to a page of
The Web Site of Spiritual Teacher, codependence counselor,
grief therapist, author, Robert Burney and Joy to
You & Me Enterprises
Go to Home Page
Site index page
Robert is the author of the Joyously inspirational
The Dance of Wounded Souls.
This page was written for the first issue of the
This Part two of The Inner Children that
need Boundaries - an article about different inner children and archetypes
that need boundaries set for them by the adult in recovery.
(This page contains an article originally written for
the Joy2MeU Journal. It contains a quote from Codepenence:
The Dance of Wounded Souls and quotes from other articles,
columns, and web pages. The internal links within this article
open in a separate browser window.)
Bad little kid
The child who has ego-strength on the
outside but very little real self-esteem so sets self up to be criticized.
Quite often seen in men who may be successful in business world but don't
feel deserving so set up their mates to be nagging, scolding mother trying
to get them to straighten up. These men have a lot of anger
at their mothers that they have never been able to own but think that they
love women - they have very little capacity to receive love and have to
sabotage it when they do. Can feel very justified in leaving long
term marriage for "trophy wife" because wife is such a "nag."
Magical Thinking Child
The magical thinking child believes in fairy tales
and is often closely allied with the romantic within. This child
can also give power to magical thinking in negative terms - such as, I
am really happy but if I tell anyone I am happy it will be taken away.
Or as I talk about in my article on Joy to You & Me - I thought on
some level that if I washed my car it would break down. This is not
the thinking of an adult - yet many adults, if they would look underneath
some of their reactions and attitudes, would find the magical thinking
child behind them.
The following is an example of setting a boundary
with the magical thinking child. This example came up last year when
I was answering an e-mail from someone who wanted to know "how to" set
boundaries with inner children - that is, what it looks like, the ABC's
of the process.
"There are several facets to setting boundaries
with our inner children. One is that we need to gently explain to
the magical thinking child within that Fairy Tales do not come true - that
is we are not going to get to happily ever-after in this lifetime on this
plane. We may meet our prince or princess - but they are going to
be wounded souls who need to work on their issues also.
I just took a break from writing this to go to the
post office to mail a book and tape set to England - and as I was walking
to the post office a perfect example of what I am talking about occurred
within me. (This is the kind of miracles that I get on a daily basis -
"the ask and ye shall receive" kind - I am thinking of the best way to
answer and by paying attention I was given an example.)
As I was writing this response to your questions,
I got a hit/idea/inspiration that I should post a web page with the questions
that I get by e-mail and answers I send back. As you mention, it
can really help sometimes to be concrete and explicit. So, as I am walking
to the post office I am thinking about doing such a web page and the following
interaction takes place within me (in my inner reality these are fleeting
thoughts rather than a formal conversation.)
ego/critical parent: 'Your giving
away all of this information for free and meanwhile you can't even pay
your rent. That is pretty stupid.'
So, I set a boundary with the critical parent by
not buying into the criticism, I set a boundary with my inner child by
not building up expectations of some kind of reward, and I remind myself
to focus on the half of the glass that is full (my needs that have been
met) and be grateful for the gifts I have been given - not the half that
is empty (my wants that have not been met.)
Romantic (believes in fairy tales) inner child:
'Oh, but we're going to be rewarded. All kinds of good things are
going to happen - including getting a lot of money.'
Adult on Spiritual Path: 'Now, settle down you
two. In the first place, it is very important and wonderful to give
away what I have been given - that is how to keep the energy flowing -
and that is what works, it is what I need to do for me/us. And I
am going to do it because it feels good, it feels right - like the next
thing in front of me to do. We'll worry about the rent when it is
time to pay the rent - for today, for this moment, we will do what feels
right for today. And I need to tell you, that our reward may just
be to feel good about what we're doing - and if that is all there is, that
is still a wonderful gift. On top of that we are getting positive
feedback from all over - and that is a great bonus. There may never
be a lot of money but that is not important. There is enough money
for today. And we are very blessed to have something to do today
that is fulfilling and makes us happy.'
I have peace and serenity when I can accept reality
as it is and focus on what action I can take to change what needs to be
changed. That means I need to accept that I can be happy and fulfilled
even if I never have any money, never get any more of my books published,
never have another romantic relationship, etc. I need to let go of
my picture of how I want things to be and focus on what action I can take
1. feels good/right;
The Truth of the reward thing is that I have no way
of knowing if I am creating "good" (feels like reward when it comes back)
Karma or settling old "bad" (feels like punishment) Karma - so I cannot
know what is coming, I just know that I believe it is all going to be all
right in the end and I will get to go home when I am through with this
often very painful boarding school.
2. that feels like a kind thing to do for myself
(could be doing the dishes or cleaning house - inner children rarely want
to do house work - of course if house work is one of your coping
mechanisms then for you doing something frivolous and silly might be in
3. that is about planting some seeds (going to
the library to get a book, posting a new web page, checking for local 12
step meetings, etc.) that maybe will help to meet my wants.
