Posted by Andrea Anstiss, Wednesday 27th March, 2013
Are you able to do all of this without the added fuel of alcohol, drugs, co-dependency and without feelings of shame. If you answered “yes” to these questions, it seems like you have an easy and healthy relationship with your inner child. Most of us, though, have work to do in this area. Perhaps you have been in recovery in a 12 step program for some time and yet still have the feeling that something is missing. Whatever you are experiencing now that is opening you to questioning, that little child within was inevitably shut down at some point between floating in utero and reaching 18. The good news is that little child or teenager, frozen in time, is still there, ever waiting, for our return.
The narrative of what happened to cause our little child to be frightened, perhaps fight, flee and ultimately freeze is important material. We might develop an understanding in conversation with our patient friends, and in coaching and therapy sessions. Some of us choose to do just that and others choose to pretend their childhood was perfect. A denial of our childhood, sometimes to protect our caretakers, ignores the inner child’s reality and we end up living a façade, usually involving several addictions. Denial invariably has huge consequences for our body and our health.
Telling the story of our hurt child is essential – a key step in recovering the spontaneous child within. Going beyond denial and later beyond the narrative and also beyond blame, into our messy, chaotic and beautiful feelings, is where the treasure lies. Giving space to allow this little child to be really heard without judgment, to express what was not safe to express back then is the ultimate work in world peace. Bob Hoffman, pioneer of the Hoffman Process believed in creating world peace, one person at a time.
Understandably, some people are reluctant to embark upon this journey. To allow space to really see and hear this little girl or boy, we need to go into and through the tsunami of feelings and denial systems. In this work we come face to face with the feelings we have been trying desperately to avoid and excuse all our lives. Some people would prefer to remain in their pain, hurt, vindictiveness and addictions,” thank you very much!” This must be respected. Yet adult life often gives us a few shoves! The shove is a version of, ”You need to dig deeper girl, because if not, this marriage will be over, or this illness will worsen, or you will lose your job, or you will damage your own kids or you will lose your mind.” The permutations and variations of the scenarios that life seems to dish out, are an invitation for us to reconnect with our child within, and until we do those dramas continue to play out.
Freud and his colleagues told us that the goings on in our childhood affected our adult life. How much our childhood woundings actually impacted us may seem vague and terribly intellectual. Now we know better. The bottom line is the experiences in our childhood design our adult life, our relationships, our intimacy or lack thereof. The patterns we took on from our particular family “soup” are acted out or rebelled against and reverberate through all factions of our life, until we wake up to what we are repeating. We must go back to that original blueprint and the feelings which are still stored in our body. By allowing a place for them in our being and finding healthy ways to express these feelings we can restore the flow, joy and wonder to our life. This includes creating space for the shadow aspects, the hidden corners of shame, hatred and vindictiveness, and grieving our losses.
David Richo writes about the essential 5 A’s which beautifully describe the essence of love: attention, affection, allowing, appreciation and acceptance. It is the best definition I have ever come across for love. No matter how attentive your parents were it is actually impossible to meet all the needs of a little child. There were times, even if you had a ‘super mummy’, that you did not receive the “A’s” in the ideal amounts. Now, as an adult it is your task, to do what they could not do fully; to grieve those early losses and shower yourself with an abundance of the 5 A’s. This is the job known as re-parenting and it is your job, not the job of your spouse, your friends and certainly not your children.
Re-parenting includes challenging all your family rules, such as,” don’t feel, stay silent, keep secrets and be perfect.” You are invited to investigate all the mistaken conclusions you made, about who you think you are, based on your childhood experiences. There are many creative ways to do this and you may need some guidance. This work restores self worth, integrity and most essentially the thrill of being alive.
Discovering and recovering the child within is a journey, often circular, never straight. And how long will it take is a question my clients and workshop participants often ask, with good reason. Perhaps somewhere between a couple of hours and a lifetime! For me, I began this journey at age 18 and after a life time of phenomenal inner and outer adventures, at 51 I am still constantly surprised and rewarded by the depth of this work. This is also true for many of my colleagues, clients and students.
Our child within connects us with our creativity, our present moment awareness , our completeness, interconnectedness and our heart. Who doesn’t want that? So whatever time we invest in recovering our inner child and integrating her with the rest of the cast of characters that make up our complexity, is the best investment you can ever make. The irony is that as you do this work you also come to know that who you are can never be defined only by your history. We are all much more majestic than the definitions from our past. And yet we cannot skip or trample over our inner child if we truly want to know wholeness.
© 2013 Andrea Anstiss