Inner child

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Inner child is a concept used in popular psychology and self-help child abuse literature to denote the childlike aspect of a person's psyche, especially when viewed as an independent entity. In self-help literature, the term is used to address subjective "childhood experiences" and their assumed effects on the "adult". Some recovery programs consider "healing the Inner Child" to be one of the essential stages in recovery from addiction, sexual abuse, trauma, or post-traumatic stress disorder. In the 1970s, the Inner Child concept emerged alongside the clinical concept of codependency (first called Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome.)

Charles Whitfield, a modern advocate of the concept dubs it the 'Child Within.' Carl Jung referred to a similar concept as the 'Divine Child.' Some psychotherapists call it the 'True Self'. Transactional Analysis simply calls it "child". W. Missildine may have been the first to refer to this concept as the inner child in his 1963 book Your Inner Child of the Past. The "wounded inner child" is a modified application of the inner child concept popularized by American educator, and pop psychologist, John Bradshaw.

Commentary

Michael Yapko, in Suggestions of Abuse, pp. 94-95:

"As a result of its relentless promotion through books, lectures, and tapes, the 'inner child' is now a fact of life to countless Americans. They talk to it, write about it, interpret its dreams, indulge it in carefully constructed fantasies, and most of all, they try to fix it. 'Healing the inner child within' has become the goal of therapists across the country, and a handy, highly publicized framework from which to launch their clinical practices and workshops. In the past month alone, I have received brochures advertising workshops entitled 'Healing the Child Within,' 'Learning to Nurture Your Inner Child,' and 'A Healing Workshop for Adult Children of Affluent Parents.' The trauma of wealth?
So, what's the problem? There is no inner child! It is a metaphor, a representation, a suggested way of thinking about your experience; it is not the experience itself. But, for some people, the suggestion has transcended mere metaphor and become a reality. When I have publicly discussed it as an illusion, I've seen these people become angry and defensive, as if I've just called into question the legitimacy of one of their most precious beliefs. To be truthful, I have. Isn't it interesting, though, how so arbitrary a perspective can assume such personal importance and intensity?"

References

Books:

  • Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy, by Eric Berne
  • Recovery of Your Inner Child: The Highly Acclaimed Method for Liberating Your Inner Self, by Lucia Capacchione
  • You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay
  • Your Inner Child of the Past, by W.H. Missildine
  • Healing Your Aloneness, by Dr. Margaret Paul
  • Inner Bonding: Becoming a Loving Parent to Your Inner Child, by Dr. Margaret Paul
  • The Inner Child Workbook: What To Do With Your Past When It Just Won't Go Away, by Cathryn Taylor
  • Healing the Child Within, by Charles Whitfield
  • The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis