Your Inner Child
One of the tragedies of adult life is that you may have forgotten your childhood. You may still remember events and dates, but the intensity of feelings, the real insight into the world of childhood may be lost.
Can you remember how it was to live before time began for instance? The sense of time is learned. Prior to being able to speak, and previous to your concept of time, you lived in eternity. Days lasted forever. A week was infinite in its multitude of impressions and experience.
Can you remember your first love affair – with your mother? Being your first, its wonder or devastation has coloured all your love since. But if you can’t remember then you are living out the wonder or pain without awareness.
Discovering your internal baby and child is to find some of the great secrets of your life. Many of the decisions you make about work or sexual partners have their roots there. What may appear as destiny often starts from deeply felt experiences in your childhood. Who you consider yourself to be is not an immutable reality. Your genetic inheritance gave you a foundation, but what was built upon that was due to the events of your childhood. If you are not entirely satisfied with the results, a lot of DIY alterations can take place.
1 – You are going back along the time track of your life. Leaving behind the many things you have collected as you moved into the adult years – bank accounts, bills, mortgage, work, family responsibilities, dependents, the car, the musts and shoulds and should nots.
2 – Although you can target a particular time of your childhood simply by thinking about it for a few moments, leave it open. Stand in your space, with or without music, and allow
whatever movements and emotions arise. Do not be in a hurry. Sometimes it takes quite a time to gradually build the inner change necessary to recreate childhood feeling states. Remember that many years of childhood were without refined language. This means the experiences of that period were wholly physical sensation, movement and emotions. That is not to say you didn’t have a mind, but its perceptions were very immediate and not filtered through words and past associations. Give yourself time and opportunity to drop the top layers of yourself and your present habits of experiencing the world.
3 – Do not get confused by thinking that you have to act like a child to make this a successful experience. What you are doing is to give yourself time and opportunity to have an inner experience of your child self. So it does not matter that externally you do not act or speak like a child.
4 – The likely response is that you will experience some feelings, some event from childhood, that is important in your life because of its effect. As childhood is such a vulnerable period, to get to free flowing feelings on this Pathway may take time. The clearing of hurt emotions and attitudes might be necessary first. Nevertheless, this is an extremely worthwhile process.
5 – Many of your important habits were formed during your childhood. As an example – if you were an only child and had to spend much time alone, you may have got into the habit of suppressing your desire for company. If this habit persists it becomes felt as normal. In fact it is neither normal or abnormal, it is simply the way you have shaped yourself. In adult life you might therefore find it strange or difficult to be with groups of people. If this becomes a nuisance, and you want to change, it would be helpful to see this character trait as a habit rather than an immutable part of yourself. If you identify with it as yourself, there will be some resistance to change.
6 – It is important to consider what you experience in your childhood Pathway in the light of what habits it has formed. Many habits are very supportive, we might then call them a skill, such as language.
The baby and childhood pathway allows some of the most permanent and importantly positive life changes to occur through clearing the accumulation of emotional debris built up during early growth. Resistance to positive change often has its roots in this area. This is not only because of ‘emotional debris‘ but some of the most durable and defended habits were put into operation or developed in this period of your growth. The reason we generated these habits was nearly always out of necessity at the time. The habits helped us to survive – THEN – but may be self defeating and undermining today. Once their rationale is seen it becomes easier to change these habits.
Part Two – helping and healing the hurt or wounded child
There are many ways in which we might come face to face with our damaged or traumatised inner baby or child. These might include the arising in your daily life of inappropriate responses to situations. In a warm and loving relationship you experience only pain instead of pleasure; you feel terror that your partner will abandon you; you hit out emotionally or even physically at the person who is actually closest to you; you withdraw from the world or lack any motivation to be a part of society or be in contact with others; you feel enormous longing to find love, but it never seems to be there when you relate to someone.
Those are signs of the undealt with emotions and pains of childhood, but there are many others. But one of the clearest indicators of the hurt baby or child within is from your dreams. Examples of dreams showing the damaged inner baby and child are as follows:
I am with my wife, taking a short cut through hospital grounds, but we are seen and reprimanded. “You must not take short cuts through hospital grounds.” Then I am in a strange old house. Under the floorboards I find many babies. They are abortions from previous girls living there. As I watch, one dried up baby body begins to fill up with blood. I can see its intestines.
