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Wounded Inner Child Undermines Adult

Uploaded 3/21/2021, approx. 44 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and today we are going to discuss the inner child, the theory, the practice, the underpinnings.

Is it real? Does it exist? What's the meaning of the inner child? Is it just another hype? Media hype or internet hype? Or is it a useful therapeutic and theoretical tool?

Now, students of SIAS, this is Unit 6, Part 1. Postdocs in CIAPS, this is Unit 7, Part 1. And postdocs in Nigeria, this is Unit 8, Part 1. Don't get confused. So, inner child work, theory and practice.

There is always a discrepancy between chronological age and emotional or mental age.

In everyone, even the healthiest person sometimes feels much younger than he or she is or much older. These gaps are shifting. These gaps are changing with time, with circumstances, with the environment, with constraints, with stressors, etc. But they are always there.

When the gap, when the abyss is inordinately big, when the difference between chronological age and emotional and mental age is enormous, we call it regressive infantilization.

In other words, regressing, going back to infancy.

Now, this used to be called in psychoanalytic literature, Puerre Aeternus, The Eternal Adolescent. Or much later, when it was popularized, it was called the Peter Pan Syndrome.

This kind of gap happens when the child is not allowed to separate from the parent. He is not allowed to establish personal boundaries.

He is not allowed, in other words, to become an individual.

The primary objects, the caregivers, in most cases mother, later father, these caregivers objectify the child, idolize and pedestalize the child, or instrumentalize the child, use the child, for example, to realize their unfulfilled wishes and dreams and fantasies, or parentify their offspring, forcing the child to become a parent in effect.

At any rate, they violate the boundaries of the child, the emergent, nascent boundaries of the child by behaving this way or via more classical forms of abuse.

We all heard of sexual abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, all these forms of abuse do the same. They breach the child's boundaries. They don't allow the child to separate.

The ego, for its term, or the self, which is more of a Jungian, Cauhutian term, so the ego or the self, they constellate. They are put together. Various parts come together in a process known as introversion, which involves narcissism.

But the ego and the self come together, they constellate, and then they integrate.

But the ego or the self cannot constellate and cannot integrate unless there is repeated exposure to bruising, painful reality.

Yes, you heard me correctly, you need to be exposed to reality as a child, because reality pushes back. And as reality pushes back against you, a clear boundary is formed.

This is the boundary of the self. This is the limits, the point beyond which you start and reality ends.

The more you conflict with reality, the more you have this tactile experience of the outside, the external, the easier it is for you to form, to establish, to coalesce, and to congeal the internal.

Internal, an experience of internality, an experience of having something inside crucially depends on an experience of the outside.

And so exposure to reality and a good reality testing, they are critical to the formation of the ego and the self.

Actually, Freud said that the ego's main role is to interact with reality. And that's where external object relations come in.

External object relations are simply put, relationships with people. People are a part of reality. People are external, and people help you to become. They help you to become who you ultimately are. They form your identity by not being you.

And so absent these, when the child has no contact with reality and no contact with other people, the child feels estranged from his own life. The child has no self, no functioning self. He has identity disturbance. He has a fragmented self. He has self-states. He has pseudo-identities, whatever you want to call it.

But he doesn't have a central core where a core should have been. There is emptiness, and we call it the schizoid empty core.

So this kind of child feels that he or she doesn't exist. And when you don't exist, you can't have a life. You can't own your life. And you keep asking, whose life is it anyhow?

Unable to inhabit his own life, this child alienated, confused, becomes an adult. And the adult retreats into familiar modes of infancy and remains fixated there, which leads us directly to the concept of inner child.

The concept is much older than you can imagine. It goes back at least to Pharisee, an early psychoanalyst, the disciple of Freud. And Pharisee was the first to suggest there is a childlike element inside each and every one of us.

But of course, the inner child construct had been popularized by John Bradshaw. He brought it to popular culture.

More recently, Richard Schwartz gave it a more systematic treatment with the inner family systems model. And I encourage you to watch the video that I've made about the inner family system in conjunction with narcissism. There's a good introduction to inner family system in that video.

So in popular psychology and in analytical psychology, psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic therapies, the inner child is the childlike aspect of an individual. It includes what you had learned as a child before puberty.

The inner child is a kind of semi-independent figment, fragment that remains inside you. Sometimes it is described as subpersonality. It is subject to the waking conscious mind, but it doesn't fully intrude there. It doesn't fully become conscious.

And of course, in counseling and so on and so forth, we use inner child, Margaret Paul, Erika Czopić and others, which I will mention later, they had leveraged the construct of inner child to induce healing.

Carl Gustav Jung suggested archetypes. He suggested the concept of archetypes. He said that we are born with ready-made templates, ready-made kind of empty, blank word documents. There's the software there, which is Microsoft Word, but nothing is written in the document. But the templates are there. And these are the modes, the ways that we relate to the world. And he called these archetypes.

And one of the archetypes is the divine child. Much, much later, someone called Emmet Fox called it the wunderchild or the wunderking, wunderkind. Wunderkind is actually a genius child, but it can also mean this inner divine child.

Emmet Fox actually died before Jung. Jung outlived him by 10 years, but he's considered to be a member of a much later generation of thinking.

