Perhaps, the work I am most known for is healing and championing the Inner Child. In 1989, I first became acquainted with John Bradshaw for his efforts in bringing this work to the forefront of transformational psychology. Although, often called “pop psychology” or “fringe” among those unfamiliar with his work, it has been long proven perhaps one of the most successful models for change. The profound changes that I witnessed made me begin my journey along with him. In 1990 I established the first affiliate of The John Bradshaw Institute, known as Joan E. Childs and Associates.
Prior to then, John established an in-patient treatment center in Ingleside, Ca. for the purpose of healing the wounds of the “Inner Child” in all those patients who admitted themselves into the Institute whether for alcohol, drugs or codependency. What he uncovered was, no matter the compulsion/addiction, the underlying issues were related to “Codependency” caused by neglect, abandonment and abuse. The behavior was just the extension of the wound. Some adult children went to alcohol; some to drugs; and others to people or activities to self medicate. When all the behaviors were modified, it was discovered that the underlying pain and/or emptiness was severe and needed to be addressed and treated. The need for connection to self and others had been missing, so addiction took its place.
Although his theory was not original, he parlayed and synthesized his concepts and ideas on the works of others such as Virginia Satir, Martin Buber, Alice Miller and many others, who, not unlike him, believed that children who come from dysfunctional families, suffer wounds that manifest into destructive behaviors, mood disorders and psychiatric illnesses that may not have occurred if they had healthy parenting. The adage, “we reap what we sow” was brought to light in what we observed in our independent practices.
Since we all come from dysfunctional families to a greater or lesser degree, we bring our left over baggage along with us into our adulthood. The average age that a person realizes that he/she may be dragging baggage from the past into the present, comes around the age of forty. Some come in sooner, others later, but there seems to be a magic bell that goes off when an individual reaches a certain maturity that calls them to begin to self examine and ask the question: “What is my part in this mess I seem to be recreating throughout my life?” When this question is considered and explored, the answers are not far away. Although the work of therapy is tedious, long and expensive, the outcome is worth the investment.
Change is difficult. Once the dye has been cast, change becomes an enormous task. It takes a deep commitment and a willingness to expand our perceptions, understand the past and give up our beliefs. It is our belief system that dictates our behavior. This is rooted in the unconscious. The unconscious dictates our behavior with a positive intention even though the outcome may be destructive.
Inner Child Work cuts through years of “talk therapy” as it establishes a connection with a part of us that has been lost through the years of creating and maintaining a “false self”. The “false self” or “survival self” helps the inner child feel accepted and creates a false sense of security, so it is reinforced throughout the years. Eventually as we mature, it no longer serves its original purpose and fails us because we lose our authentic self in the process of growing up. What worked for us as a child, no longer works in adulthood. The most effective way to contact the Inner Child is through the modality of NLP hypnosis. The belief is that although there may not be an adult in every child; there is a child in every adult. Inner child work is about our adult doing the work that was denied to us as children, and not needing anyone outside ourselves to heal our childhood wounds. As we discover the part of us who is capable, competent and nurturing, we can give the inner child what was needed and denied. Inner Child Work is an essential ingredient in healing and transformation.
An outgrowth of the recovery movement, John Bradshaw introduced Inner Child Work in his PBS television series, HOMECOMING in the early 90’s. Returning to the implicit memories that kept us bound in toxic shame, releases the energy and liberates us from our past. Once we embrace and re-parent our Inner Child we reclaim our authenticity. Our goal is to become the champion to our inner child.
This intense work should only be provided by a therapist who is trained in Inner Child Work. It includes many technologies such as Neuro-linguistic programming, Gestalt Therapy, Parts Work, Hypnosis, Re-decision therapy, breath work and psycho-drama. Each therapist can employ their own techniques, however the essential technology should be facilitated by a trained therapist.
Now, nearly thirty years later, this work is still profound and transformational. It is the foundation of all experiential psychology and the essence of my work.