As Kahlil Gibran taught us, the child’s soul dwells in the house of tomorrow, which we cannot visit, not even in our dreams.
The child within us is our evolutionary spirit, which is childlike in its innocence, yet ventures beyond the known, fully adult self.
The notion of an inner child who never grows up, requiring the enduring parenting of the adult ego, is a recipe for stunted growth and entitlement. The ultimate goal of all parenting is to launch the child into their own house of tomorrow, as we obey the rite of passage to release their arrow.
The inner child’s role in the adult personality is to follow its bliss with curiosity and innocence. These are the treasures mirrored by young children at play, fully alive to the creative imagination, open to interaction with the subtle energies present in the world, unsullied by the constricting veils of the real world.
Of course, there is the work of resolving traumatic psychological complexes, unprocessed fragments of self that split off in childhood, that require the adult ego to discover and reintegrate into the wholeness of the adult personality.
Ultimately, this inner work restores true innocence to the adult self, the work that Jesus Christ suggested was essential to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
In psychological terms, one must fully recapitulate all of one’s life experiences to achieve full individuation, the wholeness and fulfillment of one’s life.
Fragments of experience that remain triggers, or unneutralized emotional experiences overshadow the open road of innocence and instead become one’s fate, or necessary next stop in this life.
Of course, all children require the support and boundaries of adults on their road to maturity. But the goal is always to prepare them for their independent launch, not to keep them forever children, however well adjusted. So is it with working with our inner child.
The inner child’s gift to adulthood is its insistence on taking the road less travelled, because Spirit is intent upon infinite exploration beyond the nursery.
Let’s not confuse the childlike behaviors, or excesses, we engage in with the inner child. The ego must assume responsibility for all its choices, whatever their etiology.
For the ego to mature into its own innocence, it must be willing to take the hero’s journey to retrieve its soul, all of its parts that were lost in its trials of Earthly life.
A journey of recapitulation transmutes one’s life energy into that of a magical being, fully alive, fully in awe, ever-loving, ever-venturing. That’s the true role of the inner child in the human personality: innocence restored.
Perhaps the most Herculean task that we all face is for our Soul to have to fit itself into the helplessness of a human infant’s body, completely dependent upon the kindness of others to usher it into a human life and support it to maturity.
Stan Grof, with his extensive research into the perinatal stages of birth and the accompanying impact of primal birth trauma, has extended our knowledge of the Soul’s consciousness of itself as it evolves through all stages of gestation.
Back further still are the Soul’s prior lives and identities, which the Soul is required to temporarily forget in order to create the blank slate needed to authentically engage in the purity of a totally new, unfettered human life. Knowledge of one’s infinite life would completely minimize the impact of any suffering in this life, undermining the very reason the Soul chose to enter into the life it is in. Earth School’s working axiom is simple: no pain, no gain.
The postnatal stages of development are archetypally governed by what are called object relationships with significant others, essentially our parents or first caregivers, to reach the necessary milestones of physical and ego autonomy. What we call ego is actually a part of the Soul, wiped clean of its eternal history, capable of growing into a mature adult; ego is the center of the Soul’s identity in this life.
In truth, what we call the inner child is actually the ego itself, a lost soul separated from its true parentage, forced to grow and learn how to navigate this mysterious world it was adopted into. How does one not feel sorry for this lost soul? Even great Master teachers in infinity have a soft spot for the plight of the innocent infant ego. However loving or unloving its adoptive world may be, it will never truly be home.
How does ego not fall prey to self-pity? No matter how much it inflates or deflates itself, at its core, ego feels itself as an abandoned child, disempowered of its divine heritage, inadequate to the task it unknowingly tasked itself with. This pervasive and inescapable self-pity might be tucked away in the ego’s guiding attitude of perfectionism, but even here it sneakily binds one’s attention and emotion through projecting itself upon the sad state of victimized others.
The shamans of ancient Mexico pierced this true reality of human suffering. They understood that the majority of human energy is spent on self-pity. To unclip one’s wings and fly to true freedom one needs a ruthless awakening to this hostage state. They called this great accomplishment, arriving at the place of no pity.