A war was on. I was in London and bombs had blasted buildings. A baby had been injured, along with an elderly man with black hair.
I was in a hospital. A nurse passing by looked at my baby son and then suddenly looked again and said, “Did you know there is something wrong with your baby?” I told her I didn’t. She said she would prefer not to tell me, and to ask the sister. I knew this was because what she had seen was a serious illness.
Each of the dreams shows very clearly the image of an injured or sick baby. Two of them also take place in a hospital, linking the baby with the need for healing. In the first dream there is also the reprimand that no short cuts should be taken in the healing process. The second dream indicates real conflict and injury from the bombs, and also brings in the dark haired man – the dreamer’s father had black hair. The last dream again suggests the baby is in a serious condition, but in this dream the dreamer is not himself aware of it and must seek to find out what it is.
To meet these hurts and deal with them as an adult takes persistence, determination and some courage. In general people do not connect their current pains and behaviour with their childhood. Very often it is simply called depression, or the other medical and psychological labels that pathologise the situation. Drug treatment is usually the treatment used. Psychotherapy is another path some people take, those who do not want to cover their pain with drugs, alcohol or the other anodynes used in our culture. But this is only occasionally useful because to face the real pains of childhood takes more that talking over ones feelings with another person. It takes the willingness and ability to let what lies behind the pain and distortions of our present experience to surface. This is not an intellectual verbal process. The baby doesn’t think. Its feelings are not expressed in words. Its experience was one that involved it in total body sensations and passionate and all consuming hungers and emotions.
As I have said elsewhere, we do not understand the experience of swimming by talking about it. We only really understand it and the fears and feelings we might have in relationship with it be getting into the water and moving beyond the shallow water. So it is with the experiences we still hold in us from birth, infancy and childhood. To give an example of what this might be like a quote used in the feature on active imagination will be used again.
As I enter into the dream I connect with the child. She says she has got up from her ‘bed of pain’. I wonder what that means – The Bed of Pain. What does it mean – to me personally whose dream this is – that she was a malformed and tortured child? Without hesitation I begin to feel my connection with another person. I experience that being connected with another person is a fundamental part of life and procreation. If something threatens that connection, then life itself is threatened – the reason being, I am in the womb! To lose my connection threatens my life. But my life is threatened. I am expelled from the womb before my body and soul are mature enough or ready to be separated, ready enough to undertake life disconnected from the placenta. I was actually born two months premature. As I experience this I feel incredibly vulnerable. Each sound, whether a bird singing or a car going by, is a possible threat to my existence. I had been physically and psychically attached to my mother. Now the bond is broken.
I realise as observe what is being felt that the broken bond, the feeling of life threatening isolation, enormously increased my sensitivity to threats as a child and as an adult. It set me up for what happened at three when I was placed in a hospital and was deeply traumatised, feeling I had been abandoned. In itself the short absence of my mother was not as potentially traumatising as it turned out to be. But because of the birth experience I was already traumatised regarding abandonment. To be hit by it again increased the volume of it enormously.
because I was born two months prematurely I wasn’t properly formed, so it was very traumatic to be separated as a baby. There was no intensive care unit in hospitals at the time. So I had to either survive or die, and I felt I was dying. I am trying to heal this huge wound at the moment. I feel the struggle of resisting what has happened to me. I cry out now as the adult with the feelings I am meeting from my baby self, that I don’t want to be born. I am not ready. I feel deeply alone. There is in me a sense that tells me I shouldn’t be alone. It is like something that pushes me to seek not to be alone. I feel lost. I’m not ready for this world. I’m feeling awful. My whole body feels strange and collapsed in some way.