There is always going to be more work, more healing
to do - but the magical thinking child wants to believe in magical fairy
tales (we're going to win the lottery) - this does not in any way preclude
believing in magical miracles. We need to know that there are miracles
and magic so we can be open to them (we could win the lottery) but not
just sit around expecting (planning on eating on your lottery winnings
tomorrow is not a good strategy) them to rescue us and takes us to happily
ever after. We need to take some action/do our part (buy a ticket
- just one - and though this can be applied literally to the lottery I
am really using it here figuratively speaking) - we are co-creators here.
And even if we win the lottery it is just going to present us with some
more lessons - not bring us happily ever after."
If you have read my other writings on
inner child healing you will know that I have found it useful to try to
figure out what age of the child is connected to the reaction we are feeling.
Sometimes these ages are literal ages connected to a specific event in
our childhood - sometimes they are symbolic designators of a certain type
of wound. This next child wound designator is about anger.
We, of course, experienced anger throughout our childhood (even if we had
no permission to own it and so were in denial of it.) In my observation
there are usually two different ages of the child carrying the bulk of
our anger - a teenager and a younger child, usually around 5 or 6.
That doesn't mean those were the only times we were angry - it is a way
of identifying different types of anger energy. A teenagerÝs anger
is different from a 5 year old's, so it is important to be able to discern
between the different ages as we are building a relationship with those
parts of us.
The whole point of doing this work is so that
we can identify and build a Loving relationship with those parts of our
psyche that are carrying the energy that needs to be healed and released.
We are doing that to take the power away from our wounds so that our past
emotional wounds and old programming are not dictating our life today.
There is no right and wrong way to do this work - what is important is
to make an effort to take Loving control over our own inner process so
that we can stop being the victim of the past.
These are some ways that anger is carried and
Sometimes this anger is very obvious
from a persons demeanor - they exhibit their bitterness and resentment
on the surface because they are letting this child run the show.
They are full of rage and resentment and tend to strike out (verbally and/or
physically), break things or hurt people (verbally and/or physically),
exhibit road rage and/or indulge in self-righteous vendettas. With
this type of display - as with all of the other types - there is
a lot of shame and pain underneath the anger. The key to diffusing
the anger of this child is to own the pain underneath the anger.
Many men find this very difficult because of lack of permission to feel
any feelings except anger. Some women find this difficult because
they do not feel safe being vulnerable.
Sometimes it is very hidden because the person
doesn't let anyone close enough to them to provoke the anger out of fear
of overreacting and shame about past overreactions. They feel as
if there is something wrong with them and that they are carrying a shameful
secret. They may be very cordial and friendly on the outside but
are really hermits because of their fear of their anger and the pain underneath.
This is where I came from for much of my life out of my counterdependency
patterns which were in reaction to my fear of my own pain and neediness.
It is difficult for the counterdependent who is
terrified and ashamed of being vulnerable and needy because they have a
hard time feeling safe enough to own the pain with another person.
In order to alleviate the shame it is very important in the healing process
to be able to open up to, and be vulnerable with, at least one other being
who will not react from judgment. This is vitally important element
in the fifth step of the twelve step program.
It is often very hard to let go of the anger because
it has been the shield that has protected the younger, more vulnerable
child places within us. We need to own our legitimate anger and to
diffuse the anger we are carrying in reaction to our own pain and shame.
Teenage female "Maiden" / Teenage male "Horndog"
Besides all of the ways we are set up
to have unhealthy relationships with our self by the dysfunctional cultures
and role models we grew up with - we are also set up by our genetic species
programming. The survival programming that may have been necessary
in the days of the early Homo Sapiens cavemen can really get in the way
of healthy relationships today.
(A note here that our Spirits, during and after
a Paradise Period here on Earth, did occupy the physical bodies of Homo
Sapiens that had evolved on this planet. Both evolution and Paradise
were realities in the unfolding of the Divine Plan. This is something
that I will be talking about in my Trilogy.)
In order for the human race to survive in a hostile
environment where living past the age of 30 was considered quite old it
was necessary to propagate the race as quickly as possible. One of Mother
Natures ways of ensuring that this would happen was to give teenage males
of the species a very strong sex drive that was aroused by the female body
- most any female body - rather than to primarily seek strong emotional
attachment to one female. This was because of the high mortality
rate - both through death in childbirth of females and death through various
means of the men - that caused a need to take on new and/or additional
mates very soon to insure survival. It was necessary that the men
be willing to copulate with (and thus also agree to protect and provide
for) whomever needed a mate.
