There’s one subject that therapy clients – and the wider general public – ask me about more than any other. That subject is ‘the inner child’.
What is it? Where is it? Is it a friend or a foe? How do you access it? Can you talk to it? What does it want? Need? Crucially, how do you heal it?
Try a quick internet search for a definition of ‘your inner child’ and you’ll see the confusion. Let’s take the first 5 I come across:
‘your inner child is your shadow self’...
‘your inner child is the part of you that was traumatised’...
‘is your inner child hijacking your adult relationships?’...
‘how to re-parent your inner child’...
‘your inner child is the young you that has never felt seen or heard’...
You get the picture. And the scale of the problem. How can we begin to heal our ‘inner child’ – if, indeed our inner child needs healing at all – if we can’t agree what our inner child even is?
I was recently invited by Welbeck to write a book about how to heal. 'You Can Remember Who You Were Before Life Made You Forget' is the result, and has arisen out of wide ranging research into the nature of healing. An understanding of our inner child is crucial to this. Before we think about that further, come with me into my therapy room and meet someone we can call ‘Zoe’.
Zoe is hunched in the chair opposite me. She has kicked off her shoes and drawn her legs up under her, her arms crossed over her chest, holding herself tightly. Her eyes are wild, searching for somewhere to look away from the scene she is witnessing.
I lean towards her, gently repeating her name, reminding her that she’s safe here, that she can tell me. Inviting her to look at me, trust me. And eventually she lets my eyes and voice hold her.
She tells me she’s on top of the wardrobe. Not the one in her bedroom, but the one out on the landing. She’s looking down from there, through the bedroom wall as if it isn’t there, at the little girl’s body she knows is hers, suffering unspeakable pain. It’s her step-father again. It happens most nights. But up here, on the top of the wardrobe, out on the landing, there’s no suffering. She’s intact, whole. Safe. It’s as if she’s watching a movie.
Those of us who work with trauma are familiar with the fragmentation and dissociation which happens as a result. This scene is not unusual. However, we don’t find it easy to explain.
One area that’s helped my own understanding has been the considerable body of University research into the energetic nature of reality and consciousness. In particular, studies involving those who have undergone near death experiences. Typically, following NDEs people report the following:
• Discovering the ability, especially where death is anticipated, and pain involved, of being able to leave the body at will.
• Rising up, floating above the body, and looking down on the body and the accompanying scene below.
• Being able to see and hear activities and conversations going on outside the place where the body is, ranging from outside in a corridor and in other rooms, to places in other parts of the world where their loved ones are (all of which can be corroborated as having been accurate).
• The sense of looking on but being apart, as if watching a movie.
• A pulling sensation, like a strong magnet, tugging the soul away from the body.
• Realizing that they are free, limitless, without restriction, and free of pain or fear, bathed in loving energy.
• An enormous life force surging through them, discovering that they have 360° vision, understand the reason behind everything that has happened in their life, and are surrounded
A fair bit of that sounds similar to Zoe’s experience, doesn’t it?
However, there’s one further piece of startling information that came out repeatedly in one specific area of research: that of trauma work, in which psychiatrists trained in hypnosis were attempting to assist patients to go back and discover the origins of that trauma.
Unexpectedly, patients found themselves remembering not only traumatic events, but also previous lives, and life between lives. Those memories included decisions and choices they had made prior to incarnating.
These included how much of their total energy they would incarnate with. Typically this was somewhere between 25% and 38%.
When I first came across these studies, it was mind-blowing. So what, then, about the remaining energy – the part that didn’t incarnate? And how did this relate to that 25% to 38% that did? What if that smaller percentage was what we called the soul – the part that experiences being human; and what if the remainder was what we often refer to as out higher self? What, then, might we call the sum total? Our pure essence, our full being? The two together? The 100% energy we were? For want of a better name, I called it our Soul Signature.
