And so, what is Christmas?
Christmas is the archetypal birthday, a universal day to honor and give to the golden child. The golden child is our innocent child, the child we enter this world with, the child we lose touch with as we grow disillusioned in a world of suffering. It is the child we spend a lifetime seeking to retrieve from the shroud of protection we build to avoid further shame and the highly sensitive pain of not being met or received.
We learn to shut down our anticipation, excitement, wonder, and love. We will not be fooled into hoping again, into opening that sealed door of vulnerability to our innocent, golden child. We vow not to be disappointed again.
We never forget our innocent child. Often, though, we cannot go near it within ourselves, that is, we cannot allow ourselves to receive. We are able to project it outward onto our children or other’s children, or onto the puppies and kittens of our dreams. Somewhere in our lives, no matter how terrified or avoidant we might be of it, we project our innocence and are drawn to the renewal of contact with it.
The real journey to retrieve our innocence begins with the journey of recapitulation. We cannot allow our innocence back into life until we go back and fully free it from the encounters and experiences that caused it to go into hiding in the first place. This is a delicate, raw, and tender process. Though it might be facilitated interpersonally, through some kind of relationship, the true healing relationship is within, between the adult person we’ve become and our lost, innocent child self.
The adult we’ve become, however disillusioned and defended, is still a wise self. The adult has learned that Santa Claus is a myth, that evil is part of reality, that things constantly change—people die and nothing is forever. The adult self knows about broken promises, abandonment, and betrayal. The adult self has somehow found a way to navigate the world, however impoverished it may feel, however cut off from the joy and renewal of its innocence.
And this adult warrior self is the one—the one true parent—who can find and help that golden child to return to life; a life of fullness and completion.
The adult self is the one who can be with the child as it shares the truth of its lost innocence. The adult can hear the truth, feel the truth, withstand the truth, bear witness to the truth, and fully accept the truth in solidarity with the child. The child is not alone. The child is worthy to be fully known on its own terms, not pushed away because its feelings are too much, not talked out of what it truly feels. The adult will stand with the child and hear the fullness of the truth.
Next, the adult can help the child broaden the picture. There are things that the seasoned adult can see that the child couldn’t possibly see at the time. Such things can help the child self unravel the mystery of “why,” clearing up misconceptions, such as: It was my fault; I wasn’t good enough or worthy enough.
The adult self goes on to help the child self express and release all the feelings that have been held back, perhaps for a lifetime.
As recapitulation proceeds, innocence is freed from its old trappings and a new self, a wise, innocent, fully integrated self is born into the world. This self knows about the ways of the world, it doesn’t need the world to change to live out its innocence. It no longer needs to suffer disillusionment, to be reminded of its lost innocence. It can choose wisely in relationship and accepts that nothing stays in one form forever. This is no longer a deal breaker for innocence. Innocence, with wisdom, can now flow with the changes.
This is the one true gift of Christmas, the one only we can give to ourselves. That is the gift of recapitulation, the adult that takes the journey of truth with its innocent self, ultimately merging with it. Born anew, there is now new life to live.