Carlos Castaneda truly loved his Master teacher, the Nagual, don Juan Matus. One day, don Juan had Carlos drive him into a city. Suddenly, Don Juan transmogrified himself into a feeble old man, who had seemingly just suffered a stroke. Carlos was beside himself with fear and pity. Don Juan then started screaming for help, claiming that Carlos was a predatory foreigner trying to rob and kill him. This aroused a group of young men who chased after Carlos.
Carlos was able to get away and ultimately reach a place of cold indifference toward don Juan, at which point he returned and found don Juan transmogrified back into his more familiar, kind and youthful self. Carlos had reached the place of no pity, total detachment.
In fact, the place of no pity is the place where the ultimate veil of narcissism is lifted. Don Juan explained that Carlos’ apparent love and pity for the old suffering don Juan was actually a projection of his own self-pity onto don Juan. The egoistic inner child state of self-pity was lifted as Carlos stepped out of the matrix of his projected self.
A modern example might be a parent blocking their adult addict child’s phone number. This ruthless act is in fact an act of true love, as the child is given the opportunity to assume responsibility for sustaining their own life in this world, a hallmark milestone of mature adulthood.
This cutting of the phone cord sends the message to the child that they truly have been let go to live their own life, and for them to trust in their own independent Soul to guide their journey, wherever that may lead. Trust that this being has their own angels and spirit guides. Retire the overbearing helicopter parent attitude.
In letting go, the parent must suffer the dread of the deep subconscious parental archetype that refuses to ever release the parent from parental responsibility. However, to fully let go, the parent must in turn assume responsibility for their own innerly projected wounded child, which they had previously sought to rescue in the person of their actual child.
For love to rise above the veil of narcissism we must free ourselves from our own self-pity. Outwardly, this means reclaiming our self-pitied selves and facing them squarely. Ego is next tasked with assuming its true purpose and capability in this life: aligning with and mastering its greater Soul’s true mission for this life. That mission is likely situated in the very life circumstance that draws one to self -pity.
Truthfully, the adult self must arrive at the place of no pity toward its own inner child’s journey. This involves deep loving compassion for all of the child’s suffering yet appreciation for the lessons learned and a total assimilation/integration of those experiences into the adult self’s being.
From a place of no pity all experiences are valued with true equanimity. The real question becomes not how was I victimized, but what have I learned? And yes, the journey requires feeling the fullness of all life lived, however traumatic, and the release of stored emotional energies, but ultimately it is awe for the fantastic journey of the fullness of one’s actual life that one seeks.
In the end, full assimilation means to appreciate one’s life, regardless of its experiences, as a beautiful work of art. In this way the child self is dissolved into a powerful adult being, who discovers how much it has truly learned and grown through all of life’s many experiences, good and bad alike.
With this loving embodiment of all that one is, one is reunited with one’s greater Soul. And then one is able to handle remembering their true identity, in and beyond this life.
The willingness to suffer the fullness of one’s Soul’s mission is true love of self, love of Soul, and love of other.
On the mission, with love, Chuck
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Qualities that spring to mind when one associates to the child include innocence, purity, vulnerability, love, new life and divinity. From the shadow side come qualities of dependency, immaturity, neediness and entitlement.
Contemplating one’s inner child often evokes tender and sad feelings, as one is transported to crushing moments of lost innocence and shame when the child self retreated from life into the safety of a well-guarded inner fortress. Often the adult ego colludes with this life sentence, preferring an unfulfilled life to one of a potential lethal re-wounding of its precious innocence.
The challenge to the adult ego is to partner with its inner child and, through a shared journey of recapitulation, enable the child’s innocence to emerge from isolation into current life. The adult ego must fully experience and accept the emotional, physical and cognitive dimensions of its younger self’s frozen traumas.
