"And what is very important - and the biggest difference between the techniques that I have developed and teach from so many others - is to build a Loving ongoing relationship with those wounded parts of us. Inner child healing is not something that we do and then move on with our lives. Our wounded inner children are going to be with us for the rest of our lives."This page is an article about different inner children and archetypes that need boundaries set for them by the adult in recovery.
"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."
"The feeling of wanting to die, of not wanting to be here, is the most overwhelming, most familiar feeling in my emotional inner landscape. Until I started doing my inner child healing I believed that who I really was at the deepest, truest part of my being, was that person who wanted to die. I thought that was the true 'me'. Now I know that is just a small part of me."
"An unfortunate consequence of life in an emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional society, that is based on beliefs that deny men the full range of their emotional being, is that the great majority of men are emotionally immature in their relationships, not only to women, but also to other men. Most men - in terms of how they view and relate to females - are stuck in a horny teenager place that I call: the "Horndog" [a previously uncharted archetype that Jung missed. ;-)]"
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The Inner Children that need Boundaries
As long as we are judging and shaming ourselves we are giving power to the disease. We are feeding the monster that is devouring us.
The above passage from my book is one that I really like. It says a great deal in just a few words. It speaks to the balance that is the goal of the healing process. Take responsibility for my side of the street without blaming - me or anyone else. Feel my feelings without letting them run my life. Learn to have Love and compassion for the child that I was, at the same time I take control of my inner process in a Loving way by not continuing to give power over how I live today to my past emotional wounds.
The part of us that wants instant gratification - "I WANT WHAT I WANT AND I WANT IT NOW!" (often closely allied/associated with the addict, the rebel, and/or the angry teenager.)
As a young child we had no discernment or perspective (the part of the brain that governs these things does not develop until around 7 - the "Age of Reason"). A small child has no concept of time (go for a long ride with a 5 or 6 year old and count how many times the little person asks "Are we there yet?") or of consequences in any type of logical way, and will eat lots of candy over and over again. A small child can be beaten (physically and/or emotionally) enough to make them react out of fear of taking action but that is not the same as logically thinking if I eat a lot of candy I will get sick - they are not capable of having this type of intellectual perspective on delayed gratification. (Just like a puppy can be abused to the point it cowers in fear, so too do many of us have a cowering little child inside of us whose spirit was broken with the "rod" to make us behave.)
This part of us that desires instant gratification is often the component of our being that we let take charge when we have been doing the Codependent 3 step of Shame, Suffering and Self-Abuse (Victim, Perpetrator, Rescuer cycle.) That is when we are judging and shaming our self (being our own perpetrator by giving power to the Critical Parent/disease voice) until we feel very victimized and are suffering so much that we rescue ourselves by nurturing ourselves out of the old instant gratification ways we learned to go unconscious (alcohol, food, sex, fantasy, etc.)
It is important to remember that young children are completely in the moment and feel things very BIG - it feels like life and death to that little kid to get the candy or the toy or whatever. But 10 minutes later the child can be very happy doing something different - rather they got the toy or not. The energy behind/power of/"big"ness of the feeling does not equal the importance of it in the reality of our adult life this moment, today - but if we are not able to be objective about our feelings we cannot discern that this is a child's feeling, and react to it as if it were our reality. (This is about the contrast between the "emotional truth" that we are reacting out of, and the emotional energy of Truth which is our intuition speaking to us - web page Truth vs emotional truth.)
Almost the opposite extreme from the indulgent King/Queen Baby is the young child component in the person who never got to be a child - who had to be an adult from early age (I have had clients who were cleaning the house and cooking the family breakfast as early as 4 years old - mind boggling!) Very serious, over responsible, controlling, with a very black and white/right and wrong perspective of life - this child has no idea how to relax and enjoy life - fun, playful, and frivolous are foreign concepts and shameful notions.
This is a child who has to be taught how to play, and talked through letting go of the seriousness. The cowering, very wounded (inside emotionally - on the outside they usually look great, very good at keeping up appearances) child who got the message that he/she is only worthy and lovable by taking care of everyone else has a very hard time relaxing.