And then there was primal therapy. Vivian and Arthur Janov had developed primal therapy. I recommend that you read the books, The Primal Scream and The Feeling Child. And they also built upon this concept.

And one of the things that they had hinted at in primal therapy was being reborn. In effect, becoming your own parent, but they didn't go far enough with this.

Reparenting the inner child in therapy, the credit for this belongs to Lucia Capaccione in 1976. She suggested it for the first time.

And then much later in 1991, she had published a book, Recovery of Your Inner Child. And there she suggested that we should reparent, we should become our own parents.

She was a very talented therapist. She used journaling, she used art, and she used a technique called the nurturing parent and then another which is called the protective parent. And she was actually a pioneer of the internal inner family system, because she invented something called the inner family work.

And she said that there's an inner family, including representations of a nurturing parent and a protective parent, or sometimes an abusive parent, absent parent, what Andrea Green called the dead mother. And these take care or interact with physical, emotional, creative and spiritual, whatever that means, needs.

So there's always, there are always representations of parents, she said, there could be a critical parent, there could be a loving parent, but there are always representations of parents.

And in this sense, she had hinted, we are all eternal inner children. Whenever we retreat into, whenever we invade or revisit our internal space, our inner space, we actually become children, we infantilize once again, once more.

Charles Sweetfield called it the child within and published a book healing the child within, discovery and recovery for adult children of dysfunctional families in 1987.

There was another Penny Park, Penny Park had written rescuing the inner child. And she suggested a whole new program of contacting the inner child and recovering it.

And so but by far, the main voice was John Bradshaw. He had his own television show. And he had published books such as Homecoming, reclaiming and championing your inner child as early as 30 years ago. He was an educator, a self help guru, and a bit of a pop psychologist. And he was in a child, in his Bradshaw way, he wanted to point to unresolved childhood experiences and early what Freud called early childhood conflicts. And he said that these unresolved situations linger and create dysfunctional effects. It's a childhood problem that carries over into adulthood and impacts functioning, the sum of mental, emotional memories, all these are stored in the unconscious, from conception to prepubescence. And then it's there. And it has like pent up energy. That's again a Freudian concept, actually, this Freudian suggested that such repressed memories and so on unresolved conflicts, they have their own energy, and it's there seething like a volcano, like lava, like magma, you know, about to erupt at any minute.

And in psychoanalysis, we actually encourage this eruption. It's called Abreaction.


Okay, so this is what this is what Bradshaw popularized the concept of a buried, repressed, denied, ignored, unconscious in a child, replete with unresolved conflicts, unresolved situations and circumstances, and an unknown influence on adult functioning or actually malfunctioning.

Much later, there was psycho synthesis. And in psycho synthesis, the child is a sub personality. It's an important sub personalities, and it is surrounded by other sub personalities.

And this led directly, finally, to internal family system therapy, which I deal with in another video. And internal family therapy in third family system model says that there is only one inner child sub personality, there is no not one sub personality, but multiple inner child sub personalities.

So internal family system created a multiplicity of inner children. And there's a wounded, wounded inner child. These are called exiles.

Wounded in a children, in a children, they tend to be excluded, repressed, they don't reach consciousness or waking thought, because there's a need to avoid or to defend against the pain that these memories, these inner children carry with them.

And there's a method there how to gain safe access and so on.

I had discussed all this in the video about internal family system.


Today, I want to mention another school of thought. It's known as developmental needs and meeting strategy, developmental needs meeting strategy, DNMS. It's psychotherapy was developed by Shirley John Schmidt, SCH MIDT. And it is a trauma therapy, basically people who have been exposed to verbal, physical, sexual, psychological abuse, they're traumatized, they have attachment wounds, usually inflicted by parental rejection, neglect, or opposite enmeshment, fusion, spoiling, pampering, and so on, so forth.

Trauma, early childhood, usually trauma, but not necessarily any traumatized person.

The DSM is what we call an ego state therapy, because there's an assumption that the degree to which developmental needs were not adequately met in childhood, is the degree to which the client is stuck in childhood.

In other words, if your needs in childhood were met 50%, you are stuck in childhood for the rest of your life 50%. If your needs in childhood were met 90%, only 10% of your adult life will be stuck, still stuck in childhood.

The degree of stuck in stickiness in childhood depends critically on how well your needs as a child were catered to by good enough parenting.

And the model aims to identify ego states, ego states that are ostensibly fixated in the past, and the idea is to get them unstuck and to remediate to meet these unmet developmental needs.

I don't want to expound too much on the therapy element of the DSM. I want instead to discuss a few concepts in DSM.

First of all, the concept of maladaptive introject. In DSM, DSM accepts the clinian view of internal objects, many of which are actually introjects. For example, Mimi had become my introject by now. Mimi and her coffee.

And there are maladaptive introjects. These are wounded, injured ego states, and they mimic abusive, neglectful, hurtful, dysfunctional, primary objects, for example, parents. And these ego states cause trouble, because they are in a constant state of neediness. They are wounded. They are sources of inner pain and hurt. And they lead to an increase in undesirable self-defeating, sometimes self-destructive and self-trashing behaviors, beliefs, and emotions.

According to Daniel Siegel, state of mind can become an ego state when a positive event or a negative event is experienced repeatedly. When you go through the same experience again and again and again, it would tend to elicit the same state of mind.

