Friday, November 3, 2017

The 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. 

There are many healthy adults who got what they needed to thrive and flourish as children and through-out their lives. They learned of science, art, sports, music, nature, and many other interesting and engaging things. The fortunate ones went on camping trips, vacations, to theme parks, concerts, stadiums, and 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, or 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 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 parent as needed to befit the moment and need.

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 it 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.

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 you are hearing it for the first time, but is no less true. We lost three of our best friends: Our Inner Child, Loving Higher Power, and Loving Inner Parent. Again, there is help!

We can eventually create a kind and loving Higher Power to take the other 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 who twelve steppers consider 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.

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. No surprise Jack Kornfield, an eminent psychologist and sage 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 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.

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 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. 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, 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.

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.

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 families were our first schoolroom, and our parent or other authority figures were our first teachers, and continued to teach us through words, actions, and example throughout our youth. The developmental model shows 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, but it's never too late, 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. Dr. Alan Watson shows another set of Childhood Development Stages we go through in a video here and a written summary is here.

Another very interesting perspective is to view 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, take a look at a full page version here, or a blog version of "Who We Are".

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 now. Here is one list of possible "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 and wounds 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".

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.

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 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!

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