home had for you.
  • Safe
  • Nurturing
  • A safe harbor or refuge in times of trouble
  • Supportive of your physical and emotional needs
  • Permanent
  • Reliable
  • Secure
  • Trust-inducing
  • A place you often want to return to in your daydreams as an adult
  • A place to be avoided as an adult
  • A good place to grow up
  • A sad place
  • A shame and guilt-inducing place
What are your best memories from your childhood home?

What are your worst memories from your childhood home?

Self-Assessment Exercise 4: Your place in your family circle


Directions: Put a stick person for you in a picture of circle in your journal. The circle represents your childhood family of origin. Once you have drawn in yourself and labeled your figure, then proceed to draw in and label the other family members and include others who had a strong influence in the family, like grandparents, maids, nannies, relatives, or pets.


In looking at your family circle, answer the following questions:

  • Who of your family members held themselves outside the family circle and why did they do this? Who? Why?
  • Who were you closest to in the family? Why?
  • Who were you most distant from? Why?
  • Who gave you the most nurturing love and acceptance in this family? How was this shown?
  • How open were the lines of communication in this family?
  • Who were most open?
  • Who were most closed?
  • How much sibling competition was there between you and your other siblings? Who encouraged this competition? To what end was this competition encouraged?
  • How does the family circle clarify more issues about your childhood family of origin?
  • What feelings do you have as you see your place in this family?
  • What unresolved issues have surfaced as a result of completing Exercises 1, 2, 3, and 4?


Self-Assessment Exercise 5:

Your inner child's Growing Down goals


Directions: In your journal, draw a picture of yourself as a child, preferably your inner child whom you have for too long ignored and forgotten. Once you have drawn your inner child, write in your name with your non-dominant hand.

My name is:

Answer the statements in your journal under your picture of your inner child:

  • I will tell my inner child the following true positive affirmations.
  • I will accept and love my inner child unconditionally because my inner child is:
  • I will forgive my inner child for:
  • I release my inner child from having shame and guilt over:
  • I will nurture and re-parent my inner child with the following messages:
  • I will engage my inner child in the following child play activities:
  • I will make me and my inner child visible in the following ways:I will help gain respect for the emotional and physical boundaries of my inner child and myself by:
  • I will open myself and my inner child to experience feelings both positive and negative and especially the following feelings with which I am almost out of touch:

I commit myself to the goals of growing down to my inner child so that I will be able to heal from within and to recover from the chronic low self-esteem and depression I have experienced since my childhood.


Sign and date this commitment pledge to your inner child.