Healing is a natural process. We have all noticed this. Wounds heal given the right kind of care. Cuts hurt at first. There is a period of sensitivity and if allowed to heal slowly, new tissue and skin form just as Mother Nature planned for us. We develop emotionally and spiritually in a similar way. If allowed to develop naturally we grow more mature as we experience life.
Culture and family have a way of interfering with Nature’s simple plans for humans. We are social beings and have developed complex ways of living with one another. Some natural characteristics which we express in childhood are not valued by our family or social group. We learn to repress these characteristics and perhaps find socially appropriate outlets for them. Sometimes we have to “forget” events and experiences we have had, the ones which could bring shame, guilt, or rejection upon us. These memories are locked into our bodies. They are muscle memories and can demand attention over time.
The inner child is the person who experienced these repressed events and when there is no other way of getting the ordinary consciousness to pay attention to “forgotten wounds”, the inner child uses the only means at his/her disposal, the body. The body has always been a part of us, albeit ever changing. We had this body during childhood and it has evolved over time. We look different as adults. Our bodies have changed, but the memories are still there. We say these memories are unconscious because the ordinary consciousness, which psychologists call “the ego”, is not aware of things which happened long ago, especially things which were supposed to be “forgotten”. When the inner child part of us is in need of attention from our adult self, the body is always the first avenue of communication. We call these messages “symptoms”. They get our attention, but often we just find them annoying as they make our smooth, goal oriented daily flow less efficient. When the headache requires attention, we reach for the pain killing medicines in the cabinet. Often this works for a while. We can go back to what we were doing. But sometimes this doesn’t work, and things can get interesting.
One man who consults me has had a string of accidents over the past 25 years. Looking back over his history, he noticed there had been a level of suicidal thinking coupled with several serious accidents and resultant brain concussions. He has been treated by the medical profession yet his symptoms have persisted and in some cases have grown more intense. This man had been involved in a dream group a few years ago and found my blog on the Internet. He had a couple of other interests in the medicine paths which I have written about. We also share experiences with the Santo Daime tradition. After about four months of telephone consultations, during which we have built up a lot of trust, he called me with a practical question about applying to Graduate School. A few minutes into the conversation, and after telling me his migraine headache was intense, he suddenly switched gears. He had a perplexing dream which he wanted to share.
In the dream he was descending stairs into the basement when he discovered the toilet had backed up and shit was floating all over. He said the block was “way back” in the sewer line and as he attempted to clean it up, his in-laws came into the room. I assumed this was an embarrassment to him. Why else would his wife’s parents be aware of the shit? Asking him more questions I discovered the house wasn’t the one he now lives in with his wife and family, but the one he lived in as a child. So then I was curious about the “way back” description of the trouble, the blockage, not to mention the shit. Asking more about this setting and what might have happened to him way back in his childhood, the story slowly emerged. He was molested by a foster child who had been adopted. This took place for three years, from ages 5 through 8. The foster child was three years older and abused his younger brother, as well as my client, down in the basement. That’s where the blockage took place. We talked about his inner child finally getting the story out and having a witness, an advocate, as Alice Miller discussed in The Body Never Lies (2005). And then he suddenly went back to the initial practical question we had started discussing at the beginning of the call.
But here’s where it got interesting. About two minutes into this switched focus, be complained that his migraine had suddenly returned and he felt too fatigued to continue. My comment? “Well that’s not surprising. Your inner child was finally getting the recognition he deserved from both of us and you abandoned him again. You closed the door to the discussion and through your behavior disregarded him, neglected him, and denied him the attention he wanted. The only way he could communicate is through your body’s symptoms, so he sent you an immediate message. This hurts! Here’s the headache back and you’re too tired to continue talking about this academic shit with Michael.” He acknowledged the pattern. He had been taught to ignore his unpleasant memories. He never told his parents about the abuse which happened over 25 years ago. No wonder he kept taking risks in competitive sports, almost killing himself on several occasions. But no one was listening to the body’s language. The inner child had no words, or if he did, they were locked away by his shame and guilt. But his Dream Maker knew what was wrong and found a way to tell the story in such a way that we could work with the symbols and discover the underlying story. So then I asked him, “how’s the headache now? still fatigued?” No he wasn’t anymore. There’s the body talking back, being listened to and, in being honored by both of us adults, feeling safe in reducing the intensity of the symptoms. We’ll see if he can keep the line of communication open as he lives his life. Hopefully he will and the symptoms might completely disappear. I wouldn’t be surprised. I have noticed this happen over and over again.
The body-mind is a self regulating, self healing system. When we allow it to heal itself, it does. Sometimes we need a little help and our dreams supply it. And sometimes fantasies will too. A young man was heart sick when his love left town. He couldn’t eat. Nothing tasted good. I suggested he write down the feelings he was experiencing. He said “I haven’t felt this way in a long time.” I told him to look at the list of feelings and ask himself, when, in the past, did I feel these feelings? It might be a long time ago. They might be things which your inner child is trying to bring to your awareness. They might even be things he wants you to experience. Maybe you have been projecting out onto others the love your inner child needs from you. A few hours later I got a text message from him saying. “I took my inner child to the gym and afterwards I fed him a buffalo burger. He loved it!” Interesting how that lack of appetite disappeared isn’t it? And to think it was that simple, hum.
Both of these men are experienced dreamers who keep journals and enjoy writing. They have been engaged in counseling over the years. They have the proper foundation for the fast track in psychological healing and they do the work. And the benefits abound in freeing up energy for more creative projects. Mother Nature designed us in a really beautiful way. When we cooperate with her genius, being human can be fabulous.