The Inner Child is the aspect of each of us that is child-like: full of wonder and innocence, playful, spontaneous, in the moment, delicate, vulnerable, and nonjudgmental.
Some critics believe that the Inner Child is just a product of pop psychology that happened to sell, and that there is no such thing as a separate child-like personality in every one of us.
The truth is, we are all made up of multiple aspects of self. Insights from cognitive science have illuminated the understanding that self consciousness by its very nature is multidimensional and not always a continuous stream of unification as we often perceive it to be.
Despite what the critics say, many people find that reconnecting with the Inner Child brings healing and joy to life. But many people misunderstand the beauty and strength of the Inner Child’s shadow, the Ego.
The Ego is the wounded child within us, the part of us that used whatever means possible to survive the betrayals and traumas of childhood. It found whatever defense mechanism possible — denial, numbing, rebellion, aggressiveness, passive-agressiveness, docility, projection, blame, irresponsibility, misplaced anger — anything just to endure the pain of being an innocent and vulnerable child in an patriarchal, oppressive, dysfunctional adult world.
In his bestselling book, Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, John Bradshaw explains in the first chapter, “How Your Wounded Inner Child Contaminates Your Life,” that such defense mechanisms in response to a harsh reality range anywhere from codependency and addictions to depression or narcissism.
Some of the wounded Inner Child’s, or the Ego’s coping strategies may not make sense at first, but consider what Sigmund Freud spent years of work anchoring into the field of psychology — that the Ego is the rational self, striving above all other things, for self-preservation amidst a frenzy of conflict between inner desires and how the world actually is.
The Ego is the survivor, who must reconcile differences between the spiritual Super Ego of values and ethics and the primal Id of desires and basic drives — which is a constant struggle.
The Ego’s burden
We rely on the shadow side of our Inner Child for survival. Sometimes we need fear to protect ourselves, and anger to mobilize ourselves and ward off violations. Judging these emotions as bad or useless only pits us against ourselves and dissociates us from our emotions — which are intricately linked to our belief systems.
If you truly wish to heal yourself so you can make the best of what life has to offer, you must begin with your own shadow, that of your Inner Child. He or She is a certain way for a reason, and you might as well look into your past for answers. The Ego bears a large burden, yet how easy it is to slip into judgment about its own judging nature!
We don’t have to let Ego run our lives, but we don’t have to subdue it either.
The Ego’s power
No matter how much you try to think good thoughts or change bad habits, you cannot change your beliefs without examining the emotions that hold them in place in your subconscious.
You cannot escape the destructive patterns of your subconscious when they are still hidden from you — that the subconscious is very little understood by science is a test to its true stealth and pervasiveness.
No matter how hard you try, if you deny your Little Boy or Girl (your Ego) the love and acceptance they need to feel validated and safe enough to begin healing, they will no doubt sabotage you in ways you may not even notice. Your Inner Child needs you; you are the only true parent they can trust to be taken care of and nurtured. If abandoned by you, they will have nowhere else to go for help.
Accepting the Ego
Understanding the magnitude of this relationship is daunting, I know.
Taking responsibility for all the ways in which you reject, condemn, harm, destroy, hurt, invalidate, or suppress your Inner Child (Read: Ego) is extremely difficult.
Facing up when you realize you treat yourself the same way you accuse others of violating you takes courage and brutal honesty.
But don’t blame yourself for not knowing what was so effectively hidden from you by the dysfunctional belief systems of the world you grew up in.
Remember, it only gets easier with practice. And once you start practicing, you realize that no matter how hard it is, there is perhaps nothing more satisfying than truly accepting your hurts and mistakes fears and vulnerabilities, and loving yourself just the same.
It’s satisfying because you begin to feel whole, and rewarding because only then can you truly feel compassion towards others, who have wounds and dark sides just like yourself.