This Story begins the day the most important, amazing, and beautiful person that has ever lived was born. You! That may sound odd to you now, and you might not believe it, but hopefully by the time you finish this story, you will. No matter how average, humble, or difficult your life has been, you can yet find your inner greatness and live the awesome life you really deserve. History is filled with people like that, why can't you be one of them?
You are the focal point of this adventure because we really believe you are a unique and wonderful individual who can overcome whatever obstacles you have and go on to be of great service to yourself, others, and the world. Hopefully you have had and still have people in your life who see the precious and brilliant person you are, but even if not, you can become your own super hero and find others who can see the magnificent champion in you.
Your family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and in fact the world needs you, your help, your best and True Self. Yes, life is hard, and often damn hard, so all too often we develop survival skills and coping mechanisms to deal with the harsh realities of life. This causes us to put up barriers, and wear armor and masks to protect the hurt, wounded and lonely child inside. But this is not the end of the story. No, just the beginning.
For by breaking free from oppressive family and society dysfunction we can come to know ourselves deeply, and yes, to really know you, is to love you. And through focus and concentration on our deepest challenges, weaknesses, and pain, as well as our resilience, strength, and goodness, we can come to truly understand ourselves, others, and our world to achieve wisdom and transformation.
The healthy Inner Child is the “Wonder” or “Divine" child of Jung, the “Natural” child of Bradshaw, and the “True Self" of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) (we consider True Self in a much larger sense); this child is healthy, confident, spontaneous, creative, sensitive, playful, instinctual, trusting, enthusiastic, vulnerable, magical, zestful, in the moment, and fully alive.
Children are amazing, as they have no concern about others color, race, gender, religion, nationality, and so on. They can reach across any lines and make connections to laugh, play, and be together joyfully, as they don't let differences get in the way of their happiness. Walk by any park or playground and you hear kids squealing in delight. Even if someone gets hurt and tears are shed, they are laughing and playing again moments later as if nothing had happened.
There are many kids who got the things they needed to thrive and flourish through-out their lives. They learned of science, art, sports, music, nature, and many other interesting and engaging pursuits. The fortunate ones went on camping trips, vacations, to theme parks, concerts, sporting events, and many other interesting destinations.
Lucky kids were involved in sports, learned music, languages, history, and how to work with their hands, minds, and hearts. They learned they were connected to everyone else, to nature, and to a power greater then themselves. These children were cherished for who they were above all else, no matter what, and they know it mentally, physically, and spiritually on a deep level.
Just hearing this can be a heart breaker for many, as they got very little, if any of these growing up. When they reached out for love, life, and learning they were ignored or repelled. This describes the other end of the spectrum of loving kindness, as dysfunction, abandonment, and abuse. Those are the ones most in need of the help and healing offered here.
But what of those of us in the middle of this spectrum who got some of these blessings, but missed out on others, perhaps many others? If you count yourself as one of these, there may be great hope, help, healing, and happiness for you as well. Not only in at last receiving the loving care, kindness, and guidance you need, but included in the ranks of those who can reach out to others also less fortunate, and in helping them heal, to heal yourself.
We find the inner child not only to be the embodiment of all of the losses of our youth, but also the opportunity for recovery of all we could have had, and should have had. You deserved it then, and you deserve it now. It won't be fast, easy, or painless, but you are worth it! If this resonates with you, you are in the right place, you are home.
We do this by becoming our own loving parent as outlined in the Inner Parent Sanity file. Here we learn to take our wounded inner child into our hearts and arms to comfort and console them until they feel safe and loved. When they are ready we take their hand and walk them through life's wonders and challenges one step at a time. We eventually find we can alternate personas from child to adult and parent as needed to befit the moment and need.
Another aspect of inner child is the intimate and original connection to a Higher Power. You could say it resides at our center and source, at a primal and gut level of intuition beyond conscious reasoning. It is in our hearts, so may have been frozen, walled, and petrified as well. As this infinite presence is our link to power, wisdom, and love of all life and creation we have suffered a great loss indeed.