Let’s go back to Zoe, and what she described to me. Dissociation and fragmentation have so often been viewed as pathological. An adaptive response in which the traumatised mind breaks up thinking, feeling, thinking, sensation and memory in order to protect us from re-experiencing unbearable pain. What if, instead, far from being some kind of illusory or projected experience arising out of dissociation, that aspect of Zoe that found itself on top of the wardrobe was, in fact, an energetic reality? A smaller part of the percentage of her energy that had incarnated. A part that had split itself off from the experiencing remainder, in order to remain intact, undamaged – at all times aligned and connected with her higher self (the 62%-75% that hasn’t incarnated) - until such time as the little girl on the bed is ready to heal from the trauma she has undergone. Might this be the ‘inner child’?
This is not, of-course, unlike the shamanic view of soul loss and soul retrieval. The idea that the vital energy we actually are can be split off, separated, lost and recovered is fundamental to an energetic understanding of the Universe.
However, let me tell you what happened to Zoe in a subsequent healing session. In a guided visualisation, Zoe sets out on search to heal her wounded inner child. For a long while, she has dreaded this. The suffering she knows she is going to witness has felt too overwhelming, too dangerous. Too shaming. Too intimate. Too defining. She has wanted to lock the bedroom door and throw away the key. However, today she is ready. And so we set out together.
Zoe begins her journey in a safe place. A lush forest, full of sights and sounds and smells that calm her. Then she finds herself emerging into rocky terrain, more barren. In the distance is a stone tower. She feels drawn to it, knowing her inner child is in there.
As she enters through the door, creaky and stubborn to open, she’s greeted by a musty smell, as if the tower has been locked and undisturbed for a long time. She sees a stone staircase across the dusty flagstones and knows that’s where she must go. As she climbs higher, Zoe hears muffled noises. There’s banging and clattering. And something that sounds like rhythmic rocking. She dreads what she’s going to see. Part of her wants to run away, but she keeps putting one foot in front of another.
And suddenly, here is the door. Behind it is her inner child. The child she’s come to comfort and soothe. The child waiting to be seen and heard and finally healed. Zoe grasps the handle and turns it. Then lets the door swing open of its own accord, hardly daring to look.
What greets her is so different to what she had imagined it makes her gasp.
In front of her is a little purple dragon. The banging and clattering she had heard is coming from the joyful, excited way this creature is jumping and bounding around the room. And the rocking is not, as she had imagined, a distraught child sitting rocking to and fro for comfort. Rather, it’s the sound of the dragon enjoying riding on a huge wooden rocking horse in the centre of the room.
Before she knows what’s happening, the little dragon has grabbed her hands and is twirling her round and round until she’s laughing out loud. Then, just as suddenly, it swings her up onto its back, and they fly out of the window together, never looking back.
That experience – and so many other similar ones since, invited me to redefine our inner child and the process of healing. I would suggest that:
• There is always a part of us that remembers who we really are - our inner child. Our inner child is at all times in touch with our higher self, our pure essence. It remains the guardian of essential qualities we need to re-integrate when we’re ready. Its nature is like the purple dragon.
• The part that needs healing is the adult who has remained traumatised: the part of the soul that fully experiences our human journey.
• Healing therefore involves the recovery of the vital energy we have lost – our inner child - because without that aspect of ourselves we are incomplete, and lack some of our vital energy.
What can we take from this that’s useful in our own healing? How about these thoughts?
1. Remember that who we feel or believe ourselves to be is far less than we truly are.
2. Remember that our true nature is not traumatised or lacking; part of us is simply waiting to be welcomed back.
3. Our task is to give ourselves every opportunity to get back in touch with our Soul Signature.
4. We can do this most effectively by coming to know – and call upon - our inner child.
Asking ourselves these questions as a starting point can help:
If I was born free and intact, what experiences led me to become separated from my inner child?
How has this depleted me?
What qualities might my inner child have kept safe for me until I’m ready to invite them back?
There will be times when my inner child is calling me – moments of creativity, fun, courage, strength, joy – am I noticing?
How can I use this knowledge and embrace those qualities in my life now?
What image of my inner child will help me do that?
A wise shaman once said to someone seeking to heal, ‘When did you last laugh, or dance, or sing, or tell stories, or walk in nature?’ I would add, ‘When did you last go in search of your inner child in order to discover all that they want to give back to you? Let yourself remember, and heal.’