When we were children we learned about ourselves and life from the adults around us. As a child, if you lived with people who were often unhappy, frightened, guilty, or angry, you acquired a lot of negative ideas about who you are and how life ought to be.
There is a natural progression in the stages of development from childhood into adulthood.
Each stage has specific tasks that need to be mastered if we are to move successfully to the next stage.
For a wide range of reasons, most of us don't master some of these essential tasks and, as a result, a part of us stops growing. The wounded or handicapped part then becomes what is often termed the "Inner Child” figure that is trapped in that stage of growth.
For survival's sake, the growing youngster sends its delightful child spirit underground and locks it away. The qualities that gave the child its aliveness - curiosity, spontaneity, ability to feel - are forced into hiding. That Inner Child never grows up and never goes away. It remains buried alive, waiting to be set free.
As individuals, how can we expect to build a secure world atop the shaky foundation of a frightened and isolated child? One who never got its basic needs met?
When we build our identity and character atop a fragile, incomplete infrastructure, we are vulnerable to emotional distress.
Sooner or later a crisis hits - an illness, divorce, career upheaval, or financial disaster - and the structure crumbles. The adult persona cracks.
When the Inner Child is blocked, we are robbed of our natural spontaneity and zest for life.
- Over time, a blocked inner child often leads to
- Addictive behaviors
- Low energy
- Uncontrolled anger outbursts
- Unhealthy and unfulfilled relationships with self and others
- Even serious illness
As adults, we tend to recreate the emotional environment of our early home life without realizing it. We also often create personal relationships that mimic those we had with our parents. We cannot change what has happened in our past, But, we do not have to let it continue controlling us with old negative patterns like unsuccessful relationships, bad habits, and low self-esteem.
When the Inner Child is hidden away, when it is ignored and denied, we separate ourselves from feeling; we never know who we are and cannot become who we are supposed to be. Experiencing true intimacy with others becomes impossible.
To be truly human, the Inner Child must be embraced and expressed.
When we meet our Inner Child we often discover that our childhood needs were not met - needs for unconditional love, safety, trust, respect, and guidance. The absence of these basic needs often brings about chronic anxiety, fear, shame, anger, and despair in our Inner Child.
Professional healing work can gently guide people to release past pain and anger. And to nurture themselves with a change of attitude toward the past.
Healing the Inner Child enables us to create the changes desired in our lives. By altering our belief systems we can learn to nurture and re-parent ourselves, in essence rebuilding that shaky foundation.
The choice of healing can be simple and positive if we truly want more out of life. Healing work, combined with release, acceptance, and forgiveness, allows each of us to
- Understand who we are with clearer insight, and
- Generate a new sense of awareness about who we are.
Self-acceptance helps us to become our own best friend and creates a mindset that anything is possible.
Most of us believe that changes outside of ourselves, the behavior of our lovers, parents, bosses, sibling(s), children, or friends, would allow us to be happy. The reality is, of course, that we must change ourselves and our beliefs.
Through guided visualizations and other techniques that focus on the emotions experienced and repressed in childhood (e.g. fear, guilt, shame, pain, anger), we can initiate an emotional catharsis, releasing the rage and resentment that has been carried for a lifetime. The purpose is to eliminate vicious self-sabotaging emotional patterns of behavior so that we can more fully be ourselves, love ourselves and others, and live in the present instead of the past.
To survive in our world, we have all denied the Inner Child to one degree or another. It is virtually impossible to grow up in this era of addictions, crime, wars, and threat of environmental devastation, without our Inner Child going "underground". The outside world was simply not safe enough for that sensitive, vulnerable part of ourselves.
Yet, the Inner Child is at the core of our being. As our feeling self, it brings us enthusiasm and energy. To become whole, happy adults, we must bring the Inner Child back into our lives in some way, thereby healing it, and ourselves. A healthy, happy, vital life depends on an acceptance and forgiveness process that releases our beliefs about ourselves and our world.
Gail Petrowsky is a holistic counselor and professional seminar leader who is internationally certified as an Ericksonian therapist. She is also a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
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