The type of message she/he needs to hear from the adult within would go something like this: "It's Ok honey. You don't have to be working or producing all of the time. It is important for you to play also. You are Unconditionally Loved no matter what you are doing. I Love you and am here to take care of the adult stuff. You are a kid - it is your job is to play and have fun. I am very proud of you for all you have done but now is the time to 'be' not 'do.' Just feel the sunshine on your face and breathe. Run and yell and swing on the swings. You are beautiful and perfect just as you are, and I Love you very much."
A good thing for this child to do is skip. I find it is very hard to be serious and skip at the same time. Being silly is very good for us. One of the closing prayers for my inner child healing/grief groups is to do the "Hokey Pokey" - which is a silly dance that many American children learned when little. (I don't know if they do the Hokey Pokey in other parts of the world - maybe some of you can let me know. The point is to do something silly and pointless that helps us to not take ourselves so seriously.)
Many of us swing from indulging in instant gratification to mercilessly beating ourselves up out of the right and wrong belief system. Most all of us have some aspect of the serious child wound because of being raised in societies that define success and worth by doing and achieving. It may not be evident in our lives because many of us reacted to this programming by going to the opposite extreme of seeming to be irresponsible and a "failure" in society's/our parent's eyes. The reason we reacted in that way was because we didn't think we were good enough to achieve/live up to the expectations. At some point in my late teens I decided that I could never be "perfect" in the way I was supposed to be - so I might as well go to the other extreme."We may never be a success according to our parents or societies dysfunctional definition of success - but that is because our heart and soul do not resonate with those definitions, so that kind of success would be a betrayal of ourselves. We need to consciously change our definitions so that we can stop judging ourselves against someone else's screwed up value system." - Article Learning to Love our self
The core issue to be worked on with this part of us (all of the parts of us for that matter) that was wounded by a society that is based on dysfunctional belief system that says we have to earn love, respect, and worth by producing/being human doings - is opening to receive. We all have a part of us that doesn't feel worthy to receive. Our worth is not dependent upon anything that we do or how we look or how much money we have, etc. - we have worth because we are Spiritual Beings having a human experience - we are part of the ONENESS that is the God-Force/Goddess Energy/Great Spirit - We are children of The Holy Mother Source Energy. This is where Positive affirmations about our inherent worth and value are very important.
Wonderful, strong part of us that has helped us to survive - and needs to be honored and praised for that - but can get us in trouble because he/she wants to rebel against any advice or direction including good/healthy feedback, and can be very stubborn. Often is the source of "I'll show you, I'll get me" behavior.
It is very important to learn to set boundaries with the rebel within in order to learn how to surrender/let go/accept the Divine Plan for our lives. The faster that I have been able to learn to let go of my will/my picture of how things "should be" - and surrender to accepting the Universe's plan the more I get to follow the carrots/the messages and avoid the stick.
The way I think of it is that my Higher Power works with the carrot and stick approach: like a mule driver trying to get a mule moving, he can either dangle a carrot in front of the mule and get the mule moving after the carrot, or he can take a stick and beat him until he gets moving.
It is a lot easier on me to follow the carrots that my Higher Power dangles in front of me than to force the Universe to use a stick to get me moving. Either way I am going to get to where the Universe wants me - but the carrot method is a lot easier on me.
The more that I do my healing, the clearer I get on receiving the messages - the more I get to follow the carrots instead of experiencing the stick. The dance of Recovery is a process of starting to Love ourselves enough to start changing life into an easier, more enjoyable experience.
On the other extreme are people with a fear of owning their own anger who shut down to the rebel within and then have a very difficult time setting boundaries so they end up being a doormat. These people need to own and empower the rebel within to help them stand up for themselves. This, of course, is tied in with believing that we are worthy of protection - which means we need to have compassion for that child that we were and stop blaming everything on ourselves/being the victim of our childhood wounds.
Idealistic, dreamer, lover, creative part of us that is a wonderful asset when kept in balance - can lead to disastrous consequences when allowed to be in control of choices. Not good on taking responsible action would rather day dream about fairy tales and fantasies than deal with reality/grow up.