And if this happens really copiously and recurrently, this state of mind will rigidify, solidify, and become an ego state.

Same with trauma. When the trauma is overwhelming, it creates an ego state. It fractures the ego in effect, fragments it.

And this is what I had discussed in my previous videos, when I previous videos which dealt with self-states and pseudo identities.

So, modification, for example, creates an ego state in the narcissist, creates a self-state, a pseudo-identity, and it is very, very close to the true self. It's a window of opportunity for the narcissist.

The DSM says that ingrained states of mind can become sub-personalities, parts of the self, ego states with a point of view. Some parts form by reacting to other parts, actually. Others form by interjecting people.

So, the dynamic is both external. We bring things from the outside, like important figures in our lives, messaging, environment, expectations, process of socialization, which is interjected as well. That's from the outside.

And some things are actually internal. The interaction between the ego states, the self-states, whatever you want to call them, the sub-personalities, these interactions sometimes generate new ego states and new sub-personalities. They tend to multiply and proliferate as God had asked them to do in Genesis.

Okay. Introjection is unconsciously internalizing another person's behaviors, ideas, values, points of view. In short, another person's voice.

An introject is an internal representation of another person. So, in introjects, the DSM says introjects can form during positive relationships and during negative relationships. And they link it to mirror neurons and so on and so forth, a part of the DSM, which I hold very dimly and I'm not impressed with.

But the DSM is very good at describing the various self-states and parts of the self as family members. They work cooperatively or they antagonize each other, antagonistically. They have competing agendas and this creates internal conflicts.

And so, the DNMS is great at mapping out the relationship between these entities.

And one of these entities is, of course, the inner child. The inner child and the inner child can be healthy and happy and sated and satisfied and gratified and complete and whole, in which case it does not need to express itself via conflict. It does not need to disrupt functioning in order to attract attention. It has no unmet needs, so it can lie dormant.

Or the inner child is wounded, damaged, abused, and is crying out for attention, crying out for a parental figure to help. We'll come to it a bit later when we discuss the reaction to inner child, the reactions of outsiders to the inner child.

Healthy parts of the self, their reactions to positive, affirming relationships with role models who are loving and attuned and sensitive and empathic. Healthy parts of the self live in the present. They are not that impacted by the past. They feel and manage emotions properly, both positive and negative.

With the narcissist, for example, the self-states manage only negative emotions. They have no access to positive emotions.

Healthy self-states, healthy ego parts, healthy subpersonalities, whatever you want to call them, these figments, these elements, these entities, internal objects. When they're healthy, they hold positive beliefs about the self, about the world. They're essentially not naive, not gullible, but pretty optimistic, and they engage inappropriate, desirable, goal-driven behaviors. They are self-efficacious. They secure positive outcomes from the environment. They have an adaptive point of view, and many of these interjects are actually adaptive. Internal representations of past incidents of caring, supporting people. The wounded part of the self forms in response to traumas, negative wounding relationships, injurious relationships with role models who are abusive, neglectful, rejecting and meshing, absent, etc., etc. And these wounded, sick, pathological self-states, subpersonalities, internal objects, they live in the past. They're stuck because they can't extricate themselves from painful emotions. They want negative, irrational beliefs about self and about the world, and they engage in unwanted, inappropriate, dysfunctional, self-defeating behaviors. They have a maladaptive point of view. They can be reactive interjects. They can be maladaptive interjects, and they both hamper and obstruct proper goal-oriented functioning.

The reactive parts form in reaction to significantly wounding experiences, such as in the case of the narcissist, narcissistic injury, or modification, and in the case of a child, any extreme abuse.

People are aware of the problem, behaviors, or beliefs, or emotions of these reactive parts. And these reactive parts hold raw emotions, anxiety, terror, anger, sadness, grief, despair, shame, guilt, hopelessness. They hold reactions to specific traumatic experiences, and they cope with painful emotions with pain-avoidant behaviors. They withdraw. They avoid. They drink. They overeat. They self-medicate. They self-soothe.

Some of these reactive parts, they cope with painful emotions via self-punishing behaviors, cutting self-mutilation, starving, isolating, avoiding the world, the schizoid solution. Some rebel with risky or self-destructive behaviors, like drinking, smoking, engaging in indiscriminate, promiscuous, or unprotected sex. Some try to manage somehow. The person is hurting, is in pain, and these parts are trying somehow to cope. These are attempts, failed attempts at adaptation, and so they try to strategically please people.

So they are people pleasers, pleasing behaviors, like complying or overachieving, performing. So they become perfectionists. Some try to prevent attacks by other people, attacks from other people by engaging in aggressive behaviors, putting up a facade of strength, intimidation, control, power. They become abusers themselves, psychopaths, narcissists, borderlines in the secondary psychopathy phase.

And some try to control other parts of the self by warning them, threatening them, commanding them, or some kind of admonition or hectoring, intended to encourage behaviors that please others or discourage behaviors that upset others.

So you see there's a whole universe of maladaptive techniques and strategies intended to keep the inner peace. There's pain. There's a lot of pain there and no way to release it in socially acceptable ways.

In other words, no way to sublimate the pain.

