Each and every one of us was a child and has an inner child. That’s the good news. The painful reality for too many people is that their inner child is wounded one – separated and isolated from the rest of self by its unresolved pain. I work with clients every day who find their way through healing a wounded inner child to find the Wonder Child and to live in wholehearted fun and joy-filled times from that aspect of the inner child within. You can heal your wounded inner child.
I know what I really want for Christmas. I want my childhood back. Nobody is going to give me that … I know it doesn’t make sense, but since when is Christmas about sense anyway? It is about a child of long ago and far away, and it is about a child of now. In you and me. Waiting behind the door of our hearts for something wonderful to happen.” (Robert Fulghum in the forward of Bradshaw’s book, “Homecoming”.)
A little boy, a little girl, waiting, waiting, and waiting some more for something wonderful to happen. Trying valiantly to cope with all that unanswered anticipation and with the excitement that fades to tragic emptiness and boredom. Forgotten, betrayed, abandoned and then forgotten again, betrayed again and abandoned again and again and again … your little one, your inner-child, the essence of all the authenticity that you could be – tossed aside and left alone. Why?
No matter how adult you may think you are, you cannot be fully and wholly the adult that you were meant to be until you welcome in your inner child. Discovering, acknowledging and learning to love and validate your inner child is the key to recovery.
Until we tap into it, express it (in healthy and productive ways) there is a wounded and aching inner child within holding a stockpile of residual anger, rage and indignation. It is this lonely little being that you’ve left behind and forgotten about that won’t let you go forward without him or her. It is this little one that holds so much of the pain from your past that you, in your denial, think that you’ve left behind ages ago. You carry inside of yourself. The longer you are dissociated from your inner child the more pain that will build. Not forging a relationship with your inner-child will leave you living a life that is most likely void of true joy.
It is likely quite fair and accurate to say that no one gets out of childhood without some measure of unresolved grief. For those who were raised in dysfunctional and or abusive families this is especially true. Where do you think all your grief has gone? Are you really happy?
So, you might you wonder, if I really have this inner-child part of me in here that I need to something about, something with and/or something for, how can I find him or her? What if I don’t believe in this stuff? What then? Don’t we leave childhood behind when we get older, isn’t that what being adult means and is all about? Ever ask yourself these questions? If you have and you haven’t decided to find your inner-child, you may still believe this is nonsense, so ask yourself now, are you really happy? Are you living your life in the here and now? Or does your past still cloud your experience of the here and now? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you want out of life and if so, are you on the road to getting it?
Every journey has its peaks and valleys. Every journey has its construction zones and detours. Inevitably, though, if you do not acknowledge and welcome home your inner child you will not be able to overcome the obstacles that stand in between you and the future that you deserve. Nothing can stand in one’s way quite like an unresolved past.
In the book, Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child by John BradshawBradshaw writes: “I began my inner child more than twelve years ago, using a rather makeshift meditation with some of my therapy clients. But this meditation achieved some very dramatic results. When people first made contact with their inner child, the experience was often overwhelming. Sometimes they sobbed intensely. Later, they said things like ‘I’ve been waiting all of my life for someone to find me’; ‘it feels like a ‘homecoming’; ‘My life has been transformed since I found my child’
Because of this response, I developed an entire workshop to help people find and embrace their inner child. The workshop has evolved over the years, due mostly to an ongoing dialogue with those who have participated in it. This is the most powerful work I have ever done.
The workshop focuses on helping people finish their unresolved grief from childhood — griefs resulting from abandonment, abuse, in all forms, the neglect of childhood developmental dependency needs, and the enmeshments that result from family-system dysfunction … If normal dependency needs are not met, we tend to grow into adulthood with a wounded inner child. Had our childhood needs been met, we would not have become ‘adult children’.”
Reviewer: A reader from Canada
Wow! Bradshaw picks up where his book, “Healing the Shame That Binds You” left off. He helps the reader to identify problems that arose out of his/her family setting and/or traumatic settings in early life. He then goes on to explain how one’s past may well be having a negative impact on their CURRENT, adult life. Finally he helps the reader to eliminate and neutralize those negative impacts and truly become a whole and complete adult. If you find that your life is still going around in circles after reading Healing the Shame that Binds you, then you NEED this book! It is LOADED with pratical information and application. (If it doesn’t become required reading for therapist courses abroad I’ll be very suprised. It is fantastic! ) No..you are NOT a screw up according to Bradshaw.
The inner child was given further and more meaningful introduction by Eric Berne in his pioneering book, Transactional Analysis (T.A.). With this theory, somewhat radical in its beginning, Berne broke with psychoanalytic tradition when he deviced his theory. Prior to Berne’s theory of T.A. Freudian ego definition of, id, ego, and super-ego was widely ascribed to.
