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.
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. To get a good image and understanding of the common obstacles of youth and life and how they are resolved (or not) please see Stages of Development.
There are many fortunate ones who got what they needed to thrive and flourish through-out their lives, but what of those who were rejected, abandoned, abuse, or otherwise thwarted in their life's quest? What of those who instead learned dis-ease, dysfunction, and insanity? Those are the ones who most need our help. If you are one of the less fortunate ones, you are included.
Not only in at last receiving the loving care, kindness, and guidance you need, but included in the ranks of those who must 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 we should have had. If this resonates with you, you are in the right place, you are home.
But 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. 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. No surprise Jack Kornfield, an eminent psychologist says he has never seen a youngster with a drug problem that came from a healthy family. The point here 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 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 fellowship 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 issues they were unable to in other twelve step programs, support groups, counseling, or therapy.
Why is the inner child so important? A quick look at the stages of development tells a lot about where we were able to grow, or suffered arrested development. In youth 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 integrity or despair. Obviously 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, so overcoming negative lessons gets harder as well as time goes by. All is not lost, we can change and thrive!
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.
The images are of our heart becoming a clenched fist, being 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 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.
Another aspect of inner child is the intimate and primordial connection to a Higher Power. You could say it resides at our center and source, at a gut level of intuition beyond conscious reasoning. You could also say it is in our hearts, so is 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.
Those who had neglectful or abusive parents naturally overlay that dynamic onto their Higher Power because our parents were all powerful to us as children, seemingly holding the power of our life or death. This all may sound incredible if your'e hearing it for the first time, but is no less true. We lost all of our best friends: Our inner child, loving Higher Power, and our parents. Again, there is help!
Through Twelve Step (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. Why ACA? We find the focus on family dynamics grounded in a loving Higher Power, inner parent and child in ACA are unbeatable.
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, and face our truth. Co-sponsoring does the same, and retreats and conferences are where many break throughs happen.
The main booksACA "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.
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!