Maladaptive introjects are parts of the sense that form when there is a significant role model who is physically an emotionally wounding, abusing, rejecting parent, dead parent, absent parent.

So a maladaptive introject is intrinsically his intrinsically good nature, true nature, but has unwillingly to wear kind of mask or costume.

So the maladaptive part is a good healthy part, masquerading, masquerading as the wounding, hurtful, avoidant, neglectful, rejecting parent or role model.

It's a very curious construct because it's a healthy part pretending to be an unhealthy part.

The mask is a recording of past wounding experience and when the mask is activated or the recording is played, the wounding message is directed to reactive parts who perceive the wounding experience from the past as still happening in the present.

It's a kind of internal flashback if you wish.

The relationship between maladaptive introjects and reactive parts is similar to the relationship between top dog and underdog in the Gestalt model.

So now I would like to discuss the current knowledge.

This has been a review of the history of the concept of subpersonalities, inner internal objects, substates and so on, one of which is the inner child.

I would like to now describe the current state of knowledge with regards to the inner child and I will rely heavily on a book that is on your reading list for those of you who bothered to review the reading list.

So the book is Psychotherapy and it is by Jeffrey Smith. I think it's published by Springer. Have a look at your bibliography Psychotherapy and let me see the full title Psychotherapy a Practical Guide.

Yeah there's one I'm looking at the bibliography Psychotherapy a Practical Guide Jeffrey Smith.

So I would like to read to you the abstract of the chapter Working with Inner Child pages 141-151.

This is the abstract.

When patients act more like children and relate to the therapist as a parent, the usual conceptualizations are transference, transference or regression. A more natural and direct way to work with this phenomenon is to think of the patient as having an inner child who is influencing the adult patient's thinking and reactions.

We describe how a compassionate and positive approach to the inner child is extremely helpful in combating the shame that usually stands in the way of work with dysfunctional people.

The patient shows intense and young ways of reacting and feeling and he's ashamed of it.

Okay I would like to read to you the key points in this chapter because it's a great summary of the current state of knowledge of inner child especially inner child therapy.

The key points number one the inner child concept covers the same ground as transference but does so with more understanding and compassion.

Many dysfunctional people involve childlike patterns frozen from the past that continue to influence the patient's assumptions about the world and reactions to the world.

Number three patients cover up their child childlike reactions owing to shame so transference is easy to miss.

Number four reasonable seeming reasonable looking reasonable seeming but dysfunctional patterns with childlike characteristics are signs of an inner child.

These are easy to miss and are the most common source of treatment failure in psychotherapy. Persistent anger or acting out that will not stop can point to an adult temper tantrum.

What makes adult temper tantrums so challenging is that therapists mainly offer understanding while the child expected much more than understanding.

Dealing with the gap is how patients learn acceptance and compromise.

With adult temper tantrums, manipulation and addictive behaviors, the therapist should first be sure the behavior has been contained and safely established and then respond with persistent understanding of the child's point of view and true compassion.

The corrective emotional experience approaches both the behavior and emotional sides of dysfunction.

Unfamiliar healthy interaction brings up effects where they can heal and point the way to new behaviors that need to be practiced.

To be precise, says the author, we don't really have an inner children. What we do have is a mind on the lookout for circumstances that match those experienced early in life and then naturally fetches the appropriate reactions out of procedural memory.

The end result looks and feels like a child taking over the adult.

So why not picture it and speak of it that way.

The more we gain awareness of the extent to which child-like thoughts and assumptions lace our adult conversation, the better we will understand our patients and the different contexts and ways of viewing the world that they hold inside.


Let me be clear about one thing. Child-like playful behaviors, the child's curiosity, the child's bright eyes, sense of wonder, they are part of healthy adult psychology and healthy adult life. These are things you should never get rid of. These are the healthy parts of childhood, the functioning parts of childhood, the surviving to adulthood and we should all be extremely happy when and if they do.

It is when childish behavior patterns and procedural learning about life become locked in, inaccessible to growth, then we are talking about dysfunction. Childlike patterns become something called entrenched dysfunctional patterns or EDPs.

As a child, as children, we all had to cope with problems and because we were children, we were small, we were helpless, most problems, the vast majority of problems looked very very insoluble, very overwhelming. Most problems looked beyond our reach and capacity to resolve them.

When we confronted problems as children, we very rarely thought we had the necessary will and resources to actually solve the problem and restore harmony into the environment.

So family, where the parents, for example, are preoccupied with a sick sibling. In such a family, the child stops growing. He stops growing emotionally. He wants to remain a child in order to secure his parents' attention, take it away from his sick sibling.

That's an example of a problem and the kind of solution a child is likely to find.

When children cannot resort to adults, when they cannot talk to adults because the others are not there, the others are neglectful or abusive or terrifying, so the child cannot talk to adults about his or her problems.

The child finds solutions which are, not surprisingly, childish solutions.

So a child that grows in a healthy environment, in a healthy family, whenever the child is confronted with a problem, he can go to the others and the others will help.

But when he can't, he invents bizarre solutions, like I will stay a child forever and my parents will love me forever and never abandon me, which is, by the way, the narcissist's solution.

Needs cannot be eliminated.

But when the child cannot complain to the parents, cannot ask for their support and support and help and wisdom, when it's inappropriate, counterproductive or even terrifying, frightening, the child stops in effect to process these needs.

