We can thank John Bradshaw (Healing the Shame That Binds You) and other progenitors of the so-called “Recovery Movement” who from out of the drug induced haze of the 1980’s convinced the masses that we are Diseased, Dysfunctional, Co-Dependent, In Denial, Adult Children, Addicts. “Inner Child” work became implicit in the 12 Steps and it somehow was able to very surreptitiously shift personal responsibility from the recoveree to their families of origin whose parenting styles neglected the needs of the blessed Inner Child. It’s almost embarrassing to note the number of therapists who fed into this Inner Child business. Many were remunerated handsomely for spreading the New Age Gospel of disease and victimhood. Admittedly, I have to count myself among the masses who were bedazzled by the feel-good, warm and fuzzy messages that were promises of healing to an inner being that, as I see it now, does not exist, at least to the extent of the energy devoted to its care.
The other day I was a bit irritated to hear a client of mine report that her very well-meaning family member (in recovery) continued to harp away that she, my client, was not doing any “inner child” work. This resulted in my hard working client’s questioning the value of her success in our work together. Oh, the value of the “reframe” in explaining that all the Trauma work we had done could be seen as “Inner Child” work and that if she wanted to call it that, then we would. She was driving the therapy bus, after all. In the end, I was rather tickled at her response when she said that having read Bradshaw, she thought he was “pretty whiney” and couldn’t really wrap her expanding self appreciation around his “wimpy message”.
Up to this point, I had not given Inner Child work much of a second thought, but I was so dumfounded that the term was still out there I did a bit of reading and assimilating of my own accumulated knowledge and experience in my work with Posttraumatic Stress using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, to re-imagine what the heck an inner child is.
Here it is.
The Inner Child is actually an Inner Bully. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, one metaphor trumping another metaphor. In my experience, there are probably several Inner Bullies whose sole function is to elbow their way into the front of our consciousness and to interfere with the process of our maturation into adults. They have a way of preventing us from behaving in a way that instills pride, reward, and empathy for our fellow travelers.
These little monsters, as I would call them, appear with a goodly amount of predictability in times of stress when decisions, choices, actions, and consequences require a steady hand to navigate, and they make it nearly impossible to think logically and with circumspect. Their messages, aka, maladaptive thoughts, incite strong and toxic emotions upon which many have learned to react with excessive use of chemicals, gambling, binge eating, cutting, shopping, or sex, just to show the tip of the ice burg.
Not good enough.
Have to be perfect.
If something goes wrong, it’s my fault.
I’m a total failure.
The emotions that are aroused are powerful.
There is a physiological response: We feel it in our gut, throat, heart, head, throughout our whole body.
In my estimation, the force behind these arousals is no innocent child. There are a growing number out there who are coming up with the same conclusion.
9 Ways to Shush Your Inner Bully: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-7644/9-ways-to-shush-your-inner-bully-and-be-more-successful.html
Casting Out The Inner Bully: http://thepositivemom.com/casting-out-the-five-lethal-demons
Many have developed the cognitive skills needed to muffle the sound and effect of the Inner Bully and are able to circumnavigate their false readings.
Many are simply not able to resist. This is where good solid work with a therapist can help.