The myth of the inner child
The concept of inner child is one that has been misunderstood by many. The idea of inner child has been around for a long time and has managed to grab the interest of many, outside of the psychotherapy world. There has always been wonders around what this inner child is and how they influence our feelings and behaviours.
The idea of the inner child has been around for a long time in western psychology, and serves a useful purpose in helping emotionally troubled adults resolve personal struggles. Working with the inner child is seen as a vital step by some professionals to aid psychological growth, and enhance the mental and spiritual health of adults.
The idea is that human beings are constantly faced with circumstances where they experience feelings that do not necessarily match their logical mind and they experience their feelings as irrational. At times these feelings determine people’s actions in which case, their behaviour is viewed as out of context or out of character.
What is understood from the inner child is that it is a part of an adult character that behaves like a child and is in contrast to how a logical adult would behave or react or even feel for that matter. It can be viewed as an autonomous part of the personality that drives the person and has its own independent functions that may not necessarily be consistent with the adult part of the personality.
All of the pain, fear, sadness and memories belong to our 'inner child'. That is the aspect of our inner world that is the repository for everything we experienced in childhood, whether we remember events or not. Every feeling and every emotion is indeed stored, every belief that we held as children, every conclusion we drew about ourselves.
For those who had difficult or painful childhoods, the long-term effects are even more pronounced. Abuse, neglect, being bullied, or being rejected can affect the way we function as adults.
The Ego is the wounded child within us, the part of us that used whatever means possible to survive the betrayals and traumas of childhood. When trauma is addressed here, the assumption is that even the interpretation of what may be perceived as trauma still counts as trauma by the child. It found whatever defence mechanism possible — denial, numbing, rebellion, aggressiveness, passive-aggressiveness, projection, blame, irresponsibility, misplaced anger, anything just to endure the pain of being an innocent and vulnerable child in a patriarchal, oppressive, dysfunctional adult world.
Many adults are constantly influenced or somehow controlled by their unconscious inner child. For many, it is not an adult self directing their lives, but rather an emotionally pained inner child inhabiting an adult body. Many people would find that challenging to manage or to understand but having an understanding of our inner child and its needs can facilitate integration between.
What individuals as adults didn't sufficiently receive in the past from their parents as children must be confronted in the present, painful though it may be.
Depending on a child’s age, he or she does not always interpret their environment and parents’ actions correctly. When in psychotherapy and uniting with the inner child, false memories can be uncovered and give the child a chance to understand and make sense of something that was misunderstood in the past. Although at times when the child has experienced neglect or abuse, it needs to be acknowledged and worked through accordingly, it is very important that these issues and conflicts are addressed and acknowledged as these feelings can dominate people’s lives and affect their intimate relationships. The power of the inner child is often underestimated and the consequences can at times cost bonding and intimate relationships.
Related articles from our experts
Greg Savva, Counselling in Twickenham & Whitton, Masters Degree, UKCP,February 16th, 2017
Amanda Perl MSc Psychotherapist Counsellor MBPsS BACP (Accred) CBT PractitionerFebruary 1st, 2017
Graham Allen Bsc (Hons) Psychology, Dip Psych, PGCE, Reg MBACP (Accred)February 16th, 2017
Andrea Harrn Psychotherapist and Author of The Mood CardsMay 13th, 2011
Imi Lo: Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Supervisor (MMH,UKCP,HCPC,MBPsS)March 29th, 2015
Keeley Townsend BA (Hons), Ad.Dip.CP with Distinction, MNCS (Acc)December 14th, 2009
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.