Because our parents were all powerful to us as children, seemingly holding the power of our life or death, those who had neglectful or abusive parents naturally overlay that dynamic onto their Higher Power. This all may sound incredible if you are hearing it for the first time, but is no less true. As a result many of us shutdown and lost our Our Inner Child, Loving Higher Power and Inner Parent, as well as an intimate connection with nature and other people. This was of course a huge and devastating loss, but there is good reason for hope, help, healing, and happiness.
We can eventually create a kind and loving Higher Power, adult, and inner parent to take the hand of our inner child to guide and protect us as we go through life. This is the infinite power, presence, and wisdom of the universe that is our real and true parent, as well as a best friend who has known us since before we we born, and knows all we have thought, felt, and been through.
Family dysfunction is so prevalent, burdensome, and sad that it is difficult to confront, but it is in this painful and sometimes brutal confrontation that wounds are at last acknowledged, the medicine of goodness applied, and the wounds healed. Like muscles and bones broken and torn, we may never be the same and scars remain, yet like broken bones may heal stronger than ever.
This reality is central to our quest. That we stop running from fear and pain, and instead stop to turn and face (and befriend) our fears, demons, and dragons. This is the hero's journey, and likely the hardest thing we will ever do. It is time, in fact way past due, as the damage from individual and societal dysfunction is mounting quickly and may prove too late for mankind.
Yet as individuals there is all the hope in the world we can recover our True Self to live the abundant, grace filled, and awesome life we were intended for. We learned upside down and backwards thinking long ago. Our priorities have been mixed up too, based on external circumstances. Getting our lives turned around is the revolutionary but absolutely necessary step if we are to save humanity from destroying life on earth.
Whatever the planetary outcome, it is up to the individual to heal themselves first, then let the ripples flow through-out our personal worlds to the greater world we all share. Even though exploring and healing family dysfunction may be damn hard, it is imperative we do just that, and one person at a time.
Although lengthy, this list is actually the short version, as the story of how these problems played out in our childhood and adult lives took decades, and each person has a long story to tell. We at Cowboy Dharma are now writing a story of how these dynamics affected us whether we are one of the fortunate ones, unfortunate ones, or in between that should be finished and linked here soon.
Until then use your imagination and experience to see and feel how neglect and abuse have caused dysfunctional thinking, feeling, and behavior in your life and the lives of others. As this list is lengthy and important we have chosen to put it in another post linked here -Family Dysfunction
One pivotal aspect of childhood is language. One study found poor children heard an average of eleven million words by age three. Working class kids heard more than twice as much at 24 million. Yet children of professionals heard a whopping forty three million words. By school age the poor kids were two years behind, by age eight three and one half years behind. The gap grows because the more words they knew, the more they could figure out on their own, like eating good food, and in fact is called language nutrition.
This situation also translated to doing well in many other areas of life, such as finishing high school and going on to college. These kids were four times more likely to graduate college, get higher skilled jobs, and earn higher wages. They were also significantly more healthy overall through-out their lives. It wasn't mentioned in the study, but we expect it also reduced their chance of divorce, alcoholism, and drug addiction.
The exciting and good news is that some of the poor parents that spoke with their kids as much as the professionals as they played with them, taught them, and read to them were right there at the top of the scale despite poverty. Also if the professionals didn't interact with their children as much (low word count etc.) their language and other areas suffered just like the poor children.
What does this mean to you now? That no matter what your upbringing was, you can give yourself the attention, acceptance, affirmation, affection, and appreciation you need now and for the rest of your life so that your quality of life improves in all areas just as it did for these kids. So as we go through the different areas of opportunity try and think of how you can support you inner child to grow, mature, an thrive so that together you can achieve your full potential and happiness.
