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, or at least begin to. No matter how average, humble, or difficult your life appears to have 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 loving parent, best friend and super hero, and find others who can see the magnificent champion in you.
Who Is the Inner Child?
Inner child refers to the part of ourselves that remains innocent, playful, and creative, even as we grow up. It is the part of us that remembers what it was like to be a child, and that still longs for joy, wonder, and connection. The inner child is often associated with our early childhood experiences, both positive and negative. The positive experiences, such as feeling loved, safe, and supported, help to create a healthy and secure inner child. The negative experiences, such as neglect, abuse, or trauma, can damage the inner child and make it more difficult to access its positive qualities. The inner child can be a source of strength and resilience. It can help us to cope with difficult times, to be more creative, and to connect with others on a deeper level.
The Wounded Inner Child
The inner child can also be a source of pain and difficulty. If it has been damaged by negative experiences, it can make us feel insecure, afraid, and alone. There are many ways to heal the inner child. One way is to talk to a therapist or counselor who can help you to process your childhood experiences and to develop a more positive relationship with your inner child. You can also find support groups (see Twelve Step Sanity File) and online forums where you can connect with others who are also working to heal their inner child.
Another way is to engage in activities that allow you to express your creativity and playfulness, such as art, music, or dance. You can also try to connect with your inner child by spending time in nature, by taking care of animals, or by simply being mindful of your thoughts and feelings. There are also many books and articles available on the topic.
We Need 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 shields and 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.
We Shall Overcome!
For by breaking free from oppressive family and societal 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 Wonderful, Divine, Natural, True Inner Child
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). This child is healthy, confident, spontaneous, creative, sensitive, playful, instinctual, trusting, enthusiastic, vulnerable, magical, zestful, in the moment, and fully alive. These are just a few of the many fine qualities children posses. For a longer list, and maybe some inspiration, check out this link to "Childlike Qualities."
Children are amazing, they have little 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. They live in the moment, so even if someone gets hurt and tears are shed, they are laughing and playing again moments later as if nothing had happened.
The Lucky Ones
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. Holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations usually found them with family and friends making the most of these events.
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 than 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. Parents and other caregivers were there for them in many ways. Look to the "Parental and Other Mentoring" post to see a few of these.
The Unfortunate Ones
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. Was it calm, quiet, loving kindness, or yelling, crying, cruelty, meanness, stress, fear, punishment, abuse, neglect, and so on.
It can happen later in life as well. Even one significantly traumatic event can color the rest of your life. Not just loving parent, but angry, judgmental, abusive parent too .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 were 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.
Recognizing that many (difficult) people were hurt growing up, and “hurt people hurt people”, allows us to shift our view of them, their actions, and behaviors to compassion and forgiveness due to the trauma, abuse, abandonment, and neglect they suffered as a child, teen, or adult. These experiences set up a family dynamic of abuse, victimization, and rescuing that can haunt us unconsciously for the rest of our life if we don't become aware of it, acknowledge it did happen to us, and work to transcend it.
We are, as the main Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families book states, doomed to repeat this cycle by manifesting these unconscious roles of abuser, victim, or rescuer unconsciously, and choosing people to fill these roles least likely to achieve positive results. To understand better how this "doomed dynamic" often unknowingly controls us click the link to Karpman Drama Triangle images and websites.
The Middle Children
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.
You Are Worthy
We find the inner child not only to be the embodiment of all 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 use our imagination 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.
It's Your Recovery
It is important to mention early on that although we consider the things listed here as valuable, what is really important is what has value and meaning for you. What things will you include in your inner child file? So, as you read on, keep that in mind and start making notes of what helps you access, inspire, and cherish your inner child, and what tools, materials, and ingredients will build, maintain, and strengthen your relationship with your inner wounded and wonder child.
Healing and Enjoying the Inner Child
We use our relationship with our inner child to uncover, explore, and heal any leftover hurts, confusion, and fears from the past. Also, in the present when we are troubled or anxious, we envision bringing our inner child onto our lap and into our arms to calm, soothe, and listen to them. Also, when we want to play, laugh, sing, and have fun, we bring our younger self or selves into awareness to join our older self in enjoying the moment with all the enthusiasm, wonder, and authenticity of youth.
