What is Inner Child Work and Why is it important?
“The child is the father of Man”
This quote couldn’t be more apt! Inner Child work brings to light a myriad of psychological structures, behavioral patterns, traits and beliefs that were groomed into our subconscious during childhood and thereby makes us aware of how as adults we are actually simply playing these out into our daily relationships with people, work, environment, etc. This grooming begins even before the child is conceived, as has been realized by many in Inner Child work sessions. The moment a parent has the thought of having a child, the thoughts and beliefs of the parent(s) start reaching out to the child-to-be at a subconscious level. Hence, one can make out that Inner Child work involves delving deep into a family’s belief systems and behavioral structures. This may also go beyond the present life, and can include the child work of previous lifetimes as well.
Inner Child work comprises of various areas and techniques, of which some of the most prominent ones are shared below.
* We are all composed of multiple personalities
This is a psychological fact that each of us is composed of various personalities or “selves”, which generally build up in the course of our childhood. As we grow up, one or two of these personalities become our “primary selves” or dominant selves, and one or more secondary selves. As per situations we switch between these personalities when we react to them and when this awareness arises, one often feels disoriented, as though in an identity crisis. However, having multiple personalities within oneself is common and Inner Child work specializes in recognizing each of these sub-personalities, embracing them and emerging above them. For e.g. one of my dominant sub-personality was my “Critical Self” which often marred my inner confidence and blocked a great deal of appreciation, hence bringing my self-esteem very low. By and by, I became completely aware of this personality and accepted it as a part of me, rather than giving it all importance in any situation. Now it ceases to exist.
* The World is our Mirror
At the core of all spiritual teaching, all Masters in the world have mentioned this in one way or the other, what I often understand as an aspect of maya, or Illusion. Everything that affects us is something within us that we need to heal/be aware of. Whether it is poverty, war, cruelty or intense beauty; if it affects, you have connected to it deeply somewhere before in the present or previous lifetimes. In Inner Child work, one often becomes starkly aware of the attitudes of the adults around us that made an impact of a lifetime upon our thinking, likes and dislikes, which have in turn shaped our careers, marriage, health, etc. These may be subconscious attitudes bred by a community or an incident affecting one’s beliefs as a child. What this translates to on a daily thought pattern basis is that when one hates or is irritated at someone/something, one essentially hates/dislikes a part of one’s own self which one has disowned. The tricky aspect of this area of spiritual work is the conscious ownership one must take of the entirety of one’s feelings and emotions. Only when you begin to accept that the attitudes and people affecting you are actually extensions of your own self, your own subconscious personality traits, you begin the process of acceptance, thereby cleaning the face, rather than cleaning the mirror which shows a ‘dirty face’. This part of Inner Child work is actually instrumental in healing most relationship issues, since we attract our greatest mirrors in the form of our parents, siblings and spouses. Moreover, it tears down the walls of prejudice and discrimination which we often harbor unconsciously.
* Role playing
Children basically require care, attention and love. When they are not paid attention to, they start finding ways to get attention from the adults around them. These ways are generally picked up from other adults among them, including parents, who in turn often carry their own wounded child within and have devised mechanisms to fulfill their primary childhood needs. This chain continues into adulthood and into our daily relationships, often making our relationships fear-based. Thus we start playing roles like “Poor-Me”, “Intimidator”, etc. to draw attention and love to ourselves which we lacked as children. Our Inner Child subconsciously and actively seeks them in every relationship, and moreover, attracts the ‘opposite’ role in the people we meet in our life.
Another aspect of role-playing comes into play when children are given responsibility for their siblings or others at a very young age, or one or both parents breeding a subconscious mind frame of not feeling responsible enough to be able to take care of their own selves. These are just 2 of the most frequently occurring situations when children essentially feel robbed of their own ‘innocence’ and instead of being intelligently guided to be responsible for their own lives, are cast into situations without any awareness whatsoever. The shock arising from such situations create a lifetime of an impact on them and build a primitive existential fear in extreme cases towards certain situations.
A more detailed and very accurate explanation with examples of this part of Inner Child work can be found in the Sixth Insight of the book, ‘The Celestine Prophecy’, by James Redfield.
* Compensation mechanisms
Due to the above aspects affecting the Inner Child, one often builds up various compensation mechanisms to cope up with the lack of attention, love and clarity of the basic concepts of respect, responsibility, etc. Addictions are one of the most common compensation mechanisms – be it addiction to material objects, drugs, alcohol or any other escape mechanism, including spirituality and religion. One also develops thought patterns and daily habits for e.g. dressing in a particular way, as part of the compensation techniques.
Once the basic belief systems start falling through Inner Child work, and one’s Inner Child is allowed to emerge with complete freedom, these symptomatic addictions die an easy death with very little specific work on them.
