We are all adults, living in an adult world. But how many of us are in the actual sense ‘adults’? Majority of us just grow old but psychologically speaking, this is not adulthood. True adulthood hinges on acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for loving and parenting one’s own inner child. For most adults, this never happens. Instead, their inner child lives a life of denial, neglect, abandonment or rejection. They spend their whole lives, seeing the reality through the eyes of the child inside them, the child that is wounded, hurt, frightened, frozen and or angry.
How many of us can boast of having a child inside us that is happy, exuberant and full of excitement and curiosity. It is in the depths of our deep pain and suffering, that this wounded child has hid himself. The inner child is not seen, but he colors all our dealings and behaviours. We dont want to see that child in us. We keep up happy pretentions, but the pain of that child stays with us always. We want to avoid, deny, repress, ignore, distract, dissociate or simply repress it. We dont want to face it. We are afraid of the pain as we feel ourselves incapable of handling our suffering.
It is the trauma that leads to shock and/or confusion, further to denial; how could my care givers do this? But when the same trauma happens again and again, it is validated and a decision is formed (which is necessary for survival). Trauma doesnt have to be a major one. It can be as trivial (to the eyes of adult) as the mother/caregiver did not come when the child was hungry and was crying for food. The decision, ‘nobody cares for me’. Or when the teacher calls the parent to discuss something and they don’t discuss it in front of the child. The child being egocentric assumes that it is something related to him only. The decision; ‘they don’t trust me’. In the NOW time, whenever something similar happens to trigger this encapsulated energy, the past literally collapses onto the present. We then reach to the trauma as if it is happening right now.
The primary motivation of a human is to survive. Bonding with mother is the most primal connection at birth. Trauma happens late when the mother is busy and has day to day life. Then the baby might feel rejected or abandoned. All the children are egocentric, because it aids their survival. We also learn very early to adapt to our parents. We try to meet the needs of our parents. These decisions are made in the womb or pre-birth. Now, the child is coping with parents’ needs, family dysfunction and its own trauma. How is it possible that the child lives in harmony? The only way to seek harmony is to distort oneself.
These distortions are the defense mechanisms which we have learnt to survive and to protect ourselves from pain and suffering.
How do I again be the ‘divine child’ and discard all the lies, all the masks and discover the authentic, ‘real self’ of my being.
It is the journey of transformation of ‘the wounded child’ to a ‘Divine Child’, that is our aim.
Some of the things that I have seen when we remain unconscious of the pain of the child in us, are: co-dependency, trust issues, self criticism, anxiety, fear, difficulties with intimacy, depression, low self-esteem, irritation (because of suppressed anger), excessive need of approval or attention. Many leading authors like John Bradshaw, Erika Chopnich, Margaret Paul and Charles Whitfield have written about the importance of building a relationship with the inner child. 12 step program also mentions it.
John Bradshaw, in his famous book, ‘Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing your Inner Child’, writes about the process of healing your wounded inner child is one of grief, and it involves these six steps(paraphrased from Bradshaw):
1. Trust: For your wounded inner child to come out of hiding, he must be able to trust that you will be there for him. Your inner child also needs a supportive, non-shaming ally to validate his abandonment, neglect, abuse, and enmeshment. Those are the first essential elements in original pain work.
2. Validation:If you’re still inclined to minimize and/or rationalize the ways in which you were shamed, ignored, or used to nurture your parents, you need now to accept the fact that these things truly wounded your soul. Your parents weren’t bad, they were just wounded kids themselves.
3. Shock and Anger:If this is all shocking to you, that’s great, because shock is the beginning of grief. It’s okay to be angry, even if what was done to you was unintentional. In fact, you have to be angry if you want to heal your wounded inner child. I don’t mean you need to scream and holler (although you might). It’s just okay to be mad about a dirty deal.
4. Sadness:After anger comes hurt and sadness. If we were victimized, we must grieve that betrayal. We must also grieve what might’ve been–our dreams and aspirations. We must grieve our unfulfilled developmental needs.
5. Remorse: When we grieve for someone who’s died, remorse is sometimes more relevant; for instance, perhaps we wish we’d spent more time with the deceased person. But in grieving childhood abandonment, you must help your wounded inner child see that there was nothing he could’ve done differently. His pain is about what happened to him; it’s about him.
6. Loneliness:The deepest core feelings of grief are toxic shame and loneliness. We were shamed by [our parents] abandoning us. We feel we are bad, as if we’re contaminated, and that shame leads to loneliness. Since our inner child feels flawed and defective, he has to cover up his true self with his adapted, false self. He then comes to identify himself by his false self. His true self remains alone and isolated.
“The child wants simple things. It wants to be listened to. It wants to be loved……it may not even know the words, but it wants its rights protected and its self respect unviolated. It needs you to be there.” Ron Kutrz
“We need to take responsibility without taking the blame. We need to own and honor the feelings without being a victim of them.
We need to rescue and nurture and Love our inner children and STOP them from controlling our lives. STOP them from driving the bus! Children are not supposed to drive, they are not supposed to be in control.
And they are not supposed to be abused and abandoned. we have been doing it backwards. We abandoned and abused our inner children. Locked them in a dark place within us.
We need to be the loving parent who can hear the child’s voice within us.
We need to learn to be nurturing and Loving to the wounded parts of us.