We often swing between:Letting the romantic be in control - in which case the romantic wants the fairy tale so badly that he/she inevitably ignores all the red flags and warning signals that tell us very clearly that this is not the "right" person to cast in the part of the prince or princess;andShutting down completely to this part of us because of the broken hearts we have experienced - throwing the romantic within into a dark dungeon inside and locking the door for years at a time. This often causes to become cynical, lose are ability to dream, give so much power to the fear of making of a "mistake" that we can lose the ability to risk opening up to the Joy of being Alive in the moment.It is very important to find some balance with this part of ourselves in order to have any chance of success in a Romantic Relationship. The romantic is a wonderful part of us that can help our Spirits to dance and sing and soar. If we do not trust ourselves to be able to set boundaries for the romantic part of ourselves we can often sabotage relationships by being controlling and/or running away out of our fear of being hurt.
Desperately needy, clingy, wants to be rescued and taken care of, doesn't want to set boundaries for fear of being abandoned - very important to own, nurture, and Love this part of ourselves because relating to this part of our self out of either extreme can be disastrous.
Allowing this desperate neediness to come out in our adult relationships can drive someone away pretty fast - no one outside of us can meet the desperate needs of this child. We can love this part out of the Loving compassionate adult in us and keep those needs from surfacing at inappropriate times by owning how wounded this part of us is and taking steps to validate and nurture this inner child.
Not owning that part of us can be just as damaging - being terrified of letting ourselves feel the woundedness and neediness of this part of our self can cause us to shut down our ability to be vulnerable and open to emotional intimacy. If we cannot own how deprived we were emotionally as children and instead try to keep this part of us shut away we cannot Truly open our heart and be vulnerable as an adult. People who tend to be counterdependent and can't stand being around needy people are terrified of the needy part of themselves - and because of that will keep picking emotionally unavailable people to be in relationship with, or will run away if someone is emotionally available because it will feel like neediness to them.
When this emotional deprivation is associated with a teenager within us it can cause us to act out sexually to try to get this emotional neediness met. The fact that we have in the past acted out sexually in ways that we are ashamed of - or found ourselves very needy, vulnerable, and powerless to suppress the emotional neediness in sexually intimate relationships - can cause us to shut down to our sensuality and sexuality out of fear the loss of control we experienced in the past.
Emotional place within us that feels like an bottomless abyss of pain and suffering. The place within us where we just want to die. Has never felt lovable or worthy, full of shame and pain. Very often the driving force behind addictions, eating disorders, obsessive/compulsive behaviors in reaction to terror of relaxing - because stopping long enough to be present in own skin causes the abyss to open up. The "they shoot horses don't they" suffering victim within. This part of us really needs Love from the adult in us."Recovery from Codependence is a process of owning all of the fractured parts of our selves so that we can find some wholeness - so that we can bring about an integrated and balanced union, a marriage if you will, of all the parts of our internal self. . . . .
The feeling of wanting to die, of not wanting to be here, is the most overwhelming, most familiar feeling in my emotional inner landscape. Until I started doing my inner child healing I believed that who I really was at the deepest, truest part of my being, was that person who wanted to die. I thought that was the true 'me'. Now I know that is just a small part of me. When that feeling comes over me now I can say to that seven year old, "I am really sorry you feel that way Robbie. You had very good reason to feel that way. But that was a long time ago and things are different now. I am here to protect you now and I Love you very much. We are happy to be alive now and we are going to feel Joy today, so you can relax and this adult will deal with life."" - Column Union Within
The child who has ego-strength on the outside but very little real self-esteem so sets self up to be criticized. Quite often seen in men who may be successful in business world but don't feel deserving so set up their mates to be nagging, scolding mother trying to get them to straighten up. These men have a lot of anger at their mothers that they have never been able to own but think that they love women - they have very little capacity to receive love and have to sabotage it when they do. Can feel very justified in leaving long term marriage for "trophy wife" because wife is such a "nag."
The magical thinking child believes in fairy tales and is often closely allied with the romantic within. This child can also give power to magical thinking in negative terms - such as, I am really happy but if I tell anyone I am happy it will be taken away. Or as I talk about in my article The story of Joy to You & Me - I thought on some level that if I washed my car it would break down. This is not the thinking of an adult - yet many adults, if they would look underneath some of their reactions and attitudes, would find the magical thinking child behind them.