Most important, the adult ego teaches the child that wounding is a normal part of life and that, although all indeed seek to avoid it, the reward of openness to life is worth the necessary wounds that may accompany such exposure. With resilience, fortified with self-acceptance and awe, one is freed to branch deeper into real life. Further, one knows that all wounds can be healed.
Sometimes the ego avoids a recapitulation and becomes a defense attorney for its wounded child, seeking retribution for its lost innocence. Certainly this has a place in validating the impact of abuses upon a child.
Often, however, the ego—out of guilt, sadness or anger—elevates the child’s sense of entitlement to its own marching orders. This tends to burden it with negative resentful feelings that do little to advance the freeing of the child. Retrieval of the lost child and bringing it into life requires the transformation and evolution of original innocence into matured innocence. This requires the acceptance and the letting go that is characteristic of a thorough recapitulation.
Jung writes, in The Red Book: “He who still has his life before him is a child.”
Thus, the child, as an expression of life continuously growing, open to the ever-unfolding mystery of infinity, is indeed the ultimate symbol of divinity. To be divine is to be one with the Spirit of infinite growth, regardless of one’s age or dimension of being.
To embody the excitement, the anticipation of the new life in each moment of every new day is to fully live one’s divinity. This is life lived beyond all the usual worries and attitudes that level the soulful experience of unfolding time.
Unfortunately, the ego, charged with the rudiments of survival while in human form, quickly dampens the spark of discovery with its well-established routines of daily life. The ego’s crowning achievement is the meeting of its established goals versus indulging the spirit of discovery.
The divine child is hardly childish, resentful or entitled. The divine child, having resurrected from its wounded traumas, has freed itself from the full body cast of victimhood. Fully engaged in life, the divine child shines its radiant innocence upon the ever-deepening mystery and fulfillment of its infinite life.
A humble ego, accepting the stewardship of the divine child, is the essence of the biblical suggestion that one must become like the child to truly enter heaven. Heaven, in this context, is a locale of advancement, from which that ever-curious child will someday launch again on its infinite journey of becoming.
To become the divine child is indeed the true elixir of immortality. All are gifted the opportunity to quench their thirst with its spirit every humble day of mortal life, and then beyond.
Just who is that Inner Child we hear so much about? To one onlooker, a child being sternly reprimanded by a parent at the supermarket is a brat receiving just punishment. In contrast, another witness may declare atrocious abuse on the part of the parent as the innocence of the Golden Child is severely shattered by the reprimand. These are diametrically opposing reactions. One person experiences the child as an entitled big baby, the other sees a divine innocent child.
What makes one bystander see a Demon and the other a Divine Child has everything to do with the inner child projection of each observer. One person may harbor a powerful infantile shadow self that was either overly indulged or overly neglected in childhood. Given that this rejected child self remains rejected within the personality, this person might tend to agree with the parent’s stern treatment of this unacceptable Demon Child as a reinforcement of their own conscious attitude toward their own inner child. Of course, it’s also entirely possible that this rejected child projection might go the way of sympathy for the reprimanded child.
Another person may be at a stage of life or in a life circumstance that has become stale, wooden or frozen, lacking connection to the deepest waters of life. On the surface they may be bored and depressed. They may need the renewal of the spontaneity, freedom and innocence of the inner child in their own life to break through the quagmire of their current discontent. For them, the disciplining of the misbehaving child might be experienced as an affront to the Golden Divine Child, a symbol of the Self, their key to renewal.
This duality of possibility frequently shows up in the appearance of a child in a dream. Often we might dream that we have a child we didn’t know about. On the one hand, this child might represent an underdeveloped aspect of ourselves, that we may or may not be aware of, that is ready to emerge into our everyday life, an opportunity to “grow this part up” at this stage of life. In this case, the challenge would be for the ego to acknowledge vs. deny this underdeveloped part and take up the challenge of supporting needed growth.
On the other hand, it might be pointing to an infantile attitude that is overshadowing our lives and behaviors. Once again the challenge for the ego, in this scenario, is to overcome its blindness and take responsibility for becoming a responsible person, not asking others to cater to or compensate for its big baby attitude.