* Spiritual Parenting
Once the Inner Child of an adult is healed, the person undergoes complete transformation in his/her life. This is when spiritual parenting is completely recognized and understood at its core. A child is very spiritually aware and hence sensitive. We have all heard psychics and mediums talk about being able to perceive non-physical entities as children. This ability is however, quite omnipresent among children. Treating them with sensitivity and encouraging the child to talk about their “non-physical” or imaginary friends and dreams gives them a secure foundation for cultivating their intuition which makes a tremendous difference in boosting their self-esteem, developing a strong personality and have a strong happiness quotient as adults. Another very important aspect in raising a child one realizes with spiritual parenting is that even before a child is conceived, the child’s soul has started sensing the attitudes and unspoken belief systems of the family it will be born into. This continues after birth as well. Subconsciously a child is like a human sponge. It continues to absorb every unspoken attitude, belief, emotion, thought and basically energy from everyone around it. Hence, suppressed feelings of parents, the undercurrents of tensions among adults in the surrounding are immediately tapped into by the child’s mind like an antenna tuning into various frequencies. Hence, spiritual parenting can happen in its entirety only when the adult has undergone his/her own spiritual cleansing of the subconscious and nurtures his/her own Inner Child, and a natural progression is to realize that at the core one must parent his/her own self…and be the best parent of yourself. Hence, one need not be a “parent” in social terms to learn spiritual parenting.
My personal experience was that after Inner Child work, my sensitivity, which was completely suppressed by me all through my childhood because of the belief that “being sensitive is being weak”, was brought to the fore. This sensitivity continues to be a great blessing in my life because it allows me to tune in to the unspoken feelings of people thereby helping me in my counseling/healing sessions and even non-physical energies at times for e.g. sensing the energy of a house or a place and at one point has intuitively led me to mediumship.
* Childhood abuse
What is abuse? Anything that violates the self-respect of a person can be classified as abuse. By this understanding, one must understand that most children go through abuse in very subtle ways in their daily life. One common form is sexual abuse. Spiritually, a child is an “open energy field”, with all its kundalini chakras open. Hence, a child possesses a sexual nature as well. During these times it has been rather disturbingly observed that even when someone glances at a child in a “vulgar” or sexually explorative way/intent, the child feels violated…abused. This can happen through parents, relatives, friends etc. Moreover, when a family denies the sexual identity of a person most often under the pretext of social conditioning of the male-child preference, the child experiences abuse. This builds up blocks of lifetimes towards understanding and respect of one’s body and sexuality.
The other ways in which abuse occurs are on the basis of skin color, favoritism, misconception about disciplining a child, publicly flouncing a child leading to social-identity abuse, etc. When you begin work on this area, you will find that most of a person’s shyness, introversion, ‘laziness’ attitude, etc. can be contributed to a violation in the childhood.
* Inner Child work techniques
Most Inner Child work techniques for e.g. non-dominant hand writing, clay therapy, play therapy, etc. are very simple and yet intensely effective. Most of Inner Child Work to a very large extent focuses on physicalization of one’s emotions and beliefs. It is a very common observation that after or during and many times even before Inner Child work sessions take place, the person starts manifesting physical symptoms of his/her mental problems. This brings in another spiritual awareness – that our thoughts/beliefs, emotions and the body are all interlinked. Everything the body manifests first began on an energy level, brought into by thought processes, facilitated by emotions and then physically realized. This is a deep connection which, if every person realized, we would cease going to doctors and start being our best healers.
Quite a few of these techniques can be found in the book, ‘Power of Transformation’ by Shakti Gawain.
Final word – My personal experience
I went through a rigorous and the most intensive phase of my life during the first Inner Child workshop taken by LRA in October, 2008. For me it went beyond any experience, spiritual or otherwise I have ever had and caused huge shifts which impacted my social, family and professional life. The 40 days following the workshop will be ones I can never forget. However, my “Inner-Child-processes”, as I fondly call them now, are still continuing. It’s been almost 10 months and everyday I find myself going back to a technique and doing my Inner Child work. It has taken a huge amount of discipline and teeth-gritting-honesty towards myself for me to have transitioned from a suicidal and depressive “I want to die”-20-times-a-day-thought person to an ecstatically childlike “I LOVE my Life!”-20-times-a-day-thought person. The transition was not easy. But then with complete awareness I chose it that way. Today my quest for learning and enjoying life has been rejuvenated, just like when I was a child, and I am able to explore my creativity in many areas including writing, singing and performing, counseling, inspirational speaking, traveling, etc even while my spiritual work on myself continues.
I always knew I wanted to die young. But this “death” and “rebirth” process through which I have painstakingly shattered each of my beliefs and rebuilt myself with New Age, “feel-good” Faiths, has been a quantum leap of evolution as I have intimately experienced it and I strongly encourage the reader to delve into the relatively unknown, but extremely powerful area of spirituality. After all, haven’t most faiths in the world idolized their deities in the Child form?
If curious to know some more and feeling the call to take up this very powerful, but little known form of miraculous healing, please find the details of the next Inner Child Workshop happening in India at: Life Research Academy