Magical Thinking Child
The following is an example of setting a boundary with the magical thinking child. This example came up last year when I was answering an e-mail from someone who wanted to know "how to" set boundaries with inner children - that is, what it looks like, the ABC's of the process."There are several facets to setting boundaries with our inner children. One is that we need to gently explain to the magical thinking child within that Fairy Tales do not come true - that is we are not going to get to happily ever-after in this lifetime on this plane. We may meet our prince or princess - but they are going to be wounded souls who need to work on their issues also. . . . . .
I just took a break from writing this to go to the post office to mail a book and tape set to England - and as I was walking to the post office a perfect example of what I am talking about occurred within me. (This is the kind of miracles that I get on a daily basis - "the ask and ye shall receive" kind - I am thinking of the best way to answer and by paying attention I was given an example.)
As I was writing this response to your questions, I got a hit/idea/inspiration that I should post a web page with the questions that I get by e-mail and answers I send back. As you mention, it can really help sometimes to be concrete and explicit. So, as I am walking to the post office I am thinking about doing such a web page and the following interaction takes place within me (in my inner reality these are fleeting thoughts rather than a formal conversation.)ego/critical parent: 'Your giving away all of this information for free and meanwhile you can't even pay your rent. That is pretty stupid.'So, I set a boundary with the critical parent by not buying into the criticism, I set a boundary with my inner child by not building up expectations of some kind of reward, and I remind myself to focus on the half of the glass that is full (my needs that have been met) and be grateful for the gifts I have been given - not the half that is empty (my wants that have not been met.)
Romantic (believes in fairy tales) inner child: 'Oh, but we're going to be rewarded. All kinds of good things are going to happen - including getting a lot of money.'
Adult on Spiritual Path: 'Now, settle down you two. In the first place, it is very important and wonderful to give away what I have been given - that is how to keep the energy flowing - and that is what works, it is what I need to do for me/us. And I am going to do it because it feels good, it feels right - like the next thing in front of me to do. We'll worry about the rent when it is time to pay the rent - for today, for this moment, we will do what feels right for today. And I need to tell you, that our reward may just be to feel good about what we're doing - and if that is all there is, that is still a wonderful gift. On top of that we are getting positive feedback from all over - and that is a great bonus. There may never be a lot of money but that is not important. There is enough money for today. And we are very blessed to have something to do today that is fulfilling and makes us happy.'
I have peace and serenity when I can accept reality as it is and focus on what action I can take to change what needs to be changed. That means I need to accept that I can be happy and fulfilled even if I never have any money, never get any more of my books published, never have another romantic relationship, etc. I need to let go of my picture of how I want things to be and focus on what action I can take today that:1. feels good/right;The Truth of the reward thing is that I have no way of knowing if I am creating "good" (feels like reward when it comes back) Karma or settling old "bad" (feels like punishment) Karma - so I cannot know what is coming, I just know that I believe it is all going to be all right in the end and I will get to go home when I am through with this often very painful boarding school.
2. that feels like a kind thing to do for myself (could be doing the dishes or cleaning house - inner children rarely want to do house work - of course if house work is one of your coping mechanisms then for you doing something frivolous and silly might be in order);
3. that is about planting some seeds (going to the library to get a book, posting a new web page, checking for local 12 step meetings, etc.) that maybe will help to meet my wants.
