The Inner Child is a term used by schools of psychology derived from Carl Jung to refer to a group of thought forms (subpersonalities, or conditioned responses) which are created in infancy and early childhood (mostly before age three), and which shape a person’s life thenceforth. Thought forms (which have also been termed “memes”) are automatic decision-makers: usually the first reaction to a given situation creates a thought form response which will repeat itself automatically every time a similar situation arises. Without thought forms making these automatic decisions, every situation which people encounter in life would be a whole new ballgame with new rules – all learning would be impossible.
On the other hand, thought forms don’t allow much margin for free choice. The existence of automatic responses doesn’t allow for the changing vicissitudes of life. For example, if people have suffered harshness, rejection, or abandonment early in life, their Inner Children will consist of many thought forms of self-protection – defensiveness, closing up, striking back – which may no longer be useful (indeed, can be quite prejudicial) when the people mature and enter into intimate love relationships.
As I explain in my book Thought Forms, (which also describes the Jungian technique of Active Imagination for addressing and banishing painful and traumatic thought forms), the reason why people cannot usually remember the thought forms of their early childhood is because conceptual memory is not coherent until toilet training: early memories are based upon feeling the world rather than conceptualizing it with thought forms. Feelings can be recollected using the psychological technique of recapitulation; but otherwise they cannot be recalled to conscious memory because they can only be felt in the now moment. Thought forms can be recalled to conscious memory; but thought forms are a pale, shadows-in-Plato’s-cave version of feeling awareness (what the person was actually feeling at the time the memory occurred). The Great Divide between feeling awareness and thought form awareness is toilet training.
Toilet training basically involves teaching children to place a part of their attention continuously upon their sphincters; thus it is the framework for what will eventually become the adults’ inner dialogue – their moment-to-moment focus of attention on thinking every minute that they are awake instead of feeling things from moment-to-moment, as infants and small children do. Indeed, it is precisely the emotional repression which (as Freud noted) is learned through toilet training that creates the forgetfulness barrier not only between infant and adult conscious memory, but also between waking and dreaming – which sharpens the sense of importance (“realness”) of the former at the expense of the latter.
In our society toilet training is instilled with a sense of shame – indeed, the most important result of toilet training is that individuals learn to feel ashamed of themselves before their parents and to hide (repress) their shame. What children are learning is not so much how to control their sphincters as how to feel ashamed of themselves. Toilet training is inculcated through shame at soiling themselves, and fear of the parent’s disapproval. After children learn to clench up their bodies, clenching up their feelings is the next logical step (repressing their anger at the parents – turning it inward to feel ashamed of and angry at themselves as a shield against openly expressing anger at their parents and inviting yet more disapproval). The whole thing sounds really weird and complicated; but if two-year olds could articulate their feelings without fear of parental reprisal, that’s what they’d tell you. Symbolically speaking, feces symbolize our feelings: learning to hold our feces inside is a symbol for learning to hold our feelings inside so that we don’t make ourselves smelly (vulnerable) to others. It’s at toilet training that we all learn to shut up and not reveal what we are truly feeling inside, neither to other people nor consciously to ourselves.
What happens at this point – how children handle their fear and anger at their parents for imposing toilet training on them – depends upon the children and the parents. If the mother made a battle out of toilet training, then the children tend to become rebellious and make their feces (anger) in their panties to force her – and later in life other people – to wipe their bottoms (bear their shame) for them. In short, a lot of personality traits are a direct product of people’s experience with toilet training, which is as severe an exercise in mental concentration as any advanced mind training technique – not only is it the root of people’s shame, it is also the basis of their constant inner dialogue, the incessant thinking – thinking – thinking which occupies people’s attention most of the time they are awake – except that it is imposed on people when they’re two years old.
In astrology, the Inner Child is symbolized by the relationship between the sun, Mercury, and Venus in the natal horoscope because it is the patterns symbolized by the inner planets which are first imprinted upon the infant. The Sun symbolizes the parent(s) and Mercury and Venus symbolize different aspects of the infantile psyche: namely mind and desire, respectively. Mercury symbolizes the infant’s sense of being separate and unique, which later enables the person to make reasoned choices and decisions for him or herself. Venus symbolizes the infant’s sense of belonging and being appreciated, which later becomes the person’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
All parents who have several children know that their relationships with their various offspring are quite different – some more affable, others more problematical – and how the various siblings react/relate to their parents is quite different as well. In the case of dysfunctional parents the children will devise survival strategies according to their individual natures which will color their relationships throughout life, and which can be read from the degree of angular separation between the Sun and Mercury, and the Sun and Venus, in their natal horoscopes; also from their order of rising on the day of birth.
The order in which the Sun, Mercury, and Venus rise in a horoscope can be indicative of the natives’ self-projection – three levels of communication, or three stages of intimacy. The leading planet (which rises first – i.e. is behind the others in the zodiac) symbolizes the face that the natives show casual acquaintances; the central planet symbolizes the face that they show their friends; the trailing planet (which rises last – i.e. is ahead of the others in the zodiac) symbolizes the face they show their family. Here “intimacy” is taken to mean degree of emotional interchange: the people in whom natives invest a great deal of emotional energy (the ones they think about or have strong feelings for) are considered to be intimates whether they are liked or disliked. In this context enemies are considered to be as much intimates as are partners (indeed astrology does not distinguish between the two since both are ruled by the seventh house of the horoscope).
The leading planet takes on a benefic meaning because it symbolizes the natives’ mode of advancing themselves and their interests; what they expect of other people, and how they seek to sway or influence them. If the Sun leads the natives want other people to respect them: they try to convince through their earnestness. If Mercury leads the natives want other people to agree with them: they try to convince through their cleverness. If Venus leads the natives want other people to indulge them: they try to convince through their poise and charm.
The central planet symbolizes the natives’ mode of holding their own, particularly noticeable in situations of conflict. If the Sun is central the natives rely ultimately on stubbornness and stonewalling. If Mercury is central the natives rely ultimately on logic and argument. If Venus is central the natives rely ultimately on maneuvering and finesse.
The trailing planet takes on a malefic meaning because it symbolizes the natives’ mode of retreat, their last defense when routed, that which they will not surrender under any circumstances. If the Sun trails the natives protect themselves from compromise: they salvage their self-respect and honor; they go down with their ship. If Mercury trails the natives protect themselves from contradiction: they salvage their prejudices; they won’t admit to error and insist on having the last word, the tit for tat. If Venus trails the natives protect themselves from rejection: they salvage their ambitions; they won’t be deflected (when the dust settles they’re still plumping for whatever it is that they wanted all along).
Continue to The Inner Child – Part II
Thanks to Bob Makransky for allowing the republication of his wonderful work.
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