What if the home of our youth was not a safe,
welcoming, and comforting place? What if it was a place of stress,
abandonment, and abuse? It is said we have the choices of fight, flight, freeze or fawn. In brief, the fighters act out family dysfunction, frustration,
and rage they feel in the home and consequently within themselves.
The "flyers" run from trouble, unable to deal with it with a child's limited resources. The "freezers" run too, but into themselves as they shut down and close off from the confusion and angst they feel.The "fawners" tend to seek love and belonging by people pleasing. None of these youngsters gets the opportunity to be themselves, tell their truth, and feel the care and comfort they really need.
These troubled kids are usually mistaken as the source of the problem rather than a symptom. Jack Kornfield, an eminent psychologist and spiritual sage says he has never seen a youngster with a drug problem that came from a healthy family. The point is that if you feel like you were one of these kids growing up, you have that inner child in you now longing for resolution and rest.
This is vitally important as the unresolved issues of youth tend to poison and infect our thoughts, emotions, and actions through-out our lives unless we find the help and healing we need. Only then can we move forward with the wisdom and intelligence of an adult coupled with the joy, authenticity, sincerity, spontaneity, creativity, and energy of youth.
It is hard to communicate just how crucial this connection with our inner child is. Perhaps a telling sign is that a large and powerful part of the Twelve Step Recovery movement is Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACA). Many choose this meeting and path to uncover and heal the core family of origin dynamics and issues they were unable to in other twelve step programs, support groups, counseling, or therapy.
If as children we endure neglect, abandonment, and abuse we can't help but feel bad. It wells up not only in our minds, but in our bodies. It can easily become to much to bear, so we tend to shut down physically and mentally. This means shutting down feelings and emotions in our bodies, as well as blaming ourselves and not trusting our thinking.
Imagine the heart of a child becoming a clenched fist, cold or frozen, turning to stone, having walls around it, or being wrapped in armor or chains. Our inner child and its joy, authenticity, sincerity, spontaneity, creativity, and energy are locked away mentally or physically in our rooms, basement, attic, or closet by our parents or others for years, decades, or a lifetime. The same goes for what we believe, our truth.
Through Twelve Step Recovery (ACA in particular) and other programs, counseling, spirituality, and truly helpful family, friends, and other communities, we can find hope, healing, and happiness. As we use focus and concentration we can realize understanding, wisdom, and transformation. We can learn,to talk, trust, and feel, and to look, listen, and heal.
If this sounds like something that appeals to you, we would like to suggest finding and attending a few meetings until you find one that feels good to you. Doing the step study is where we really get down to work to dismantle our family of origin issues, get out of isolation, face our truth and create the interpersonal bonds we lost and so much need to thrive. Co-sponsoring, retreats, and conferences are also where many breakthroughs happen.
The main books in ACA are the "Big Red Book" and Step Study and Laundry List Workbooks. The workbooks are often done in a group but at least with one other person, as isolation is one of our core issues, so community and connection can further healing greatly. Other books that are highly recommended by many in the program and deal directly and effectively with these issues are John Bradshaw's Homecoming and Melodie Beatties Codependant No More.
Like many things in life, the inner child seems to be of a dual nature; wonder child on one hand, and wounded child on the other. I venture to guess wonder child came first for most of us, found in the loving gaze and arms of parents, caretakers, and others. The world was so very fresh, new, and exciting, with many adventures ahead. Unfortunately for many the world become dark and frightening.
Why is the inner child so important? Erik Erikson's Stages of Development tell us a lot about where we were able to grow, or suffered arrested development. Our parents or other authority figures were our first teachers, and our families were our first schoolroom, and continued to teach us through words, actions, and example throughout our youth.
The developmental model shows as children we learned either trust or mistrust,
autonomy or shame and doubt, initiative or shame and guilt, competence
or inferiority, and identity or role confusion. As
adults we move on to have either love and intimacy or isolation, care
for others or stagnation, and a sense of accomplishment or despair. The value
of these lessons is immense, and has huge consequences for us throughout
our lives. Missing out on them early on is compounded as years pass, but it's never too late, as we can change, grow, and thrive!