In fact I do feel awful, like I am ill and can barely move, or move only with effort and concentration. I go on to cry out that I have felt awful most of my fucking life. I can see from the feelings I am meeting how my premature birth contributed to my lifelong feelings of being lost and cut off – alone. I have always called it independence, and perhaps seen the positive side of it more than the negative. But it has been a source of restlessness and a spur to seeking a bonding with someone. Of course I want to find the security of the womb. I want to know someone is deeply committed and bonded to me.
I am so alone. Even when someone loves me I can’t feel it. I want to change. I don’t want to keep hurting my wife by living like she isn’t there at an emotional level. But that is the feeling world I have lived in – who is there for me? I was part of something and I lost it. I was part of something that was good, and I lost it. I was a part of a woman and I lost her. I was rejected before I was ready to be independent physically or emotionally. Now I face this struggle just to exist, just to breath, just to be. This feeling of life being a terrible struggle just to keep going has pervaded me all my life. I’ve got to struggle to exist, just to keep alive. Got to struggle just to keep alive! GOT TO STRUGGLE TO EXIST – JUST TO KEEP ALIVE! GOT TO STRUGGLE BECAUSE THERE’S NOTHING THERE. I WANT SOMETHING TO HOLD ONTO. I’VE GOT TO STRUGGLE JUST TO KEEP ALIVE.
I cry like a baby. The question burns in me – Why is life like this? I cry again. Then I realise that at first when I was born I was too small and undeveloped even to be able to cry properly, so I couldn’t let out my misery. It is such a relief to cry now and be understood, to have it known what I felt at that terrible time.
I am aware that my connection with my stream of life has been broken – the umbilical cord. What I realise as the adult watching this, is that because of its proximity to the genitals, there is an unconscious connection made between the genitals and the link I seek to sustain my life. So even as a baby I am reaching for that connection with my genitals. I want to be fed. I attempt to reconnect through my genitals, but the pain of the separation is so acute even when I do try in adulthood, the pain of the separation turns me back. This is the story of the Garden of Eden. I was in the garden and was cast out. Now when I attempt to return, an angel with a burning sword turns me back. Not only was it painful every time I attempted reconnection, but I had the unconscious expectation to be fed, to be nourished. Instead of that every time I had sex I felt cheated, deceived and betrayed. I was not fed, but deeply sucked dry of what small nourishment I had managed to build up. I wasn’t fed, it seemed to me I was fed upon by a predator. Each sexual act was a betrayal, a predation, and a torturous pain. Yet I had to find my way to the garden again, because there lay the secret of my genesis and myself. So I would return, to be wounded once more. Thus the imagery of the spider who will kill. It is even painful to look back on those years of misery now. Why is life so painful?
It has to be said that paradoxically the meeting of ones infant self is not in itself painful. It is deeply emotional and powerfully active. Why many people fail to connect with what they carry within them of their infant and child is because they avoid, or do not know how, to feel deeply, to let their body express and discharge that degree of emotion, bodily movement and excitation.
Juliana Brown and Richard Mowbray, in their paper on Primal Integration describe this ‘regression’ as follows:
The ‘regression’ that we facilitate in Primal Integration is not about going back in time, but rather about becoming aware of your existing state of regression – about realising that parts of you have not grown up and moved forward into the present. In our view, most people are living in two time-scales simultaneously – past and present. Part of them will be living in the here and now. Other parts of them will be reacting to present events as though they were still ‘back then’, thereby confusing aspects of the present with the past.
Uncovering the ‘past’ that is still with you here in the ‘present’ takes real work and needs dedication over a fairly long period of time. It is a work that is desperately needed in the world and in society. Very few people, even those in high positions of government or society, have actually grown up in the full sense. They are still operating in the world either from promptings and fears from their earliest babyhood, or from social conditioning that is out of date and needs upgrading.
There are two major ways of dealing with our past negative heritage. The one most used is to go to a professional who is trained in helping you to access and release these packets of high emotion and energy, thereby experiencing them, understanding them and integrating them into your life of today. To find therapists who work in that way you could try looking up primal integration or holotropic breathwork on the internet. To follow through on that direction you will need to invest a fair amount of time and money in the work, and a lot of your own motivation.