The child says, my parents are not meeting my needs, so the only solution is to not have needs.

And, of course, these needs are there. Unmet needs, they're there, they're ossified, they're frozen, they're blocked, they're blocked by fear, by guilt, by shame.

And the inner child remains in a cave ensconced and cocooned with these unmet needs and is waiting for someone to come along and understand and fulfill these needs.

And so the difference between pathology and healthy growth is that when a child undergoes a healthy, normative, functional trajectory, childlike patterns gradually evolve, become adaptive to adult life.

But when the child's growth is stunted and his development is arrested, when he's raised in a pathological, dysfunctional environment with seriously problematic primary caregivers and primary objects who have their own problems, maybe they're narcissistic, maybe they're co-dependent, maybe they're terrified, anxious, whatever the case may be, the affected areas stop growing, maturation, maturation is arrested, thinking, wishes, patterns of reaction remain fixated as they were long ago.

And then we have a hybrid. We have an adult part that functions perfectly, for example, in professional settings, in business. And we have another part which is, I don't know, two years old, six years old, 11 years old. And that other part is still a child, which child's thinking, childish solutions, childish demands and requirements and temper tantrums, and so on and so forth.

And so the experience of wishes, of wishing, the experience of having a need in dysfunctional childhoods, in dysfunctional environments, this experience, I have a wish, I have a need, I want something, this experience is painful and frightening, terrified.

Because you as a child, you expect to be brushed off, you expect to be beaten up, you expect to be ignored, you expect to be turned off.

And so the child tries to suppress wishes and needs, and of course fails. There's no way to suppress childhood wishes and needs.

And there's a new layer form, the dysfunctional layer. And this dysfunctional layer tells the child, listen, you're still expressing wishes, you still have needs. This is bad. This is wrong, you shouldn't have wishes, you should not have needs. You're very selfish. You're very self centered, you're very needy, you're very clinging, you should be ashamed of yourself. You should be ashamed of your personal desires. You're not okay, it's wrong, and it's dangerous, and it's counterproductive, and it's going to hurt you, it's going to cause you pain.

So there are always two layers. The underlying layer, the foundation stone, is the unmet needs, the frustrated wishes, they are the underlying layer. And to keep them repressed and denied and buried and forgotten, the child creates a second layer.

And this second EDP, dysfunctional layer, is values, internalizing values. And these values tell the child, it's wrong to express a wish. It's wrong to have a need. It's wrong to be selfish and self centered. It's wrong to be clinging and needy. It's wrong to ask other people for anything. It's wrong to be happy, in effect. When you're happy, your wishes and needs are fulfilled. So the wishes and needs remain static. They remain in an unfulfilled state.

And that's what we call, that's what we mean when we say unfinished business from childhood.

The child, the adult, the inner child in the adult still depends on other adults. We depend on other adults.

And so when the inner child in an undeveloped dysfunctional adult, when an inner child fails to elicit unconditional love, acceptance and the immediate gratification of wishes and needs, from the outside, from other adults, their intensity of reaction is disproportional.


Let me repeat this. An adult who had grown up, who had been raised in a dysfunctional family, dysfunctional environment, would tend to have a wounded inner child. That wounded inner child, this part of the adult, this wounded inner child would look to other adults to solve his problems, to gratify his wishes, to cater to his needs, to do so unconditionally, like a mother's love.

And when these other adults refuse to do so, the wounded child element, the inner child, throws a temper tantrum, becomes rageful, vindictive and in any case reacts extremely disproportionately. Even if it's shame or guilt or depression, sadness, it's likely to be extremely disproportional and all pervasive because it's a child who is reacting, not an adult.

And this inner child, to avoid these egosyntonic states, to avoid these very unpleasant and discomforting experiences of anger, envy, hatred, frustration, shame, guilt, the inner child wants to avoid this.

So the inner child tries to manipulate and influence grown-ups, adults, to solve his problems magically. This inner child is a child, so obviously it has magical thinking.

So the narcissist, for example, has an inner child, it's a wounded child, it corresponds to the true self. And this inner child tries to manipulate all the adults in the narcissist and bit all the adults around the narcissist to solve the narcissist's problems magically, to accept the narcissist unconditionally, like a mother, to cater to the narcissist's needs instantly, to gratify his desires forthwith.

And when they fail to do so, because they have their own agendas and they are real adults, healthy adults, and they maintain boundaries, the narcissist erupts, narcissistic rage, or he may be mortified.

So one way or another, his reaction would be disproportional, either end self-destructive.

The inner child is trapped in an adult body and interacts with a part of the mind that is adult, but he doesn't like the inner child, does not like adulthood.

Adulthood is all work and not play.

So these kind of individuals have the imposter syndrome. They feel that they're frauds, they're pretending to be adults, but actually they're not.

This inner child is overpowering, demanding, insistent. The inner child is like a real child all over the place. It doesn't let you out of his sight for a minute, constantly tugging at your dress or whatever it is.

All these functions can be described as emanating and coming from an inner child.


Here's a list of some things the inner child does in a dysfunctional adult.

This is not a healthy inner child, which healthy people have. This is an unhealthy, wounded, injured inner child, inner child in pain, crying, unsatisfied, ungratified, denied, rejected, abused. This inner child resides in an adult body and does not allow the adult to function properly.