Women, on the other hand, in order to try to ensure
protection and sustenance for themselves and their children during the
vulnerable times of pregnancy and after childbirth were programmed to desire
to bond with one man to produce children and then to protect and provide
for her and her children. Women were capable of, and did, hunt and
provide protection for the clan during the times that they were not physically
vulnerable due to pregnancy, childbirth, and early child rearing - it was
during those months of vulnerability in a harsh environment that women
needed a protector and provider.
This genetic programming, that is thousands of
years out of date and unnecessary, is now a source of conflict and misunderstanding
between the genders. This is exacerbated by a couple of other factors.
1. Teenagers as a subculture in society have not
even existed until recently. Until only a generation or two ago teenagers
of 13, 14, and 15 were married and on their own as young adults.
The addition of the teenage years to the period of childhood rather than
adulthood is a very recent phenomena in society. These years of raging
hormones (and resultant emotional volatility) with no acceptable outlet
has added new emotional trauma to the process of growing up.
2. An unfortunate consequence of life in an emotionally
dishonest and dysfunctional society, that is based on beliefs that deny
men the full range of their emotional being, is that the great majority
of men are emotionally immature in their relationships, not only to women,
but also to other men. Most men are stuck in a horny teenager place
- the "Horndog" [a previously uncharted archetype that Jung missed ;-)]
- in terms of how they view and relate to females.
Teenage male "Horndog"
It is very important for men to start being able
to set boundaries with the "horndog", with the horny teenager inside them.
In order to have a chance for healthy relationship and emotional intimacy
it is vital to stop letting the horny teenager be in control of our choices
in romantic relationships (this is just as true for same sex relationships
as heterosexual ones) or influence how we relate with women in general.
This horny teenager within is not bad or wrong or shameful - it is a normal,
natural result of growing up in the dysfunctional societies we grew up
in. What is dysfunctional, and can sometimes lead to behavior to
be ashamed of, is to allow that male animal lust to run the show.
In order to be a mature, adult - a Real Man - it is vital to be conscious
and emotionally honest enough to not allow the attitudes we developed as
horny teenagers to dictate how we treat women today.
Teenage female "Maiden"
One of the archetypes for women is the maiden - a
romantic teenager who believes in fairy tales and daydreams that "her Prince
will come." This maiden is, of course, one level of the romantic
The genetic human programming can set up a woman
to keep a man around for the illusion of having a male protector and supporter.
I have worked with many women who not only didn't need to be protected
and supported by a man, but they in fact were providing the bulk of the
support for the man. In the inner work the "maiden within" is the
part of themselves that women can set a boundary with so that they do not
unconsciously buy into the set up of believing that they have to have a
man in their life to be OK. That certainly doesn't mean that there
is anything wrong with having a relationship with a man or that the Prince
isn't going to show up (he will definitely have issues to work through
however.) The point is to be conscious about our choices. If
we are reacting unconsciously to subconscious or genetic programming then
we are giving power away and not owning our choices.
This is a list of most of the general
types of inner child "persona" that can be present within us. I will
probably think of a few more next week. They are meant as a general
guideline to help you identify some of the reacting parts of your emotional
inner landscape. We all had our relationships with ourselves fractured
into pieces as we were growing up. It is very important to start bringing
some peace to our inner process by owning those inner children, hearing
them as we were not heard.
Two more points come to mind as I am wrapping
1. I used the term persona just now to describe
the inner child/archetype places within us - that feels like a good word
to me. They are not actual personalities. People who suffer from
multiple personality disorder are beings who were pushed farther than the
rest of us. The wounding process involves the same basic dynamic
- in fact, I learned a lot about my own inner process by studying cases
of multiple personality - but multiples were broken in harsher ways (usually
in an intentional and/or ritual abuse manner that amounted to torture.)
2. It is quite normal for a female to have
one or more male inner children and natural (although much harder for the
male to own due to cultural dysfunction) for men to have a little girl
or two within. On top of the emotional dishonesty that men are programmed
with, the homophobic nature of society makes it hard for men to even conceive
of such a possibility. Women, who of course have more permission
for emotional honesty and less strident homophobic programming, also were
raised in a society (and with role models) that taught them that men were
better than women. It was pretty natural (up until recently when
more empowered female role models are available) for a girl to wish she
were a boy at some point in her childhood.
Love is the answer. We are learning to Love
ourselves. In order to do that it is very important to own all of
the wounded parts of our self so that we can then be a Loving parent to
our self. Being a Loving parent does include being willing
to set boundaries for the child. That is part of a parents job.
So too, is Loving, nurturing, and protecting the child. Part of Loving
a child and meeting a child's needs is to set boundaries. Since no
one could do that in a healthy way for us, it is vital to learn to do it
"It is necessary to own and honor
the child who we were in order to Love the person we are. And the only
way to do that is to own that child's experiences, honor that child's feelings,
and release the emotional grief energy that we are still carrying around."