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The ‘inner child’ is a popular concept in pop-psychology to describe a wounded aspect of us, trapped like the child above in the fishbowl of adult life with no way to navigate that realm. I’ve come to understand that the inner child isn’t a fixed subpersonality. They’re a part of us that’s frozen at a particular point of an incomplete maturation process.

What is the ‘inner child’?

From Wikipedia:

“In popular psychology and analytical psychology, the inner child is an individual’s childlike aspect. It includes what a person learned as a child, before puberty. The inner child is often conceived as a semi-independent subpersonality subordinate to the waking conscious mind.” 

Notice how static, how stagnant this perspective is. The inner child is the way it is and remains the way it is. As does the semi-conscious adult observing their inner child.

In Patriarchy demands that our relationships are stagnant, I describe how emotional stagnation is a prerequisite for participation in patriarchal society.

In The Journey Toward Complete Recovery, Michael Picucci notes “a deep psychic schism within almost everyone in our culture which prohibits enduring, loving relationships to form, which at the same time can remain sexually alive and growing.” I.e., emotional stagnation.

Although I initially noticed this stagnation in the context of relationships, it applies to every aspect of our lives. Relationships—particularly where we rub up against our equally stagnant significant other—are just where ‘push turns to shove.’

Our inner child is no exception.

When we shift from a stagnant to a moving perspective, suddenly the inner child comes alive. They aren’t a static aspect of ourselves. They’re just stuck in a stalled development process.

Our inner child is the product of arrested development.

What is arrested development?

Arrested development is a colloquial term, popularised by the TV show of the same name, for what’s technically called ‘developmental disorder’, where crucial developmental tasks in a child’s life don’t unfold correctly.

Timothy Leary describes these key tasks—which he calls ‘circuits’—in his Eight circuit model of consciousness. The Medical Dictionary defines ‘developmental tasks’ as:

“Fundamental achievements that must be accomplished at each stage of life, arising at or near critical stages in the maturation of an individual; successful attainment leads to a healthy self-image and success with later tasks. Failure to achieve developmental tasks at one stage leads to unhappiness in the individual, disapproval of society, and difficulty in accomplishing later developmental tasks.”

What causes these development tasks to stall into arrested development?

Wikipedia informs us that “Normal development occurs with a combination of contributions from both the environment and genetics.”

Through emotional reverse engineering we conclude that arrested development can be caused by suboptimal factors in either a child’s environment, their genetics, or both.

Arrested development can be caused by major emotional shocks during childhood, such as the sudden loss of a parent. It can also be caused by generational trauma inherited through the child’s mother.

In this case—as I can personally attest—arrested development occurs at conception. Because there’s no environmental red flag, attribution is extremely difficult.

The inner child is a Work In Progress

In manufacturing terms, our inner child is WIP—Work In Progress. Just as never-completed WIP is toxic for a factory, it’s toxic for us.

In In Search of the Miraculous, Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky, quoting the spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff, writes:

“Everything in the world, from solar systems to man, and from man to atom, either rises or descends, either evolves or degenerates, either develops or decays… That which cannot evolve consciously—degenerates.”

If this view is correct—and all I see suggests so—then the trapped inner child is in a gradual process of degeneration. Restarting the stalled development process is the only way out.

This is an inexact and little-known science, even within the inexact and little-known world of arrested development. The critical ingredient, the lightning in the bottle, is the restitution of genuine emotional nurturing.

Only this can liberate the inner child to develop, mature, and swim out of the fishbowl.

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

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