Working with our inner child can profoundly affect our quality of life as adults. All of us have some aspect of this archetype. Whether this manifests as an orphaned child, magical child, wounded child, etc., depends on our life experiences, the trauma we go through, and the worldview and values inherited from our family. During our formative years, many of our ideas about who we are and how the world works were imprinted on us. So exploring the inner child and uncovering some of these ideas and experiences can deepen our level of emotional maturity and bring to light some of the challenges we face as adults.
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The divine child
In its perfect form, according to Carl Jung, the divine child archetype represents the original self before the world leaves its imprint on us. A time when our capacity to experience lightness, play, wonder, and innocence is untouched by life’s lessons. He described this state as the unity of our conscious and unconscious selves. This wholeness or union of opposites is only achievable by the creative tension of opposing natures. Examples of the union of opposites are masculine/feminine, dark/light, and emotion/intellect.
However, when the child becomes socialized or is wounded, she fragments, and unity is no longer possible. Pieces become separated from the whole and the creative tension can no longer be achieved because the balance has been disrupted. So the divine child because some version of the inner child archetype. The inner child representing all that is beautiful, wondrous, light, and playful. And also representing the values, worldview, beliefs, and trauma that were consciously or unconsciously imparted to us from our family and society. These imprints persist until we acknowledge and challenge them.
Discernment and reasoning
Imagine for a moment that you are six years old and you are running around playing tag with your brother. You are both laughing and giggling as you race around the room. Then suddenly, without thought, you crash into your mother’s favorite vase and it shatters. When your mom comes home from work and finds her family heirloom in pieces on the floor, she unleashes on you. “What did you do?…I can’t trust you with anything?….I can’t believe how careless you are!” and on and on.
Now, if you were older, you might be able to discern that your mother is upset about the vase, but she doesn’t mean the words she is saying to you. You might even understand that some of the anger and frustration is about an upcoming deadline at work. However, your six-year-old brain doesn’t have the capacity for such reasoning and discernment. So you are left with the imprint on your psyche that tells you that you can’t do anything right. That belief will be with you until it is uncovered and challenged.
In Toltec philosophy, any time we agree to a belief or a way of being we are making an agreement. Ask yourself how do you define success? Achievement? How do you deal with failure? Growing up, I was always told I could do better even if the results were excellent. This type of thinking didn’t propel me to achieve more remarkable results as a child. It made me retreat from many things because I felt the pressure was just too great. If I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail. This thinking was something I had to unlearn as I got older.
What about your thoughts around love? How was it modeled for you? Through positive and negative reinforcement, we were shown who we needed to be and how we needed to act to receive love and attention. There were subtle and not so subtle cues reinforcing behavior that was deemed acceptable. Learning to listen to the language that we use can be a great way to uncover the agreements we are making. Do you ever say to yourself, “I can’t do anything right, I’m not creative, I’m not good at math”. This is an agreement.
To love is to wound
This doesn’t mean we should look at the world through the lens of blame. I heard a quote the other day, To love is to wound. Any time we are intimate or authentic with someone, we run the risk of wounding. That’s just the nature of being human. Most people do the best they can with what they have. So it doesn’t serve us to blame others for our perceived shortcomings, but it does serve us to understand the impact that those early relationships have on who we are today and challenge what no longer fits.
Inner child work is an essential part of our personal evolution. Taking time to reconnect to our inner child can uncover when and how those challenges were formed and what is required for their healing. It can be dark heavy work, but also truly rewarding. Our greatness lies in our imagination, creativity, and our curiosity. When we find peace for our inner child, we activate our true human potential – Bringing into creative tension the masculine/feminine, intuitive/rational, dark and light. We find unity within the dualities – This is our path to wholeness.