Accessing the Inner Child
How can we do this? Having pictures of ourselves as kids at various ages at hand in albums, folders, or on our phone is helpful. Others use non dominant hand writing and drawing to converse with inner kids and share joys and sorrows. This is ever more effective and fun with colored pencils, crayons, markers, or paints. Some simply speak inwardly in their hearts and minds to feel and converse with their, young, sensitive, and vulnerable selves.
One of the most fun and enjoyable ways to activate and inspire our child to come out and play is to collect toys, art supplies, musical instruments, kid’s books, etc. Bubble wands, kites, costumes, playdoh, model cars, stuffed figures and animals, kaleidoscopes, spinning tops, and water balloons (whatever you like). These items help release and inspire our creativity, exuberance, and joy. An occasional trip down the toy aisle at any store, or visit to a toy store can lead to discovery of treasures to take home.
Even if they sit on a shelf most of the time, just seeing them reminds us our inner child is waiting for us to say hello, I miss you, please spend some time with me when you can. Our founding father has a playroom stuffed with cabinets full of toys and models, walls covered in artwork, and a closet of costumes that are boxed up and taken out to enjoy with kids of all ages at picnics, parties, camp, or wherever family and friends go.
Our Original Connection with Higher Power
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, pre-verbal, 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.
Parents as Higher Power
Because our parents and caregivers were all powerful to us as children, seemingly holding the power of our life or death, children naturally overlay that dynamic, good or bad, onto their Higher Power. This 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 Inner Child, Loving Higher Power and Inner Parent, as well as an intimate connection with nature and other people. This may have been a huge and devastating loss, but there is good reason for hope, help, healing, and happiness.
Higher Power as Parent
We can eventually create a kind and loving inner parent, adult, and Higher Power 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 were born, and knows all we have thought, felt, and been through. For more on creating or improving this super important relationship, check out the Higher Power Sanity File.
Healing the Inner Child
Unfortunately, family dysfunction is so prevalent, painful, and sad that it is difficult to confront, but it is in this awareness that wounds are at last acknowledged, the medicine of goodness applied, and wounds healed. Like skin, muscles, and bones broken and torn, we may never be the same and scars remain, yet may heal stronger than ever. Churchill said: "We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival".
Family Dysfunction and Abuse
To help understand how neglect and abuse have caused dysfunctional thinking, feeling, and behavior in your life and the lives of others we have made a list of the common aspects. As this list is lengthy and important we have put it in another post linked here -Family Dysfunction. We have also added a summary of Child Abuse from the Childhelp organization, and a link to their website here.
Child and Parent as Super Hero
This reality is central to our quest. We must 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. This quest is urgent, as the damage from individual and societal dysfunction is mounting quickly and causing great harm to people, life, and the world.
Living From True Self
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 we must take if we are to save humanity and much of life on earth from catastrophe.
Healing Ourselves, Others, and the World
Whatever the planetary outcome, it is up to us as individual to heal ourselves 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 extremely difficult, it is imperative we do just that, one person at a time.
Wonder and Wounded Child
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. 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, pressures in childhood often forced us to conform to others wants, needs, and schedules far to early and completely. There is a favorite and excellent video on this linked here.
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. Even if parents never drank alcohol, dysfunction can be still be very real, difficult, and limiting.
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 break the family rules of don't talk, don't trust, don't feel, and instead 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. For more information check out Twelve Step Recovery. 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 too 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.
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, 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!
It's Not Too Late!
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.
Here are some tips for working with your inner child:
Be gentle and patient. Your inner child may be scared or hurt, so it is important to approach it with love and compassion.
Use positive language. Avoid using words or phrases that are critical or judgmental.
Focus on the positive. Help your inner child to remember the good times in its life.
Validate its feelings. Let your inner child know that its feelings are valid, even if they are negative.
Be present. Give your inner child your full attention and avoid distractions.
Be creative. Use activities that allow your inner child to express itself, such as art, music, or dance.
The Inner Child story is very important to us and covers a lot of ground so we have split this post into the basics here, then another post covering some of the more advanced, but also important aspects. For that post look to The Inner Child Part 2.