So what does it do? It seeks things. It seeks things from adults, from other people, that these people cannot do because it has magical thinking, it has no reality testing, and it's the wishes and desires and needs of the wounded inner child are unrealistic, they're magical.

Second thing, the feelings of the inner child are more intense than expected. So when the wounded inner child faces conflicts, discord, disagreement, frustration, disappointment, reactions are nuclear. The inner child has especially intense feelings about meaningful others, like an intimate partner. These feelings could be anything, but they're there. They could be negative. For example, in the case of the narcissist, most of these feelings are actually negative. He converts people into bad to secretary objects and then becomes paranoid, aggressive, and so on. So these are hateful, envious, these are negative emotions, but they're intense, the intensity.

The wounded inner child has splitting defense mechanisms because he's a child, his defense mechanisms are primitive, infantile. So he sees everything in black and white. He seeks perfection. He divides people to good and bad, helpful or not, enemies or friends. And he wants to resolve issues magically. He wants to get from point A to point Z without going through B, C, D, etc. He seeks shortcuts. He wants things to transpire in an enchanted way without committal, without effort, without work, without building anything, without investing, without committing, without compromise.

The wounded child has numerous beliefs about perfection, a perfect body, and he would tend to believe that perfection means success.

So when we see communities like incels and bigtows and so on, they have seriously wounded inner children because they believe that, for example, bodily perfection leads to scoring with chicks, which is in itself a very pure adolescent way of discussing the issue.

So the belief that perfection in anything, in something, a lot of money, perfect body, perfect would lead to outcomes can affect the environment.

The inner child is excessively upset over any limitation, any boundary, any rule, and any reality testing. So if the inner child finds that some people can't do certain things, he gets very angry. He's angry about certain sources that he cannot control.

If the outcome is not guaranteed, someone had failed, someone had let him down. This inappropriate anger and self-destructiveness combine with a persistent failure to access effective adult solutions to a problem.

The inner child has no access to the space of adult solutions. He has no access to the adult mind. He has no idea how to be an adult.

Self-destruction doesn't end. It becomes a vicious loop, a vicious cycle. The anger doesn't dissipate because there are no efficacious, self-efficacious outcomes. These are child-like patterns of thinking.

And the disconcerting things is that it could be sitting with an adult, such an adult, and he's an adult for like 80% of the time, and suddenly he's a child.

And the transition is mind-blowing, and this is almost like switching in multiple personality disorders, like switching between alters in disorientative identity disorder. It's like there are two people there, two persons, two personalities, and the adult switches to child and back, and it's very discombobulated.

Well-adjusted, healthy adults, they freely and comfortably mix child-like behaviors with adult ones. There's no transition. It's seamless. It's like their adulthood is imbued, painted over. There's a veneer, paintbrush with child-like elements.

But when the dysfunctional adult switches to the inner child, the child has nothing to do with the other. These are totally separate, clear, distinct self-states. The child lacks healthy experience, healthy experience with other people, starting with the caregivers, with the primary objects, with the parents. He didn't learn healthy modes of interaction. For example, he doesn't know to compromise. The only thing he knows is my needs are not acknowledged. My needs are not met.

So he can't do acceptance. He can't accept that adults are not there to meet his needs. He can't compromise. He doesn't do substitutes. He wants this and only this, and he would never accept anything else. And he demands understanding and compassion, and he becomes aggressive if he doesn't get them.

But adult relationships are not like that. There's no complete emotional and physical protection and acceptance. Everything is conditional in adult relationships. You mistreat your wife. She leaves you. She abandons you. That's the way it is. It's a give and take. And, of course, give and take, negotiating, compromising, models with ending. These adult concepts.

The inner child has no access to these. Other people offer the dysfunctional adult understanding, perhaps. Sometimes empathy.

But the dysfunctional adult doesn't want understanding and empathy. These are disappointing substitutes. They're inadequate. They don't cater to his pain and the unresolved conflicts instead inside of him. They want their needs met. They don't want you to understand their needs or to empathize with their needs. They want you to fulfill their needs. They want you to double down on their wishes. They want you to leave everything, drop everything, and cater instantaneously to what they ask you to do and do it perfectly. You should do it perfectly. Otherwise, there's grief. There's disappointment. There's loss devaluation in the case of narcissists.

Childhood had failed in these people, and they carried over this collapsed state into adulthood. And it's a serious problem because it informs the emotional landscape. Their emotional part is the wounded inner child. The cognitive part had developed. There could be geniuses in science. There could be chief executive officers, presidents of countries.

But the emotional side is stunted and needy.

And magical thinking, very primitive.

So when we see such behavior in dysfunctional adults, we have to ask ourselves, is this destructive or abusive? Or is it simply communicating extremely intense emotions?

Sometimes, when the dysfunctional adult is taken over by the wounded child, the emotions communicated would be very intense, overpowering, and would ignore the other, would ignore the audience. And so this could appear to be very selfish, very abusive, very abusive, or even destructive.

