What is Your Inner Child?
In her exploration of archetypes, Caroline Myss would say that everyone has some version of the child as one of their four primary archetypes. Whether this child manifests as a wounded child, magical child, orphaned child, etc., depends on our life experiences, the trauma we experience, and the worldview and values we inherit from our family. Regardless of the version of the child that we connect with, working with our child can profoundly affect how we operate as adults.
Many of the beliefs, values, worldviews, and ideas about who we are and how the world works were imprinted before we developed discernment and reasoning. Imagine for a moment that you are six years old twirling around the living room. With each rotation, you get dizzier and dizzier. You think this is so much fun. After twirling until you can no longer stay on your feet, you crash into your mother’s favorite vase, and it shatters. When your mom comes home from work sometime later to see the remnants of her family heirloom on the floor, she unleashes on you. “What did you do?” “I can’t trust you with anything?” “I can’t believe how careless you are!” and on and on.
Now, if you were a bit older, you might be able to see that your mother is upset about the vase, but she doesn’t mean the words she is saying to you. You might even realize that her job right now is stressful, and she is concerned about an upcoming deadline. However, your six-year-old brain is not equipped for such cognitive reasoning. And the only thing you are left with is the imprint on your psyche that tells you that you can’t do anything right. That belief will be with you until it is uncovered and challenged.
You see, the inner child represents all that is beautiful, wondrous, light, and playful. She also represents the imprints of values, worldview, beliefs, traumas that were consciously or unconsciously imparted to us from our family. Everything you were taught becomes your way of understanding until we challenge and explore what is ours to own.
What Are Your Beliefs?
Let’s think for a moment about our thoughts around love, particularly self-love. Through years of positive and negative reinforcement, we were shown who we needed to be and how we needed to act to receive love and attention. Of course, most parents would say we love our children unconditionally, and for the most part, that would be true. However, every time we were praised for our good grades or scolded for our lousy test scores, we learned what was acceptable and what wasn’t. While the love was unconditional, the expression was not.
Ask yourself, how do you define success? Achievement? How do you deal with failure? Growing up, I was often told I could do better. “92% is good, but what about the other 8%?” This type of thinking didn’t propel me to achieve greater and greater results as a child. It made me retreat from many things because I felt the pressure was just too great. So if I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail. This thinking is something I have had to unlearn as I got older.
It is important to mention though, I don’t want to look at my wounds through the lens of blame or guilt. I heard a quote the other day, “To love is to wound.” Any time we are intimate or authentic with someone, we run the risk of wounding. That’s just the nature of this gig as humans. Most parents do the best they can with what they have. So it doesn’t serve us to blame our parents for our shortcomings, but it does help us to understand the impact that those formative relationships have on who we are today.
So our inner child is a culmination of all of our unmet needs, desires, experiences, and emotions that, until we look at them, until we challenge them, will continue to linger in our subconscious and impact our behavior as adults.
This inner child guided meditation is part of a weekly Living Light Meditation gathering in the Chaos & Light Community. You can find the script here.
The Divine Child
According to Carl Jung, the divine child archetype represented the self with the power to transcend the darkest moments on our path to individuation. The divine child represents the original self before the world left its imprint on us. A time when our capacity to experience lightness, play, wonder, and innocence were untouched by life’s lessons and unburdened by other’s limitations.
He described this state as the union of the opposites. We are holding the conscious and the unconscious in unity. Wholeness is only achievable by the creative tension of opposing natures. This unity within duality, co-substantiates one another and, in doing this, gives the child the capacity for significant spiritual change and integration. Remember, this is a state before shadow plays a role. There is no shame, no expectations, no socialization so there is only unity and wholeness.
When the child is wounded and enculturated, she fragments, and unity is not achieved. This is why inner child work is so powerful. It restores our capacity for human potential. Our greatness lies in our imagination, creativity, our ability to love without condition. When we find peace for our inner child, we activate our true human potential by bringing into creative tension the masculine/feminine, intuitive/rational, dark, and light. We find unity within the dualities. We reconcile and find peace within our imperfections.
You open the gates of the soul to let the dark flood of chaos flow into your order and meaning. If you marry the ordered to the chaos you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness. ~ C.G Jung
Inner Child Work
There are many ways to work with our inner child besides meditation and therapy. However, if any of this feels like more than you can handle, please seek the help of a counselor or therapist.
1. Dialogue writing can be a powerful means to hearing your child’s unmet needs. Dialogue writing is asking your child a question and then letting your child give a response. In this style, there is always a questioner and a responder.
2. Writing an unsent letter is another tool. You can write a letter to your child or have your child write one to you. Or your inner child could write a letter to a parent or guardian without the intention of sending it. This allows for a free flow of ideas and very often can help you take care of unfinished business with people or situations that may no longer be part of your life. It can be a great tool to gain awareness and for the purpose of surrendering and releasing things that no longer serve you.
3. Re-writing your story. We continually re-tell stories about who we are; they are both true and untrue. The story we tell ourselves about our childhood can be said in a variety of different ways. Everytime we retell the story, we give it unnecessary energy and keep ourselves stuck.
So first, write down the story you tell people about your childhood. Write down the main themes. Think about who the main characters are in the story. For example, is there a hero, villain, victim, knight, or princess waiting to be rescued? What are the phrases you use over and over to describe your upbringing? Once you have completed this process, look at how those experiences or themes actually had your gifts and strengths embedded within them. Then, re-write that story from a different perspective.
For example, in my story, I was the family’s black sheep who never really fit in – this is both true and not true. I can continue to hold on to that version, but as I grow and understand parenthood more, I realize that my upbringing left me with many strengths. I now draw upon them in my teaching and client work. I know that not feeling like I fit in helped me to understand what motivates people. It helps me to understand things from many different points of view. Those things I once viewed as challenges, I now see as gifts.
Inner child work is an essential part of our personal evolution. Many of the challenges we face due to false core beliefs, unresolved trauma, and pain were developed in childhood. Taking time to reconnect with our inner child can uncover when and how those challenges were formed and what is required for their healing. It can be dark heavy work, but also truly rewarding because once we hold all of ourselves in unity, we have the opportunity to tap into our true human potential.