The psychologist and writer, Whitfield, defines our ‘INNER CHILD’ as: ‘the ultimately alive, energetic, receptive, creative and fulfilled’ part of our psyche. Other psychologists have also written about this aspect of ourselves; for example, the psychotherapist and writer, Alice Miller, refers to it as our ‘true self‘ and others have referred to it as our ‘child within‘ and our ‘real self’.
If we have suffered serious trauma during our childhoods it is likely that this part of us became severely suppressed, and that, in its place, we develop a FALSE SELF. This can result in us viewing the world from the perspective of a ‘victim’, developing a highly anxious personality, anhedonia, a pervasive and distressing sense of emptiness and of life being utterly devoid of meaning, and, very often too, profound confusion as to our own identity.
The reason we have repressed our ‘inner child’ and allowed it to be replaced by this false self is likely to be that our true, authentic self was not accepted or nurtured as we grew up – possibly we were perpetually criticized or, as in my own case, rejected outright.
Now, as adults, we have learned to keep this ‘inner child’ ‘under wraps’ and hidden away. We fear that if we allow it to display itself it will be rejected or hurt, as it was by our parents/primary carers in our early years.
Many people who have been hurt in such a way perhaps never reveal their true selves, or only extremely rarely. How much do we really know of other people’s inner mental lives, even those we suppose ourselves to know very well indeed? And how much do others really know of us?
Sigmund Freud regarded our FALSE SELF as having been created by the relentless demands of the super-ego and the ego. The result of this is that we become highly self-critical, self-blaming and prone to deep feelings of shame. Also, because we are dominated by the ego, we are liable to act in a way that makes us appear strong and in control in front of others, whilst, deep down, we are actually feeling extremely weak and vulnerable.
A further negative outcome of us being dominated by our ego and super-ego is that it leads us to behave in a fake, phony and contrived way – we are forced to wear a social mask in the hope that it will allow us to function in a socially successful way, or, at least, in a socially acceptable one.
It is a bit like one giant conspiracy – everybody behaving as someone they are, in reality, resolutely not.
OUR BASIC NEEDS :
Whitfield (see above) suggests that our ‘inner child’ becomes hidden away as many of our basic needs have never been met (or have been inadequately met). Drawing on other psychologists (e.g. Maslow, Miller, Weil and Glasser), Whitfield lists our BASIC NEEDS as follows:
– safety and survival
– physical contact with others (affection)
– guidance from those more experienced
– being listened to and taken seriously
– being accepted by others and allowed to participate in activities with others
– being respected/admired
– having a feeling of belonging and of being loved
– having our ‘authentic selves’ accepted and appreciated
– having our feelings taken seriously/validated
– having the freedom to be our true selves
– having emotional support from others
– having loyalty from others, especially significant others, parents, etc
– a sense of accomplishment/achievement
– a sense of mastery and control
– having the freedom to be creative
– unconditional love from parents/primary caregivers.
In order to heal our inner child, we need to acknowledge and get back in touch with, these needs and re-parent ourselves in a compassionate way; this is best achieved with the support of a psychotherapist.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.