But that's not the intent. People, spouses, mates, intimate partners, business partners, colleagues, when you are with a dysfunctional adult with a wounded child, you need to tolerate intense expressions of feeling. And you need to have a very clear perspective where passion and desire end and destructiveness begins, where intensity ends and aggression begins. And you need to provide a sense of safety, a safe zone, a safe environment. You need to restore control to the dysfunctional adult, to allow the dysfunctional adult to express himself or herself, without the fear that if he or she expresses themselves, express themselves, they're going to destroy something, or they're going to alienate you.

You have to provide a safe holding environment where it is safe and secure for the dysfunctional adult to trot out, to take out the wounded child and to allow it to manifest. And this is called containment.

Why do we need this concept or construct of inner child?

Well, when you interrogate patients in a clinical setting, they finally, not at first, but they finally admit that they are very ashamed. They feel very shameful about themselves.

And when you dig deeper and drill down, they're ashamed about the wounded child. They're ashamed about the young self. And they're not compassionate. They're not forgiving. And they're not positive about the young part, about the inner, the wounded child part.

And it's clear that the distorted thoughts, distorted cognitions, lack of emotions or distorted emotions, destructive behaviors, dysfunctional behavior, all these reinforce shame, but all these are also can be also attributed to a wounded problematic child inside the adult.

So one way or another, we reach the same outcome, overpowering shame.


Shame therapy has a concept. It's called limited reparenting. I refer you to studies by Rafaelli.

R-A-F-A-E-L-I Rafaelli, L-I, L-I, I'm sorry. So there is limited reparenting.

You have to, when you are with a dysfunctional adult, you have to offer something that is of parental nature. You have to offer acceptance, warmth, understanding, containment. You have to propose solutions. You have to take some steps to cater to needs and wishes, practical steps. You have to become a parent.

Dysfunctional adults parentify, parentify adults, other adults.

If you're married to a dysfunctional adult, he will try to convert you to his mother or father. If you're working with a dysfunctional adult, he will try to convert you to a father figure.

They parentify people.

So if you reject the parent, the reparenting or the limited reparenting, it's a loss. Then you're going to lose the dysfunctional adult. You're going to lose him or her. You're going to become an enemy.

But don't try to fulfill everything because this would lure the dysfunctional adult into a trap.

You should meet some demands and you should provide a safe zone within which the dysfunctional adult can fulfill other needs and wishes that you are not catering to.

And within this safe zone, the safe zone provides an opportunity to grow up and mature because you remember the beginning of the election when we were both much, much younger.

Brushing against reality makes you grow up. You need to provide a safe zone within which it is safe for the dysfunctional adult to brush against reality. That would make him grow up.

The wounded child will grow up.

You need to be clear when you are in a relationship, any kind of relationship with a dysfunctional adult, you need to be clear about what you can and will fulfill, which needs you will meet and cater to, which wishes you will see realized, what actions you will take and what actions you will not take.

You need to make clear that you are only a partial solution and that the dysfunctional adult needs to take care of the rest within the safe zone.

In the safe zone, this adult will not be rejected, humiliated, abandoned, abused.

So, this is a window of opportunity for him or her to grow up. And there will be disappointment when you make these statements, when you set the boundaries, the personal boundaries, there will be disappointment, there will be anger, there will be temper tantrums, like a child.

Any of you who are parents, you know that this is childish behavior. That's how children behave.

But they grow up, they learn to accept.

The wounded child cannot trust. This is a post-traumatic condition. The child has been traumatized, he cannot trust. He cannot trust you, he cannot trust you and he cannot trust himself and he cannot trust the world. He cannot trust faith or destiny. He cannot trust responsiveness from anyone.

Instead, the inner child, the wounded child says, I cannot trust anyone. So, I need to manipulate them. I need to control them. I need to disregard them and it would make you feel unseen. It would make you feel that you're objectified, that you are a tool, an instrument and you are to the wounded child.

But don't forget, the wounded child is coupled with an adult.

Try to interact with that adult. Try to create a coalition with the adult so as to heal the wounded child. And try to find what the other part can provide the child part with.

This manipulative behavior is inevitable in inner child therapy, in inner child work and when you are married to someone with an inner child, wounded inner child or working with one, this mistrust, this manipulativenessor sometimes withdrawal, that's the schizoid, empty core.

When the inner child had given up on itself, when it had suspended and absented itself, what's left behind is an emptiness.

Where the child used to be, these kind of people, they avoid these kind of dysfunctional adults. They avoid people altogether. They take care of their needs via food, medication, drugs, self-harming behavior or objectifying people for sex.

So, they mistrust other people. They say, I don't want to be in touch with other people. It's too painful and I'm not getting anything out of it. I'm not getting anything out of it. My needs are not fulfilled. My wishes are not realized. So, I'm going to deal with objects.

Objects are safe. I can exert control over objects. I cannot exert control over people. And I can objectify people if I need to. I can go to prostitutes if I need sex or I can have casual anonymous sex.

So, to trust an external object, they need to convert that external object into an inanimate object. They don't feel that people around them, even a wife or children or intimate partner, lover, they don't feel that these people are safe and reliable because they cannot be controlled and manipulated 100%.

EDPs, the dysfunctional layers, there are ways to avoid the pain of having to trust someone.

When you cannot be sure that this someone is willing and trustworthy. It's terrifying, isn't it?

This infinite uncertainty.

And the wounded child needs to take emotional risks and no amount of intellectual conviction that it is safe can ameliorate the anxiety attendant upon emotional risk.

