The Inner Child - What's it all about?
The Inner Child – it’s a concept that’s been around a pretty long time now, with its roots in Jung and even Freud. The idea of the inner child and inner child work, is very popular in psychological circles. It’s also a concept that clinical hypnotherapists frequently work with. As a practicing hypnotherapist, I too enjoy using inner child work with clients where appropriate and have had a lot of success with it. So let’s take a brief look at what or who the inner child is and its relevance to clinical hypnotherapy.
Where Does Inner Child Work Come From?
Inner Child work has different guises in many different branches of psychology, including Transactional Analysis, Gestalt therapy, psycho-analysis, psycho-synthesis and clinical hypnosis, but they all, in their own way, say the same thing… that we have many different selves within us; different sub-personalities, many of which have their roots in a developmental stage from our past. And at any one time, the way we behave, feel and react to life is dictated by which of those sub-personalities is in control. This isn’t a form of neurosis or psychosis, it’s perfectly normal! And when the positive aspects of those sub-personalities are freed up it can even be very healthy! Each of these sub-personalities has its own beliefs, attitudes and most importantly, hidden agendas. For many of us, particularly when pressure mounts, it’s our child-self which comes to the fore, and that’s not always the best person to be in charge!
We’re Children For Life
We’re all born with a natural tendency to be open, inquisitive, playful and full of wonder. Some people say this is naturally how we are, our “true self”. This child-personality remains a part of our psyche for life, and has some very positive characteristics which emerge in a sense of fun, creativity and spontaneity, if we allow it to. However, our early childhood experiences have a major impact upon us. By the age of 5 or 6, this “divine child” as Jung referred to has been replaced by the “wounded child”. This is when we realize to our horror that the universe does not revolve around us. That it’s not enough to simply be ourselves. To be loved by our parents we have to conform, be “good” (or quiet, or aggressive – whatever our particular family dynamic emphasizes). So no matter how good, kind, loving and supportive our parents were, as far as our “child” is concerned, we clearly were not loved enough. And of course, if our parents were abusive or neglectful, then the damage goes much deeper.
It is this “wounded child”, unconsciously carried around with us, angry, confused, frightened, insecure and manipulative, that is seen as the source of many of our difficulties as adults. That wounded child is frozen in time, influencing our behavior and decisions as it tries to re-write history and secure the unconditional love and approval it desperately wants. Until we deal with the unresolved issues of early childhood, and satisfy the needs of our child-self, it’s difficult to move forward as healthy, balanced, mature adults.
Psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and counseling all tend to spend a great deal of time rooting around in childhood memories, working and re-working the issues. They certainly have their place, and can be very valuable, but it can take a lot of time and discussion, and digging around in the past, working through issues from early childhood. Hypnosis on the other hand, is a fantastic tool that can shortcut the whole process and one of the joys of being a hypnotherapist is that we can work directly with the subconscious mind, where these different sub-personalities “live”. We can quickly and effectively work with this wounded child to bring about rapid, life-changing results.