I don’t have an inner child.

The therapy I engaged in at the John Bradshaw Center for five-to-six hours a day, seven days a week, for eight weeks focused almost exclusively on remembering and healing childhood trauma. The idea was that we all come from dysfunctional families that caused us pain. If we don’t remember and relive these traumas in a safe setting we will continue to be in emotional pain and, perhaps worse, risk passing all this dysfunction to the next generation, becoming part of the “poisonous pedagogy.” Aphorisms like, “if you don’t work it out you will act it out” and “the only way out is through” were bantered about like gospel. 

Through all this group therapy, I was supposed to connect with an “inner child,” confess the traumatic things that had happened to me (because “you’re only as sick as your secrets”), and then show that inner child that she is now safe and I, the adult, will protect her.

I always had trouble with this inner child concept. Like so many of the experiential therapies at Bradshaw, it felt false and forced. I could accept, I suppose, the inner child as metaphor, but I was encouraged to refer to this damaged, pathetic part of myself in the third person and even give this child a name. It reminded me of men who name their private parts. Ewww.

I know that the inner child is a concept with widespread appeal. Many of my fellow Bradshaw patients (as well as my therapist there) formed attachments to an inner child. I’m interested in hearing about others’ experiences. Has connecting with an inner child helped you? What am I missing here?


5 thoughts on “I don’t have an inner child.

  1. As a clinical hypnotherapist that specialises in regression work, I believe in the “inner child” concept. I also believe that there are many ways to approach and heal childhood traumas. That is, if they even exist. Freud, for example had the penchant of implanting these memories where they didn’t exist in the first place. I believe that he created psychotherapy because he sucked at hypnosis. It is important to note the effect that these traumas have on us and to what effect they are affecting the now, and this is a case by case basis kind of therapy. I’m not a fan of group inner child work as each person is affected differently and at a different level in the experience with it in the “now.”

    I agree with you that the “inner child” concept is more metaphoric than anything else. I have been taught that there is no bad therapy, just bad therapists. In my line of work I have found this to be more true than false. I also believe that the inner child can be served better through Hypnosis rather than traditional therapy. This is just me of course, and I believe that it’s not only our childhood that forms us, but anything that we allow to effect us throughout our whole lives.

    I am also aware that that clinical therapists and non-clinical have different theories on this widely largely mis-represented concept.
    Love your blog, keep writing girl.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree there is probably some value to someone in almost every therapy modality. Dealing with the whole person — body, mind and spirit — is no easy task and no single algorithm is going to fit for everyone.


  2. kimnorthrop

    I think the bigger issue is the thinking that therapy can solve actual medical conditions. To use myself as an example; bipolar is a medical condition that requires medical treatment. I’m not going to detail the number of therapists and therapy groups I’ve been in over the years; I saw plenty of professionals in obvious hypomania (people were always asking me to lower my voice), told them I had mood swings, and didn’t sleep. Someone should have caught my bipolar earlier but…if all ya got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Plus I was institutionalized 7 or 8 or 9?? times (lost count, right?) over the years. Srsly, the first time your husband has to Marchmont Act you, someone should be clicking off the “hasn’t been properly diagnosed” box on the intake form. Personally, I think, no I am rat-fuck positive sure, that if you are institutionalized more than ONCE you have an untreated mental illness. Ditto all street people. No sane person wants that outcome. And yet the default treatment is still…religion. And by that yes, I mean 12 Step programs. You can’t successfully treat a _medical condition_ with behavior modification or a healthy spiritual life. Decrease stress levels, yes. Cure the underlying condition, no. People die because of this widespread belief because they don’t get the right treatment. Rant over 🙂 Glad you are doing this Nancy!

    Liked by 2 people

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