By Ajay Kalra April 2009 All of us have an inner child within us, the source of our joy, playfulness and spontaneity. However, all too often, in the process of growing up, the child is wounded. How can we discover our inner child and nurture it back to wholeness? Re-Parenting• Giving yourself the nurturing, affection and recognition you need to heal your inner child.• Giving yourself the guidance, direction and self-discipline needed to gain self-control and to accept personal responsibility for your own life.• Letting go of self-pity over your being neglected or abused as a child and taking charge of your life.• Creating a bond between the adult you and inner child you to give you a sense of security, self-confidence and self-worth.• Accepting yourself the way you are in an unconditional way with no regrets or self-hatred over what you “should’’ have been. Source – James J Messina, PhD, psychologist from the internet.How does the ‘Wounded Child” come into being?The “wounded child” comes into being by: • A denial of true feelings.• A denial of the person we are.• Trying hard to live up to others’ expectations.• Holding back our child-like responses, while we provide adult-like responses to stress.• The fear of being “found out” about how we really feel.• Insecurity in the midst of chaos, confusion or the vacuum of repressed feelings.• A sense of obligation to always “look good” and “be good”.• Inexperience at being loved for “who you are” rather than for “what you do”.• Not being given the role model of how to “enjoy” life and to have “fun”.• A lack of encouragement to broaden our scope of vision about the “potentials” in life.• The stress of staying vigilantly in the “here and now’’ so that we stay in control and the “walls didn’t come tumbling down” around us.• Silencing our “inner child’’ and guarding ourselves, retreating behind “masked” barriers.• Feeling that it is not safe to grow up, to accept love or to share feelings.. Source – James J Messina, PhD, psychologist from the internetWhat are the signs of activity of the inner childWe know our “inner child” is active when we: • Lose ourselves in frolic and fun.• Cry at a sentimental movie or TV show.• Enjoy playing with children’s toys.• Love visiting theme parks designed for children.• Seek out adult toys to play with.• Cry or grieve as adults for the losses we experienced in our past.• Get sentimental looking at old photo albums, home movies or scrapbooks about our childhood.• Experience the same intensity of feeling we had as children as we role play or act out experiences from our past. Source – James J Messina, PhD, psychologist from the internet. Leave me! Let me go!” I wailed with tears streaming down my cheeks. My mother held me firmly. We were in the train leaving from Mumbai. The year was 1975 and I was three years old. The incident still brings a knot to my stomach more than three decades later. The first three years of my life were spent with Kaki and Papaji, my maternal grandparents. An inexplicable twist of fate. For me, they became my parents. When I was three it was decided that I should now be sent to my biological parents. I still remember that day. I was tricked into eating an ice-cream, and while I was at it, Kaki gradually slipped away and I was taken by my mother and an aunt to the train that took me away from Mumbai. Away from my grandparent parents. “Leave me! Let me go!” I thrashed my limbs and kept trying to run towards the door. But I was too tiny to escape my mother’s firm grip. Eventually, I let go and went into a deep unconscious sleep that seemed the only escape for the first and most traumatic incident of my life. That day my inner child was wounded. Even though I didn’t know it then, my life-long journey of self-exploration, self-healing and self-expression began that day. What is the inner child?“Everyone has a child in them!” is an oft-heard sentence. That statement has far more depth than we realise. The inner child is a fundamental part of our subconscious psyche. Emotional experiences and memories stored in our brain from the earliest memory. Our intuitive intelligence, joy, natural self-expression and an overall sense of well-being dwells in the inner child. The child is free-spirited, sensitive, creative, fun, joyful, humorous. Says Sampoorna Garine, a counselling psychologist, who has done considerable work on healing her inner child as well as holding workshops on the subject, “I felt free racing barefoot on the streets in the hot summer sun. Playing on the front porch with my friend while listening to the adult chatter around us, gave me a secure feeling of doing my own thing while being in the midst of others.” The little child in us desired to be loved, cared and nurtured. Sometimes, these needs were not met, and therefore the inner child remains unfulfilled, unable to integrate itself into its adult self, still pining for healing and wholeness.When I began my journey into the inner child this is what I imagined. I enter into my chest looking for a child. I see dark clouds all over with no sign of a child. As I look around I see a door. I open the door and enter an empty room. There is another door in that room. I open this too and enter into another smaller empty room. I keep opening doors and entering into smaller rooms. By now I seem to have entered deep into the recesses of my heart, with no sign of a child. As I am about to turn back I realise that this particular room is unusually dark and small. As I grope my way further, I come across a small figure sitting in a dark corner. It is sitting on the floor with its head resting on its knees and its arms wrapped around its legs. It is scared and crying. I bend down and touch it lightly on the shoulder. It looks up, frightened. It’s a face I will never forget. It is me as a three-year-old frozen in time. I felt free racing barefoot on thestreets in the hot summer sun The wounded childInvariably in the growing up process all of us undergo some incident in our childhood that gives birth to fear. It may be a simple incident. But it’s our first taste of rejection, abandonment, failure as humans. “I fell from a tree; no one came to pick me up,” says Gurpreet, a Landmark course participant. “My father gave me a shouting for picking an apple from a tray in the neighbour’s house. He thought the neighbours would think that my parents didn’t give me enough to eat. I was only four,” adds Sheetal, another participant. The rejection may begin even earlier. “I was the fifth and youngest daughter to parents looking for a son, and I have often speculated on what my reception at birth must have been like. During a personal growth process, I traced my life-long patterns of rejection, feelings of inadequacy, and low self-esteem to my parents’ inevitable disappointment when they first saw me,” reminisces Sanjana Verma, a Mumbai-based writer (name changed to protect identity).Says Roshan Tarneja, a top MNC executive who has difficulty in expressing his feelings, “Though well-off initially, we hit hard times when I was around seven. I recall being ridiculed by my cousins when I asked to borrow their textbooks, because I couldn’t afford my own. I went to my mother, crying. She didn’t do much about it. I made up my mind that day that I would study hard and become successful. Thereafter, I never reacted to being ridiculed nor did I make any demands from my parents. I was the eldest and wished to be a role model for my younger siblings. Looking back, I think I grew up much before I was meant to.”For myself, I was put in a boarding school at the age of five and studied there for 11 years. In a boarding school the first casualty is feeling. You are not expected to cry even if you are homesick or you will be labelled a sissy. You are never cuddled, and are required to go to bed all by yourself. I was also exposed to authority figures other than my parents at a very young age. As a result it took me a long while to express feelings. If I didn’t express myself I would not be hurt. I was mostly focused on pleasing others. In the process I lost touch with my own needs, own values, my own inner child.Coping mechanismsWhen the child experiences fear of rejection or abandonment for the first time it does not have the intelligence to make sense of that experience. Neither does the tender body have the capacity to experience the trauma completely and thereby release it from the system. It develops coping mechanisms. These are unconscious habits we pick up to numb the pain. When they are repeated over a period of time, they form addictions. They may range from overeating, pornography, dependent relationships or violence. At another level they can also be seen as karmic patterns we may have carried from previous lifetimes, getting reaffirmed in this life. Sanjay, a Mumbai-based photographer, says, “Pornography and masturbation were my escape mechanisms from fear, and I would often slip into promiscuity. One part of me was deeply sensitive, and another part of me promiscuous and unable to form a committed relationship. It was like being torn apart inside.” Says Chris Griscom in her book, Healing of Emotion, “There are two primary emotions: fear and anger. Fear is the feminine, the yin way of experiencing our hurt of separation… Anger represents the male, the yang way of expressing our pain of changing dimensions… Be
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