When you take emotional risk, you become very anxious.

Whenanxious. When you open yourself up, when you become vulnerable, that's why in one of our previous videos that explained there's no such thing as meaningless sex. None, even a quickie.

The minute you're vulnerable, the minute you're exposed, the minute you're defenseless, there is emotional risk. And no amount of intellectualizing can help you with that.

And that's why many people get drunk before they have casual sex.

So, we need to consider how to help the dysfunctional adult develop trust.

Because trust is emotional, it's not intellectual. Never mind how many times we prove ourselves to be responsible, reliable, we don't betray, we don't cheat, it still means nothing.

Because we can do it next time. There is no end to it.

We need to develop trust by satisfying some of the needs. And we need to develop trust also by demanding that the dysfunctional adult switches from inanimate objects to animate objects, to real life people, to external objects.

We need to force the dysfunctional adult to develop external relations.

So, these two layers, if you remember, the layer of the unmet needs, disappointment, frustration, the layer of shame, and guilt and self-hate.

This second layer is an internalized voice. And it says, who do you think you are? Who do you think you are? You have no right to feel pain. You have no right to rage. You have no right to be angry.

But of course, it's wrong. The child has a right to rage and to be angry. The child has been mistreated.

And we need to show the child compassion. And we need to agree with the child to legitimize the child's negative emotions.

This child had been broken on the wheel. And the only way to restore this child is to let the child know that we are validating the child's experiences. We acknowledge that the child's self-generated shame, long-standing expectation of disappointment is not outlandish. It's real because what happened to the child was real, the abuse and everything.

Karl Rogers called it corrective emotional experience. Rogers was a great humanist and the father of humanist psychology and psychotherapy.

He said that the experience of therapy, which is analogous to the experience of love, the experience of therapy is experiential. It affects the effects of therapy. They're experiential. They're a result of experience. They're not intellectual.

When you want to transform someone, it's a human being. And so you need to develop healthy reactivity if you are someone's spouse, for example. You need to develop reactive patterns, which are healthy. And you need to generate experiences and memories and highlighting your partner's unhealthy reactions, dysfunctional behaviors, but also providing an alternative model for growth, a safe zone in you.

The corrective emotional experience is not passively experiencing a healthy interaction.

Passive repetition of healthy interaction, no matter how many times it's repeated, doesn't lead to change.

Where the interaction between the dysfunctional adult and a therapist or a spouse or a colleague, when the interaction goes against the patient's expectations, or when the patient tries something new and unfamiliar, that's when the breakthrough comes.

It is the contrast between the patient's usual unhealthy ways of interacting and a new way on an experiential level.

And this raises emotions and challenges implicit assumptions. This is what we call growing up.

And when we look at these processes and these events, we understand that the only way to coexist with a dysfunctional adult is to re-parent the wounded child until it too becomes another.

There is something called affect avoidance model. The corrective emotional experience brings pathways for accessing EDPs, the dysfunctional layers.

On the emotional side, new experience propels feelings into the room as affects, where a context of connection provides healing.

On the behavioral side, as distinct from the emotional, the patient practices a new behavior or is forced to become aware of a dysfunctional behavior. And the end result is healing. It's a new form of interpersonal behavior.

Affect avoidance model says that all the pathology we have, I'm not talking about pathology, that is the outcome of biological or brain conditions or whatever, all the behavioral pathologies we have, these are results of instinctive avoidance of actual or predicted negative effects.

I want to read to you an excerpt about this model, affect avoidance model, which is very interesting.

The field of psychotherapy integration has long sought an explanatory model for therapeutic action across orientations. We take advantage of advances in the neurobiology of memory and emotion to propose such a model for psychopathology.

And it's treatment.

To remind you, it's an excerpt about affect avoidance model.

These pathologies are generated by the brain's evolutionarily architected systems for prediction and mitigation of danger. And they are treated by core emotional circuits.

Although generally, avoidance of negative core emotion is adaptive as a mechanism of coping with threat. This same process may lead to the entrenched dysfunctional patterns that comprise psychopathology.

Avoidance of predicted negative core emotion is proposed as a mechanism of resistance to therapeutic change in that the aim of psychotherapy is appraised as potential loss of important protections.

Let me summarize. Adult reactions are always more self-effecations. Then child reactions. It's always good to be an adult in an adult world. It's a serious disadvantage of agency and efficacy to be a wounded child in an adult world.

Adults are not understanding usually. They're not compassionate. They're not accepting. You throw a temper tantrum, they throw you out of the room or job. It's always good to be an adult.

Our values, social values and mores, militate against childlike behaviors and effects. And this creates shame, anger, self-punishment and repression.

The wounded child is intrusive. It's out of control. It hinders and obstructs adult functioning. It impedes and intervenes and invades. It's bad. It's bad for the adult.

And so the adult to survive needs to reshape child content in order to induce growth and integration.

And this is what inner child work is all about.


Okay, children, I hope you understood all this. And as usual, if you didn't, please use, I beg you on my knees, on your knees, depends how you look, I beg you to use the university email system. Please, my private email is, by definition, private. Please use the university email system. Also helps me to get to your messages much faster because they're segregated online outlook program.

Okay, be well and stay well, which is much more difficult.

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