There is always going to be more work, more healing to do - but the magical thinking child wants to believe in magical fairy tales (we're going to win the lottery) - this does not in any way preclude believing in magical miracles. We need to know that there are miracles and magic so we can be open to them (we could win the lottery) but not just sit around expecting (planning on eating on your lottery winnings tomorrow is not a good strategy) them to rescue us and takes us to happily ever after. We need to take some action/do our part (buy a ticket - just one - and though this can be applied literally to the lottery I am really using it here figuratively speaking) - we are co-creators here. And even if we win the lottery it is just going to present us with some more lessons - not bring us happily ever after." - Question & Answer page 1 from Joy to You & Me Web Site
If you have read my other writings on inner child healing you will know that I have found it useful to try to figure out what age of the child is connected to the reaction we are feeling. Sometimes these ages are literal ages connected to a specific event in our childhood - sometimes they are symbolic designators of a certain type of wound. This child wound designator is about anger. We, of course, experienced anger throughout our childhood (even if we had no permission to own it and so were in denial of it.) In my observation there are usually two different ages of the child carrying the bulk of our anger - a teenager and a younger child, usually around 5 or 6. That doesn't mean those were the only times we were angry - it is a way of identifying different types of anger energy. A teenager's anger is different from a 5 year olds, so it is important to be able to discern between the different ages as we are building a relationship with those parts of us.
The whole point of doing this work is so that we can identify and build a Loving relationship with those parts of our psyche that are carrying the energy that needs to be healed and released. We are doing that to take the power away from our wounds so that our past emotional wounds and old programming are not dictating our life today. There is no right and wrong way to do this work - what is important is to make an effort to take Loving control over our own inner process so that we can stop being the victim of the past.
These are some ways that anger is carried and manifested.
Sometimes this anger is very obvious from a persons demeanor - they exhibit their bitterness and resentment on the surface because they are letting this child run the show. They are full of rage and resentment and tend to strike out (verbally and/or physically), break things or hurt people (verbally and/or physically), exhibit road rage and/or indulge in self-righteous vendettas. With this type of display - as with all of the other types - there is a lot of shame and pain underneath the anger. The key to diffusing the anger of this child is to own the pain underneath the anger. Many men find this very difficult because of lack of permission to feel any feelings except anger. Some women find this difficult because they do not feel safe being vulnerable.
Sometimes it is very hidden because the person doesn't let anyone close enough to them to provoke the anger out of fear of overreacting and shame about past overreactions. They feel as if there is something wrong with them and that they are carrying a shameful secret. They may be very cordial and friendly on the outside but are really hermits because of their fear of their anger and the pain underneath. This is where I came from for much of my life out of my counterdependency patterns which were in reaction to my fear of my own pain and neediness.
It is difficult for the counterdependent who is terrified and ashamed of being vulnerable and needy because they have a hard time feeling safe enough to own the pain with another person. In order to alleviate the shame it is very important in the healing process to be able to open up to, and be vulnerable with, at least one other being who will not react from judgment. This is vitally important element in the fifth step of the twelve step program.
It is often very hard to let go of the anger because it has been the shield that has protected the younger, more vulnerable child places within us. We need to own our legitimate anger and to diffuse the anger we are carrying in reaction to our own pain and shame.
Besides all of the ways we are set up to have unhealthy relationships with our self by the dysfunctional cultures and role models we grew up with - we are also set up by our genetic species programming. The survival programming that may have been necessary in the days of the early Homo Sapiens cavemen can really get in the way of healthy relationships today.
In order for the human race to survive in a hostile environment where living past the age of 30 was considered quite old, it was necessary to propagate the race as quickly as possible. One of Mother Natures ways of ensuring that this would happen was to give teenage males of the species a very strong sex drive that was aroused by the female body - most any female body - rather than to primarily seek strong emotional attachment to one female. This was because of the high mortality rate - both through death in childbirth of females and death through various means of the men - that caused a need to take on new and/or additional mates very soon to insure survival. It was necessary that the men be willing to copulate with (and thus also agree to protect and provide for) whomever needed a mate.
Women, on the other hand, in order to try to ensure protection and sustenance for themselves and their children during the vulnerable times of pregnancy and after childbirth were programmed to desire to bond with one man to produce children and then to protect and provide for her and her children. Women were capable of, and did, hunt and provide protection for the clan during the times that they were not physically vulnerable due to pregnancy, childbirth, and early child rearing - it was during those months of vulnerability in a harsh environment that women needed a protector and provider.
This genetic programming, that is thousands of years out of date and unnecessary, is now a source of conflict and misunderstanding between the genders. This is exacerbated by a couple of other factors.