Another direction, one the author took and knows well, is that of self help. In some exceptional circumstances this can be undertaken alone, but usually needs at least one other person to be a co-worker with. Better still it is enormously helpful to gather several people to work as a group.
Fundamental to this approach is the understanding that there is innate in you the process that is already trying to lead toward the experiences that can release the past you are still carrying. It is constantly trying to bring old hurts and injuries to awareness, but we block its action. It is important to understand this, and a description of this process and the basics of working with it can be found at The Fundamental Process. Perhaps the simplest and gentlest way of finding transformation and growth is through exploring your dreams. This should not be simply talking about your dreams, but actually exploring them and being ready to feel the emotions and past impressions involved in them. A method to do this is described under peer dream work.
If you had all the patience of a wonderful student, then the very best approach to meeting the depths and heights of your inner life would be as follows. These steps should not be undertaken all at once, but one at a time.
- Learn to recognise that whatever you think is never comprehensive, and so can never ever be true in the fullest sense. When you think about anything you are only considering a tiny fragment of information. Only if you could hold all of the world’s knowledge, insight into all of the universe, might you arrive at any degree of truth. Therefore taking seriously your thoughts about success or failure, or who and what you are is ridiculous. Thinking is simply a handy tool helping us to move around in and deal with the tiny world of social and personal experience we live in.
- Learn to recognise emotions as survival responses developed over millions of years. They are signals that need to be checked out, not absolute signals of truth. An emotion is not YOU. It is something YOU experience that in a few moments can swing into something quite different. Some feelings or emotions stay for long periods of time, but that is only because something is stuck inside us – such as an early childhood painful event. Depression is the shadows cast by lumps of past pain still stuck in our being.
- Learn to relax. This does not mean learning to take time off from work to have ‘quality time’. It means learning to be aware of your habitual ways of relating to your body, inner feelings and attitudes. Learning to physically tense your body and then drop the tension is just a first step. Such relaxing of surface tension is just that – surface relaxation. It doesn’t touch the unconscious tensions. But it is a step on the way. Part of the deeper stages of relaxation require you to learn how to quieten your inner life, perhaps with breath control. See: The Slow Breath.
- Become aware of how you are editing what you let yourself think, feel or do. Learn to let things happen. This doesn’t mean inflicting yourself on other people, but it does mean acknowledging what is in you, light and dark.
- Observe what your response to deep emotions is. Are you suppressing any real depth of feelings? Can you allow yourself to sob uncontrollably or to laugh out loud and jump up and down like a child? If not what do you use to control yourself.
- Develop a time and place where you are completely free to allow the irrational side of your nature. This is a sacred temple in which you can heal and grow. See: Life Stream.
A description of what it is like to meet your child in adulthood has already been given above, but that was a meeting with the experience of a premature birth. Meeting the child can be different in many way. Here is a description from a man in his early forties.
I married again when I was 41. Up until then I had never been in love, although I had been previously married and fathered children. In fact I had not been capable of love in the usually described way of really connecting with my partner. But I had been using my dreams to work through my childhood miseries and had begun to undo something that had caused me to cut off all emotional ties with my mother when I was about five. This had caused me to lack any growth in my relationship with a woman. I remained at the age of five emotionally. So when I did fall in love I did so with the emotional maturity of a five year old.
Fortunately I had some insight into what was happening as I experienced all the drama of feelings a child feels in relationship with its mother. I met intense feelings that drove me to want to be near my wife all the time. I would follow her from room to room like a dog for fear of losing her – not only had I cut off from my mother, but she had sowed the seed of terror that she would abandon me. Also for the first time in my life I felt intense jealousy and would turn up unexpectedly at the house to see if my new wife was with another man. The tricks of survival I had learned in childhood also surfaced. The main one was to shut down emotionally and distance myself if there were any threat to the relationship. And so with all of these and other powerful feelings I had to learn to recognise them as childhood feelings that were not good to have in my adult relationship and encourage the growing part of me to move beyond them. Of course that meant moving into and through emotional adolescence. Believe me, none of it was easy on my wife. Our poor partner gets hit by all the miseries of childhood we meet in our growth.