It is worth noting that T.A. does not adequately, if at all, address the reality that we not only have to heal our inner child but that we have to do so at many different levels and stages of development. I have found T.A. very significant in my own recovery but find also very useful many of the methods of John Bradshaw and many of the suggestions outlined by Cathryn L. Taylor in her Inner Child Work Book. Most of my own experience has been a bit of this and a bit of that. I think that having a broad-based eclectic approach that is not necessarily loyal to any one theory or discipline is what can be of most benefit to those who are determined to heal.
With Transactional Analysis Eric Berne “made complex interpersonal transactions understandable when he recognized that the human personality is made up of three “ego states”; each of which is an entire system of thought, feeling, and behavior from which we interact with each other. The Parent, Adult and Child ego states and the interaction between them form the foundation of transactional analysis theory. These concepts have spread into many areas of therapy, education, and consulting as practiced today.” For more information on Transactional Analysis
“I’m OK – You’re OK” is probably the best-known expression of the purpose of transactional analysis: to establish and reinforce the position that recognizes the value and worth of every person. Transactional analysts regard people as basically “OK” and thus capable of change, growth, and healthy interactions.
“Happy childhood” notwithstanding, most of us are living out the NOT OK feelings of a defenseless CHILD wholly dependent on OK others for stroking and care. By the third year of life, says Dr. Harris, most of us have made the unconscious decision I’M NOT OK-YOU’RE OK. This negative Life Position, shared by successful and unsuccessful people alike, contaminates our rational ADULT potential — leaving us vulnerable to the inappropriate, emotional reactions of our CHILD and the uncritically learned behavior programmed into our PARENT. In personal Transactions, NOT OK people resort to harmful withdrawal, rituals, activities, pastimes, and games for getting needed strokes while avoiding painful intimacy with people they see as OK. Dr. Thomas A. Harris’s pioneering work in Transactional Analysis has had a fundamental impact on our understanding of interpersonal behavior. In showing us how to make the conscious decision I’M OK-YOU’RE OK, he has helped millions of despairing people find the freedom to change, to liberate their ADULT effectiveness, and to achieve joyful intimacy with the people in their lives.
When one acknowleges and welcomes in, not only his/her inner child, but their pain and fears as well, then and and only then can one begin to understand his or her transactions (and actions) or patterns of behaviour well enough to be able to make the changes necessary to be healthier and happier. This is not easy work by any stretch of the imagination but I have yet to find much other healing work that is as rewarding as inner child work.
It is only through the reclaimation of your inner-child that you can hope to truly recover. You cannot do an end-run around this most crucial aspect of yourself. It is often the most difficult, anxiety-producing work. It is nonetheless the backbone of healing.
Ebooks & Audio Programs By A.J. Mahari
In her book, The Inner Child Workbook: What to Do With Your Past When It Just Won’t Go Away Cathryn L. Taylor, M.A., M.F.C.C., quotes Alice Miller: ‘There was something you once needed in childhood that you did not get. You will never get it and the proper response is grief.’
“To heal, one must acknowledge what was not there and then release the self from wanting it any longer.” It has been my experience that to continue to want anything that one was not even able to ever get in the first place is incredibly painful and absolutely self-defeating. It is beyond wishful thinking to the point of being not only cognitively- distorted but delusional. However, having said that, don’t be hard on yourself about it. We all do it, for as long as we need to. It is a protection against what can be (and was for me – still is to a degree) an incredible source of pain and grief. As trite as this may sound or read, here is the part where you give yourself a break. It is also the part where you think long and hard about what you do and don’t believe to be both true and and possible. Because you DO deserve to be loved. You are worthy of love. You do want to love yourself. No one wants to hurt themselves. No one wants to abuse themselves. No one wants to take the role of their past abuser(s) and re-abuse themselves. NO! This is all done as the result of not knowing yourself. It is the result of being alienated from your own inner child by the very nature and depth of the pain that you and your little one have had to endure. Instead of having your needs met you have learned that to need means to set yourself up to be hurt, betrayed, abandoned, embarrassed, made a fool of and so on. This is the past that your inner child carries and holds and continues to feel over and over again. Your inner child awaits your arrival at the doorstep of your soul where the reality of your unmet needs can meet with the authentic pain that you are truly in. It is here, and only here, at this juncture of love and understanding, within yourself, that you can change what Berne called your “life script”. You can stop following the same painful patterns that get you little “pay-off” if any and instead re-learn what it is that you need and in the learning how to meet those needs you will find out who you really are and that in and of itself is such an impetus for change.
“The Inner Child Work Book is designed as a gentle, step-by-step guide for re-parenting the inner child during the first seven stages of life: as an infant, a toddler, a young child, a grade school child, a young teen, a young adolescent, and a young adult. Using a wide range of tools to do this inner work, the reader is led to explore the issues of grief, shame, and loss at each of the seven stages.
Cathryn L. Taylor writes in her book, The inner child embodies the characteristics of the innocent part of the self.” “…what you do not master in childhood reappears in your adult lives as inappropriate responses to people, places, or things. It is these inappropriate responses that cause you discomfort. They are outgrowths of the pain and fear experienced in childhood when basic needs were not filled.
