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Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child Paperback – Illustrated, February 1, 1992
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
WOUNDED INNER CHILD
The person … in the grip of an old distress says things that are not pertinent, does things that don’t work, fails to cope with the situation, and endures terrible feelings that have nothing to do with the present.
I couldn’t believe I could be so childish. I was 40 years old and I had raged and screamed until everyone—my wife, my stepchildren, and my son—was terrified. Then I got in my car and left them. There I was, sitting all alone in a motel in the middle of our vacation on Padre Island. I felt very alone and ashamed.
When I tried to trace the events that led up to my leaving, I couldn’t figure out anything. I was confused. It was like waking up from a bad dream. More than anything, I wanted my family life to be warm, loving, and intimate. But this was the third year I had blown up on our vacation. I had gone away emotionally before—but I had never gone away physically.
It was as if I’d gone into an altered state of consciousness. God, I hated myself! What was the matter with me?
The incident on Padre Island occurred in 1976, the year after my father died. Since then I’ve learned the causes of my rage/withdrawal cycles. The major clue came to me on the Padre Island runaway. While I sat alone and ashamed in that crummy motel room, I began to have vivid memories of my childhood. I remembered one Christmas Eve when I was about 11 years old, lying in my darkened room with the covers pulled up over my head and refusing to speak to my father. He had come home late, mildly drunk. I wanted to punish him for ruining our Christmas. I could not verbally express anger, since I had been taught that to do so was one of the deadly sins, and especially deadly in regard to a parent. Over the years my anger festered in the mildew of my soul. Like a hungry dog in the basement, it became ravenous and turned into rage. Most of the time I guarded it vigilantly. I was a nice guy. I was the nicest daddy you’ve ever seen—until I couldn’t take it anymore. Then I became Ivan the Terrible.
What I came to understand was that these vacation behaviors were spontaneous age regressions. When I was raging and punishing my family with withdrawal, I was regressing to my childhood, where I had swallowed my anger and expressed it the only way a child could—in punishing withdrawal. Now, as an adult, when I was finished with an emotional or physical withdrawal bout, I felt like the lonesome and shame-based little boy that I had been.
What I now understand is that when a child’s development is arrested, when feelings are repressed, especially the feelings of anger and hurt, a person grows up to be an adult with an angry, hurt child inside of him. This child will spontaneously contaminate the person’s adult behavior.
At first, it may seem preposterous that a little child can continue to live in an adult body. But that is exactly what I’m suggesting. I believe that this neglected, wounded inner child of the past is the major source of human misery. Until we reclaim and champion that child, he will continue to act out and contaminate our adult lives.
I like mnemonic formulas, so I’ll describe some of the ways the wounded inner child contaminates our lives using the word contaminate. Each letter stands for a significant way in which the inner child sabotages adult life. (At the end of this chapter you’ll find a questionnaire to help you ascertain how badly your own inner child was wounded.)
Acting Out/Acting In Behaviors
Emptiness (Apathy, Depression)
I define co-dependence as a dis-ease characterized by a loss of identity. To be co-dependent is to be out of touch with one’s feelings, needs, and desires. Consider the following examples: Pervilia listens to her boyfriend talk about his distress at work. She cannot sleep that night because she is fretting about his problem. She feels his feeling rather than her own.
When Maxmillian’s girlfriend ends their six-month relationship, he feels suicidal. He believes that his worth depends on her loving him. Maxmillian truly has no self-worth, which is engendered from within; he has others-worth, which depends on other people.
Jolisha is asked by her jock husband if she wants to go out for the evening. She is wishy-washy and finally says yes. He asks where she wants to go. She says it doesn’t matter. He takes her to the Viking Barbecue Stand and to see the movie The Return of the Ax Murderer. She hates the whole evening. She pouts and withdraws from him for a week. When he asks, “What’s the matter?” she answers, “Nothing.”
Jolisha is a “sweetheart.” Everyone comments on how nice she is. Actually, she only pretends to be nice. She is continually in an act. For Jolisha, being nice is a false self. She’s unaware of what she really needs or wants. She is unaware of her own identity.
Jacobi is 52 years old. He comes to counseling because he has been in an affair with his 26-year-old secretary for two months. Jacobi tells me he doesn’t know how this happened! Jacobi is an elder in his church and a revered member of the Committee to Preserve Morality. He led the fight to clean up pornography in his city. Actually, Jacobi is in a religious “act.” He is completely out of touch with his sexual drive. After years of active repression, his sex drive has taken over.
Biscayne takes his wife’s weight problem personally. He has greatly curtailed their social life because he is embarrassed to have his friends see his wife. Biscayne has no sense of where he ends and his wife begins. He believes his manhood will be judged by how his wife looks. His partner, Bigello, has a mistress. He periodically weighs her to be sure she is maintaining her weight. Bigello is another example of a person who has no sense of self. He believes his manhood depends on his mistress’s weight.
Ophelia Oliphant demands that her husband buy a Mercedes. She also insists on keeping their membership in the River Valley Country Club. The Oliphants are heavily in debt; they live from payday to payday. They spend enormous amounts of energy juggling creditors and fashioning an image of upper-class wealth. Ophelia believes that her self-esteem depends on maintaining the proper image. She has no inner sense of self.
In all the above examples we find people who are dependent on something outside of themselves in order to have an identity. These are examples of the dis-ease of co-dependence.
Co-dependence is fostered in unhealthy family systems. For example, everyone in an alcoholic family becomes co-dependent on the alcoholic’s drinking. Because the drinking is so life-threatening to each family member, they adapt by becoming chronically alert (hypervigilant). Adaptation to stress was intended by nature to be a temporary state. It was never intended to be chronic. Over time, a person living with the chronic distress of alcoholic behavior loses touch with his own internal cues—his own feelings, needs, and desires.
Children need security and healthy modeling of emotions in order to understand their own inner signals. They also need help in separating their thoughts from their feelings. When the family environment is filled with violence (chemical, emotional, physical, or sexual), the child must focus solely on the outside. Over time he loses the ability to generate self-esteem from within. Without a healthy inner life, one is exiled to trying to find fulfillment on the outside. This is co-dependence, and it is a symptom of a wounded inner child. Co-dependent behavior indicates that the person’s childhood needs were unmet, and therefore he cannot know who he is.
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0553353891
- ISBN-10 : 0553353896
- Product Dimensions : 5.98 x 0.78 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Bantam; Illustrated Edition (February 1, 1992)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #10,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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