1. Teenagers as a subculture in society have not even existed until recently. Until only a generation or two ago teenagers of 13, 14, and 15 were married and on their own as young adults. The addition of the teenage years to the period of childhood rather than adulthood is a very recent phenomena in society. These years of raging hormones (and resultant emotional volatility) with no acceptable outlet has added new emotional trauma to the process of growing up.
2. An unfortunate consequence of life in an emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional society, that is based on beliefs that deny men the full range of their emotional being, is that the great majority of men are emotionally immature in their relationships, not only to women, but also to other men. Most men - in terms of how they view and relate to females - are stuck in a horny teenager place that I call: the "Horndog" [a previously uncharted archetype that Jung missed. ;-)]
It is very important for men to start being able to set boundaries with the "horndog", with the horny teenager inside them. In order to have a chance for healthy relationship and emotional intimacy it is vital to stop letting the horny teenager be in control of our choices in romantic relationships (this is just as true for same sex relationships as heterosexual ones) or influence how we relate with women in general. This horny teenager within is not bad or wrong or shameful - it is a normal, natural result of growing up in the dysfunctional societies we grew up in. What is dysfunctional, and can sometimes lead to behavior to be ashamed of, is to allow that male animal lust to run the show. In order to be a mature, adult - a Real Man - it is vital to be conscious and emotionally honest enough to not allow the attitudes we developed as horny teenagers to dictate how we treat women today.
Teenage male "Horndog"
One of the archetypes for women is the maiden - a romantic teenager who believes in fairy tales and daydreams that "her Prince will come." This maiden is, of course, one level of the romantic within.
Teenage female "Maiden"
The genetic human programming can set up a woman to keep a man around for the illusion of having a male protector and supporter. I have worked with many women who not only didn't need to be protected and supported by a man, but they in fact were providing the bulk of the support for the man. In the inner work the "maiden within" is the part of themselves that women can set a boundary with so that they do not unconsciously buy into the set up of believing that they have to have a man in their life to be OK. That certainly doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with having a relationship with a man or that the Prince isn't going to show up (he will definitely have issues to work through however.) The point is to be conscious about our choices. If we are reacting unconsciously to subconscious or genetic programming then we are giving power away and not owning our choices.
This is a list of most of the general types of inner child "persona" that can be present within us. I will probably think of a few more next week. They are meant as a general guideline to help you identify some of the reacting parts of your emotional inner landscape. We all had our relationships with ourselves fractured into pieces as we were growing up. It is very important to start bringing some peace to our inner process by owning those inner children, hearing them as we were not heard.
Two more points come to mind as I am wrapping this up.
1. I used the term persona just now to describe the inner child/archetype places within us - that feels like a good word to me. They are not actual personalities. People who suffer from multiple personality disorder are beings who were pushed farther than the rest of us. The wounding process involves the same basic dynamic - in fact, I learned a lot about my own inner process by studying cases of multiple personality - but multiples were broken in harsher ways (usually in an intentional and/or ritual abuse manner that amounted to torture.)
2. It is quite normal for a female to have one or more male inner children and natural (although much harder for the male to own due to cultural dysfunction) for men to have a little girl or two within. On top of the emotional dishonesty that men are programmed with, the homophobic nature of society makes it hard for men to even conceive of such a possibility. Women, who of course have more permission for emotional honesty and less strident homophobic programming, also were raised in a society (and with role models) that taught them that men were better than women. It was pretty natural (up until recently when more empowered female role models are available) for a girl to wish she were a boy at some point in her childhood.
Love is the answer. We are learning to Love ourselves. In order to do that it is very important to own all of the wounded parts of our self so that we can then be a Loving parent to our self. Being a Loving parent does include being willing to set boundaries for the child. That is part of a parents job. So too, is Loving, nurturing, and protecting the child. Part of Loving a child and meeting a child's needs is to set boundaries. Since no one could do that in a healthy way for us, it is vital to learn to do it for ourselves.
It is necessary to own and honor the child who we were in order to Love the person we are. And the only way to do that is to own that child's experiences, honor that child's feelings, and release the emotional grief energy that we are still carrying around.
Sanctuary Trauma ~ memories and emotional honesty
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