Still another possibility is that the dream child is the Divine Child, a symbol of the Self, that is opening the door to a new stage of our deepest unfolding by reflecting the need to return to pure innocence, dropping our plastic persona and diving naked into an ocean of renewal. The child is completely unencumbered by education and socialization, hence, serves as the best symbol of being closest to nature without the interference of mind. Sometimes, baring ourselves to this level is the only way to find our way back to true meaning in life.
The truth is that our Inner Child, as it appears in dreams, or as it projects itself onto the mirror of children in the world, can be either Demon or Divine. It is the work of consciousness—that is, of the ego—to study the appearance of the child and reflect honestly and deeply to discern who it symbolizes at this time in life, why it has appeared, and then act accordingly.
Mistaken identity can result in disastrous parenting where a child needing firm discipline may be inadvertently groomed as a little prince. Alternatively, an unusual or gifted child might be severed from its golden potential through insistence upon strict conformity and obedience, squelching its creative spirit in the process.
Inwardly, we might make the mistake of allowing the little prince within to rule the personality. Alternatively, the inner child that reflects our deepest flowing nature might hold the key to our spiritual renewal if we let it take the dive.
You make the call: Who is your inner child in its present manifestation? Demon or Divine?
As we drove past the Rhinebeck Aerodrome in the midst of a dogfight in the sky, a golden retriever with leash dragging scurried toward our car. I stopped, opened the car door, and the dog immediately leaped in and planted itself on my lap.
I could feel the dog’s terror and need for safety. He was at home with us and would have moved forward in life from that moment, never leaving our safety, never looking back. We diligently went in search of it’s owner and eventually discovered his whereabouts. He was deeply engrossed in the planes in the sky, with no consideration of his dog’s terror of loud noises. The dog was so planted in our car, clinging for dear life, that I ultimately and sadly had to lift its frozen statue frame from the car to send it back on its journey. We watched as it was led away, slunk low to the ground, peering to the right and to the left, seeking safety once again as the bombs went off overhead.
Domesticated animals are ultimately dependent on their “owners” for their safety and survival. This is the contract they make in domesticated form. Though their instincts are fully available to protect them, their survival is largely delegated to their owner.
Humans, in contrast, are charged with taking adult responsibility for achieving safety for themselves in this life. Many humans reach adulthood unable to fully achieve individual internal security due to lapses in milestones of emotional maturity, caused by trauma or compromised parents. The legacy of these lapses is a physically mature but emotionally insecure adult who anxiously seeks relationship attachments outside the self to feel safe.
These kinds of relationships may feel powerfully necessary for survival and the threat of losing them generates states of anxiety and panic similar to that of the golden retriever that anxiously attached to us and the safety of our car. Relationships driven by such anxious attachment often start off with intense love feelings—finally feeling “home”—but generally degenerate into worry, panic, and fear of abandonment.
Relationships at this level are often frozen at the level of dependency, control, and fear, leaving little opportunity for adult companionship and relatedness. This is inherent in the relationship’s initial underlying intent: safety. Until safety can be found within the self, relationships will be controlled by an over-dependency on the other person’s behavior as the locus of control for inner safety.
We must become the parent to our inner panicking child. If we allow the child’s anxiety to control our decision making and actions, we are sure to engage in external parenting relationships as we allow the child in us to go in search of a secure person to latch onto, just like the dog that leapt into our car. Our adult self must be in charge of decision making and self care. If our child self is frightened it might be time to pick it up and go for a soothing walk alone rather than desperately seek inappropriate attention elsewhere.
Eventually, the child will discover that the adult self is its one true parent, the one that can take charge of decisions for the whole personality, leading it to safety, play, and fulfillment. From this place, with the locus of control coming from a place of deep inner safety, relationships may be engaged in as adult partnerships, with everyone responsible for their own inner parenting.
Self care at the deepest level is the only adult ticket to true inner safety. Inner safety leads to outer blossoming and allows for flourishing in true adult relationship.