Today, I’m going to write about something different. It’s going to be a difficult topic to talk about because of my journey, both past and present – but I feel I have to.
To begin with, I do feel that this complex referred to as “The Inner Child” is REAL. Not physically, but figuratively and metaphorically real. It is a psychological or phenomenological reality, and an extraordinarily powerful one at that.
Experts in this field claim that most mental disorders and destructive behaviour patters are somehow related to this unconscious part of ourselves.
You and I – we were all once children, and still have that child dwelling within us. But most of us adults are quite unaware of this. And this lack of conscious relatedness to OUR OWN Inner Child is precisely where so many behavioral, emotional and relationship difficulties stem from.
Your Inner Child… Is the echo of the child you once were.
We each have our own history and we have all been influenced by our environment, events and the significant people around us. Our Inner Child has stored those memories, and their impact upon us.
As a child, we will all have made decisions at a sub-conscious level about how we ‘should’ be and what we ‘should’ do in order to be seen as OK. For instance – what’s culturally and/or socially acceptable.
Our experiences in our teenage years will have reinforced these beliefs and formed our own SCRIPT for how our life ‘should’ be. We carry these immature scripts and decisions with us into adulthood – when they, unfortunately, run our lives more than 90% of the time.
So where did it all begin?
We have all been influenced by our environments since the time we were in our mother’s womb.
The sounds around us, our mother’s stress levels, the abundance or deficit of the ‘feel-good’ hormones, our nourishment or lack of it etc… Will all have played their part in how safe we felt even before we were born.
Then the actual birth experience, our early infant care, and the EMOTIONAL AVAILABILITY of our mother will have either reinforced or soothed the impact of those first prenatal influences.
As young children, we will have been absorbing a great deal from our caregiver(s), immediate families, extended families, friends, and education or religious institutions.
We may not have had words for these experiences but they will have been IMPRINTED in our subconscious minds and bodies.
This all creates the POOL in which we float, or sink. Inevitably, the water will be a bit dirty. But sometimes, it may even be as thick as mud.
In this pool… Resides our self esteem, body image, family trauma, shame and secrets (even if not spoken about – as they all affect the quality of the care our caregivers are able to show to us).
As adults, we will tend to sink down into this pool, or mud, whenever we are overwhelmed by negative thoughts and emotions, self-doubt or self-loathing.
What happens when the Inner Child within us gets hurt?
In each of us, there is a young, suffering Child. We have all had times of difficulty as children and many of us have experienced trauma. To protect and defend ourselves against future suffering, we often try to forget those painful times. Every time we’re in touch with the experience of suffering, we believe we can’t bear it, and we stuff our feelings and memories deep down in our unconscious mind. It may be that we haven’t dared to face this Child for many decades.
This isn’t dissociation per se. Rather, it is a far more common, pervasive and insidious sort of socially sanctioned (read: socially accepted) dissociation.
In layman terms, the wounded Inner Child is the parts of ourself that was hurt, terrified, vulnerable, neglected, or invalidated… During our younger days. When all we wanted, as children, was to be loved, protected, and nurtured.
The sad truth here is that adults like you and me are unwittingly being constantly influenced or covertly controlled by this UNCONSCIOUS Inner Child. For many, it is not an adult self directing their lives, but rather an emotionally wounded Inner Child inhabiting an adult body.
A five-year-old running around in a forty-year-old frame. It is a hurt, angry, fearful little boy or girl calling the shots and making adult decisions.
A boy or girl being sent out into the world to do a man’s or woman’s job.
A five or ten-year old (or two of them!) trying to engage in grown-up relationships.
Can a child have a mature relationship?
An independent life?
Yet this is precisely what’s happening with us everyday to some degree or another.
And then we wonder why our relationships fall apart.
Why we feel so anxious. Afraid. Insecure. Inferior. Small. Lost. Lonely.
But think about it. How else would any child feel having to fend for themselves in an apparently adult world? Without proper parental supervision, protection, structure or support?
One thing I’ve learnt is that the first step to healing is the awareness of and willingness to face your Inner Child.
Next, we need to learn to take our Inner child seriously, and to consciously communicate with that little boy or girl within. To listen to how he or she feels and what he or she needs from us here and now. The often frustrated primal needs of that perennial Inner Child – for love, acceptance, protection, nurturance, understanding – remain the same today as when we were children.
Many times, as pseudo-adults, we futilely attempt to force others into fulfilling these infantile needs for us. (I have experienced this firsthand.)
But this is doomed to fail.
What we didn’t sufficiently receive in the past from our parents as children must be confronted in the present, as painful as it might be.
The past traumas, sadness, disappointments and depression cannot be changed and must be accepted. Becoming an adult means swallowing this “bitter pill”, as I call it. That, unfortunately for most of us, certain infantile needs were, maliciously or not, unmet by our imperfect parents or caregivers. And they never will be, no matter how good or smart or attractive or spiritual or loving we become. Those days are over. What was done cannot be undone.
Bottom line is… We should not as adults now expect others to meet all of these unfulfilled childhood needs. They cannot.
AUTHENTIC ADULTHOOD requires both accepting the painful past and the primary responsibility for taking care of your own Inner Child’s needs.
Stop running. There’s nothing to run from.
Stop escaping. There’s nothing to escape from.
The past is the past. Forgive yourself, forgive the people around you, and move on. It may be a difficult road to walk because you’re afraid and that’s ok. But take the first step and you’d be amazed how healing can and will take place.
I hope you will live a more positive and rewarding life filled with fun, laughter, spontaneity, and authenticity.
Finally, start loving yourself.
You are worth it. You are more than enough. You are God’s beloved child. You are you. You have a story no one can tell.
Be a blessing.