Many left the care and comfort of their parents laps to toddle off on this incredible journey with the tools they needed to face and conquer life's many challenges, but many did not. Despite what we may have missed out in our youth, we are now free to develop many fine skills, qualities, and interests as adults through our loving inner parent and Higher Power.
Many children fall into roles within the family such as scapegoat, sports star, sickly child, or troublemaker. These roles may put us in a box of perception that is hard to maintain and break free from. For example the star student may become exhausted trying to keep up excellent grades and suffer humiliation or disgrace should they fail. Life is much too fluid and mysterious to impose defining roles on children (or adults). Rather let them change and grow through various roles as they mature.
Another very interesting perspective is to view classic archetypal personas and see how they relate to us in modern times. The king has been replaced by the boss or politician, the jester is now the class clown or comedian, and the warrior is the policeman or soldier. These personality types go deep into our individual and collective psyche so can have a profound effect on our thinking, feeling, and behavior. For a close up look at this powerful dynamic here is a blog version of "Who We Are" or a full page version here.
It seems our story was written many years ago, and we will never change. We prefer to believe that through focus and concentration on our upbringing we will gain the understanding and wisdom that leads to transformation. It usually takes years of hard painful work to uncover, clean, treat and heal the wounds of youth, but we are worth it! To see how we got to where we are check out "Who Wrote Your Script?"
To follow up to "Who Wrote Your Script" we consider how we could have had a much better life if we had been given more and better life skills. It is wise to acknowledge the good things we did learn from parents and others to balance out the problems we had and often still carry. The main point is to recognize where we are lacking and work as our own loving parent to fill in the gaps as best we can in the present and future. Here is a list of opportunities possible for "Parental and Other Mentoring".
Kids are so amazing. They are naturally creative, enthusiastic, authentic, kind, forgiving, and have many other wonderful attributes. Unfortunately many children in severely dysfunctional homes had these crushed early on. Some studies indicate even those from good homes lost much of these fine qualities as they grew up in response to educational and cultural pressures to conform. The first step to recovering these gems is awareness, so please review "Childlike Qualities" (or as we like to call them - Super Powers!)
Finding our abandoned, hidden, or otherwise lost inner child can be difficult, yet one of the most, if not the most rewarding aspects of our recovery. The early years leave deep but living roots, wounds, and scars that anchor us in our past. Uncovering, embracing, and understanding them can lead to great wisdom and transformation. Here is how one lost child found his "Homecoming".
Observing how we act, react, and respond to life stacks up over the years, particularly in youth to a standard set of emotions, feeling, beliefs, and behaviors that make up our personality. This becomes a "set-point" we return to again and again day to day and moment to moment through-out our lives. Observing how this persona manifests in the world can be quite interesting.
Some actors even find that playing so many different roles they come to see their personality as just another role. We too can realize that what we think, feel, say, and do is a role we play, one given us by the authority figures in our lives. Yet people and their roles can, and do change. Perhaps a good way to understand ourselves better is to take a personality test and ponder the results.
One such test is The Big Five Personality Test. It's accuracy depends on how honest we can be about ourselves, and may be skewed by what we believe versus how we really behave. For a quick look at how the spectrum plays out look at a post of the summary of The Big Five personality Traits (plus one). Knowing our "go to" traits can allow the understanding that leads to transformation.
One last thing. Understanding and utilizing the impact and effect of the inner child is a life changer for many. The books do a great job but we also like to give a taste of how much this means to us personally, so for our founding fathers inner child's story please click here.
In closing we wish to say how much we love and cherish our inner kids, and hope to impress on others the incredible peace and healing available through our naturally sensitive, eager, and loving inner kids. You may find as we have that life is so much more rich and fulfilling when we let our child lead. Good luck and good love!