Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Inner Child

photo by Luba Rasine; The Sparkly Water

When I'm feeling inexplicably sad or the like, I look for my Inner Child to check on how she's doing.  I use the Active Dreaming technique of journeying to meet her in a familiar place, usually a dream place.

When I journeyed to meet her today, I was surprised and deeply re-assured to meet my wonderful friend, Bear, the huge grizzly that once scared the pajamas off me in a "nightmare." It also made sense, because as Robert Moss frequently points out, the Inner Child will often feel protected and comforted by large animal guides.

To begin with, I sat in silence with my feelings of sadness to see where they traced, and yes, my little girl was sad.  As often happens in dreams and journeys, the unexpected takes over and something real happens; I know it's real because it's so unexpected.  I witnessed her tears and bent to comfort her where she sat curled into herself, and that's when I felt the presence of Grizzly Bear from that long ago dream.  After that, I had flashing images of all the Black Bear guides that have been showing up in my dreams frequently over the past few years. Each image gave me huge comfort and a true sense of being loved and assisted. Finally, I saw this wonderful scene from a card I have by Hillary Bird; a little girl in a teepee with a bear, sitting crossed legged opposite each other, obviously deep in warm conversation, though they are depicted as silhouettes against the beautifully painted canvas of the tent glowing from within.

Relief from sadness flooded me, as it became my little girl in that teepee telling Bear all she was feeling.  She wasn't talking about past stuff alone, she was talking about what "I" was feeling now, she wasn't even talking to me, the observer/big sister.  My restlessness, lack of productivity and despondency were inexplicable to me, not at all caused by anything in my environment I couldn't fix; well, most of it anyway, (what I can't fix, I choose to accept in love).  Bear listened and Bear advised.  The shift I felt is comparable to leaving a great therapy session. I am so grateful.

The Inner Child has been on my mind for another reason, too. One student I'm working with has a clear image of a five year old self from a dream of that age; thus, she has a portal to genuine interaction with that aspect of herself and is exploring what she might learn developing this inner relationship. It's fun for me as a dream guide because I can readily identify with the experience of first connecting to my own five year old self through a dream and synchronicity experience 15 years apart.  I share that with you in Crocodile Friday.

What is the "Inner Child"?  To be objective, I did a quick search and got:

 "... a person's supposed original or true self, especially when regarded as damaged or concealed by negative childhood experiences."
"...inner child is our childlike aspect. It includes all that we learned and experienced as children, before puberty. The inner child denotes a semi-independent entity subordinate to the waking conscious mind." (my underline:-)

I know from my own studies and practice as a counselor, that there are many good psychological theories of the gifted/wounded inner child and its effects on our emotions, behavior and self-image. In my view, no theory around will give me a better insight into my own inner child than connecting with her, just as if I wished to reconnect with any friend or relative.  I'd make the effort to see and talk to them; to listen to how their life is going and catch up. 

One of the many gifts of a dream practice like Active Dreaming is that things go from the theoretical to the poignantly personal and experiential very quickly.  You're consciously exploring dreaming locales in a spirit, energy or imaginal body.  I don't think any amount of talking, Left brain, analysis or theorizing can yield such rich results so quickly. In my experience, genuine interaction flows from Right brain, creative approaches to engaging the dream character, symbol or place. 

In Robert Moss's wonderful book, "The Boy Who Died and Came Back: Adventures of a Dream Archaeologist in the Multiverse" he writes:

We are at the center of all times. The dramas of lives being lived in other times and in parallel realities may be intensely relevant to understanding and navigating our current relationships and life issues.  We can learn to reach into those other lives to share gifts and lessons.  We can dialogue with our own older and younger selves within our present lifetimes.  We must entertain the spirits, starting with our very own - the child self, the inner artist, the passionate teen, the animal spirits the creative daimon.  p. 13.

One would think that we'd welcome our little girls and boys home to us with open arms, like we might do puppies or kittens, but I've noticed in my own and others' experience that there can be quite a bit of resistance.  Why is that? What sometimes comes up is a very judgmental adult ego self, one that will not let that little kid be flawed in any way, who might want to get away from that little child and who needs to learn love and compassion for that child before that "inner child" may agree to come home for a re-union.   This was a fascinating discovery for me, one that time and again, my dreams have assisted in clarifying.  Like all inner work, depending on the degree of trauma suffered in childhood, it may require wise, compassionate counseling to undertake in highly traumatic cases.

When I encounter in myself unwillingness to embrace an aspect of myself, especially a child aspect as she manifests, I want to face my own resistance.  If she won't talk to me, it's up to me to figure out what it will take to strengthen our bond, to make her comfortable with me and me with her, to "entertain" her.  I ask myself, what am I holding back? Am I judging this child for something?  Has this child's voice gotten overlaid by an older self, inhibited, saddened or repressed?  What I want to see is her smile, her joy, her bliss and the bond of our mutual love. After my journey to meet her, I went for a walk on the beach - with her.  One seagull was screaming as they do and part of me wondered how to understand its cry, what it's trying to say, until I saw my little imaginary companion hopping after it on one leg imitating its call.  What a lesson in child vs. adult nature that was!

She isn't just an imaginary aspect of myself dominated by my waking ego ("subordinate to the waking conscious mind"), she's as "real" as "I" am. In the Dreaming, all time is NOW.  Ignoring her distress, distress that is an undercurrent of my waking ego's feeling experience, is not only unkind, it's unwise. Our soul aspects in the inner world, perhaps what Jung meant by complexes, have a life and "mind" of their own. My relationship with my inner child is that, a relationship.  The illusion of being in control which the ego perpetuates becomes evident when, like in my case, sadness would out, regardless of my ego's effort to ignore or over-ride it.  "I" prefer a sunny disposition and a good sense of humor, so I was having none of this weepy child.  My little girl "Inner-Child" was demanding and directing my attention from my external, waking world to my ever-present inner world. The minute I relented and journeyed to meet her, I witnessed Bear come to her immediately and felt awed by Bear as I recognized again, Bear's numinous nature.  What a gift to me to be reminded of something so strengthening and powerful that I experienced in a dream long ago.

What my inner child is, is less important than who she is.  Who she is harbors some of who I am that I may want to reclaim now; plus, she may need me to feel totally loved and accepted again, as every child should feel.  One of the easiest ways to do that is through the portal of dream/play.

Remembering childhood dreams or dreams featuring little children, writing them down, drawing or using any creative expression to manifest the energy they contain for our waking life, can bring our little selves back to us, helping us each feel our genuine core of joy.  Dreams don't get old; they belong to a realm where time is irrelevant.  Exploring childhood dreams and memories as if they were dreams through Active Dreaming can open floodgates of creative and caring energy blocked, perhaps, by shutting out the little person we each once were.

Here's a toast from that magical poet of the inner child, Shel Silverstein, who crossed over in 1999:

“If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper a pray-er a magic-bean-buyer
If you're a pretender come sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
Come in!
Come in!”