Learning what you need to learn in each childhood stage is contingent upon your needs being met.” “…Of course life does not stop because you are unable to learn and master tasks. It continues, and you survive by developing faulty ways of responding to others and to events that take place in your lives.”
In childhood these faulty behaviors are functional because they help you survive. But in adulthood, they become inappropriate. They no longer bring you what you want and need. You continue to repeat these faulty behaviors as adults, however, because you know no other way to respond. These behaviors express your fear of love, your inability to say no, your criticalness, your shame. And they result in patterns that interfere with your professions, your self-esteem, and your capacity to claim your place in the world as an adult.
Just typing out the above from Taylor’s book left with me with that sense of aching pain. The realization of how many years I’ve lost to that patterned-faulty behaviour. Even though I am not engaging in it now, there is still a tremendous amount of grief. The time I lost to it, unable to be an adult cannot be gotten back anymore than I will ever be able to get all that I so longed to have in my childhood in terms of a multitude of unmet needs that I so would have loved to have met by someone.
So, here we are, you see, in adulthood with the pain of children. It is up to each and every one of us to address this pain. If we do not we truly will never be adults. We will just be bigger and older children. The result of this is just loss compounded upon loss and the continued production of such untold grief.
I urge you, if you haven’t already, welcome home your little one today. Read the book, “I’m Okay You’re Okay”. Get a couple of the books I recommend here. Haven’t you hurt long enough? Haven’t you hurt deeply enough? Don’t you want to know joy? You do deserve to be loved, to learn how to meet your own needs and to feel joy. To get there you need to feel the pain of your inner child first. It is the most rewarding grief I have ever expressed in my life.
My hope for you, if you are reading this and have not yet found your inner child, is that you will stop now, stop running, stop hiding, and take some of the information here and begin the journey to the centre of your authentic self, it all begins with your inner child.
I was once a raging, angry and very very hurt little girl. I was so alone. Nobody ever came when I cried. I held my baby arms outstretched for so long, night after lonely, dark, scary, cold night – nobody came. My arms just hung there painfully embracing the void that nothing is. I so longed to be held, to be rocked, to be hugged, to be loved and to be soothed and comforted. Nobody came. Years went by. Nobody came. I got bigger. Still nobody came. I tried everything I could think of. I misbehaved as much as I could possibly and still no response.
On she went, not paying me any mind at all. She never could figure out why she hurt so darn much. Well, it was me. It was me screaming. It was me aching. She never could figure out why she was often so anxious and so scared so often. Well, you guessed it, that too was me. That was me, in terror. That was me in fear for my very life. That was me all alone, not knowing how to protect myself or from what or whom I needed protecting and with no one to protect me.
Alone in the dark, little girl that I am, terrified and alone with no big person, no adult to tell me I was safe or to even help me to know what it might feel like to be safe. Don’t leave your little girl or boy alone like she left me alone. It hurts too much. It ain’t fair. Please, please listen to them okay? Hear them okay? There are too many little kids like me, alone, scared, hungry, with aching empty arms and faces full of snot from crying for lifetimes.
I was sure I was going to die. Just die. Just be so scared and so terrified and so alone that I would just drop dead out of sheer lonely-exhaustion. Terrified exhaustion. Then one day, one magical day she finally hurt enough and she finally felt enough of my anxious- terror to turn to me and begin to talk to me. Oh, what a day that was! What a day that was! It was like the sun came out for the first time in my life, since it had gone in when my parents abandoned and betrayed me. Finally, I thought, finally, I was going to be rescued. After all these years of watching her try to rescue everyone else and me all the while trying to manipulate the world into rescuing her, rescuing me, she finally just crumpled up into a sobbing ball of my agony.
Oh, the release, it was so freeing. It gave me hope that I could go on living. It gave me such hope that one day I could laugh like some other kids I heard laugh before. And I was right. When she heard me and validated me I was able to laugh. She’s come and gone a bit on me over the last few years but she hasn’t ever left me totally alone. And now she’s doing so good. We get good food. I get washed and cleaned more like I always wanted to. And recently she stopped, in the middle of her panic to figure out what the cause of my distress really was. Now we are working on this together. Seems our biggest fears now have all to do with being healthy. I wish I could describe how wonderful it feels to be loved and cared about. After years of the exact opposite it’s amazing. It’s like walking out of a dark, cold tunnel after years of seeing no sun light and then just being engulfed in the softness of the warmth of that bright light. Yes overwhelming, but overwhelmingly wonderful and so comforting too. Take it from me it is never too late, nope, never too late. Us little folks will give you a break whenever you turn inside long enough to meet us. You have a little girl or boy waiting for you please don’t keep them waiting any longer. How about it?
© A.J. Mahari, July 11, 2001 – All rights reserved.