What is Inner Child Work?
Many of you who have followed me on social media and my website know that I am an expert in Inner Child Work. If you look up Inner Child Work on Google, you will find my name pop up first—that’s because I was the first affiliate in the US for John Bradshaw, one of the leading founders of Inner Child Work.
The development of Inner Child Work came as a result of the recovery movement for which John Bradshaw was a leading proponent. His work on PBS beginning with Bradshaw: On the Family (1979) and Homecoming became a movement in the field of psychology. Thought of at first as “fringe” or “pop psychology”, the effects of his works have stood the test of time. It became popularized in the 80’s and I expanded his work by bringing it to South Florida in 1989. I am still providing therapy based on his innovative work.
“I think it’s absolutely essential. There’s an enormous amount of science that supports what I began talking about in 1979 around the phenomenon of the “Inner Child” work. A lot of neuroscience and even evolutionary biology has come into play which totally supports what we’re doing.”
– John Bradshaw
It is well known that our childhood wounds and insecure attachments, manifests in much of our choices and behaviors as an adult. We carry our gunny sack of traumas with us until we have the opportunity to unload and heal the damage caused by dysfunctional family systems. Our family of origins were the architects in designing our future. It is up to us to have a corrective experience and learn how to re-parent ourselves from what we lacked as defenseless children.
Why Inner Child Work?
Inner Child Work provides the resources, tools and skills to re-parent your wounded inner child. This takes a commitment of time, money and developing consciousness. It will be perhaps, the best investment you ever make in yourself. Most of us live in a trance, repeating patterns that are counter-productive and too often destructive to our essence. Under the survival suit that we had to weave to survive from our family of origin is our authentic self. It takes peeling the layers of the survival suit off to reach our essence. Once reached, we are free from our past, able to make conscious choices that break the multi-generational toxic shame. We are NOT conscious of our survival suit. Our suit is NOT us. What worked in childhood to protect us, does not work once we reach adulthood.
The process begins with re-claiming, healing and becoming the champion of our inner child. There is a combination of modalities used that promote healing and transformation. This includes family of origin work using hypnosis, NLP, (neuro-linguistic programming), parts work, Gestalt Work, EMDR, grief work, shame reduction work and anger work, all to re-parent our inner child.
It’s the role of the therapist to provide these modalities with skill and wisdom knowing which modality to use as the process progresses. It’s not a one size fits all. Each client is treated with special consideration. The process becomes tailor-made to the individual based on their readiness, trust and most important their sense of safety. It is my responsibility to determine their readiness, develop their trust and create a safe space in order that they allow me to facilitate the process.
This is NOT AN EVENT: IT IS A PROCESS! You will NOT do the work unless you feel safe!
First Stage Recovery
It is essential that the client first modify their compulsive behavior. Inner Child Work will not be successful if the client is using. Modifying addictive behavior is first stage of recovery. In lay terms, the definition of addiction is something that you can’t stop. In psychology, addiction is a pathological relationship with a substance, behavior or person that has mood altering effects and life-threatening consequences. I will not work with any client that has not modified the addictive behavior. First stage recovery can be accomplished in treatment centers, 12 step programs like AA and NA. Coda meetings, ACOA, (adult children of alcoholics), sex and love addiction, OA, (Over-eaters anonymous), GA (gambling addiction) are programs that can help promote healing and effect change. Some people can stop compulsive behavior by seeking therapy and some can even to it on their own; most need support.
Second Stage Recovery
Second stage recovery is family of origin work. Inner Child Work is only one of the components of second stage recovery. Using the Transformation Model developed by John Bradshaw, the Inner Child Work opens up the amygdala, that part of the brain where trauma is lodged. Each amygdala is located close to the hippocampus, in the frontal portion of the temporal lobe.
Your amygdalae are essential to your ability to feel certain emotions and to perceive them in other people. This includes fear and the many changes that it causes in the body. The goal of Inner Child Work is to release the trauma that has been stuck since childhood and beyond. EMDR is one of the modalities that is used along with hypnosis and NLP to unlock the repressed feelings needed to be discharged, not unlike an abscessed tooth. The pain is there until the dentist opens up the abscess and cleans it out. It hurts, but only for a short time. The short-term pain is much easier to tolerate than the lifetime endurance of suffering. Not unlike the agony of labor and childbirth, once over, the pain is worth the reward. Having had five children, I can attest to this worthwhile experience. Looking into the eyes of your newborn, there are no regrets; only joy. Emotional pain and suffering take longer than an abscess to expel and childbirth. This is where the medal meets the pedal.
There is no doubt that Inner Child Work is painful, but nowhere as much as the years of suffering it has been until one is ready to commit to the process. The pain is short-lived and emotional only because the client’s repressed feelings surface to the conscious mind. Then comes relief—a new understanding, not just on a cognitive level, but on an experiential level that sticks to the healing process more than reading about it in a book. You can read a hundred self-help books, attend a hundred workshops, seminars, podcasts, but the work has to be accomplished on a deeper level. You can’t learn how to swim by reading a book. You must go into the water. Those who are afraid and spend a lifetime not knowing how to swim, have a greater chance of drowning than those who know how to swim.
The Purpose of Inner Child Work: Become Your Authentic Self
The purpose of Inner Child Work is to release the shame that binds you– to have a connection and relationship with your inner child and to move out of the shadow and into the light. Having a conscious relationship with yourself offers choices—choices that are thought out, considered and not just impulsive. It takes you from what Freud called, repetition compulsion, the need to repeat and what Alice Miller calls, the logic of absurdity to healthy mature choices.
Knowing yourself for the first time in your life is liberating and enlightening. Taking off the survival suit frees you to be who you are. To be authentic, is to be free and able to love yourself. Self-doubt and low self-esteem transform to confidence and self-value. A sense of wholeness emerges. Having a relationship with yourself, owning your shadow side and loving yourself allows you to make better choices. It promotes having a conscious relationship with another, whether your partner, your spouse, your children, family and friends.
Inner Child Work and a Conscious Relationship
In my book, I HATE THE MAN I LOVE: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success speaks to these issues. Each chapter gives a detailed description of how to have a conscious relationship. With our divorce rate peaking to more than 50% we need to learn how to make love work. It can only work if you have a conscious relationship. Inner Child Work is the foundation to creating and maintaining a conscious relationship with yourself and with your significant other.
I have been employing Inner Child Work in my practice since 1989 when I became the first affiliate for the John Bradshaw Center in the United States. I brought him and his work to South Florida in 1989 and 1990 and have been using his techniques and model ever since. As time progressed, I added more to the modality that has enhanced the original transformational model. It has been perhaps the most effective work in my professional career.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions. I am happy to provide you with a free 15-minute consultation.
What I am is me, for that I came.
– Leon Bouy
Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker, and author. For more information on inner child work and how to create and maintain a conscious relationship, order Joan’s new book, I Hate The Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success.
This article first appeared on joanechilds.com