PREVIOUS: Parent E.S. (Part 4)
REMINDER: See Acronym page for abbrev.
The CHILD Ego State (E.S.) is the earliest stage of developed – forming our personality in the first 5-7 yrs of life. Similar in many ways to the Freudian concept of Id, it operates on the pleasure principle, automatically & persistently aimed at gratifying and fulfilling needs. Its goal is to feel pleasure & avoid pain – no matter how or at what cost. It’s focused on the self only, even when relating to others: “I want, I need, I refuse, You can’t make me, I don’t wanna, I want you to….” This does not mean it’s a bad aspect to be gotten rid of. We need it since it holds both our native qualities and our damage. It’s just that as adults it’s not healthy to be ruled by the Child. (See “Contamination”)
● It’s called “archaeo-psyche” because it’s a collection of taped & stored info – behaviors, thoughts & feelings held over from our own childhood. It’s made up partly of the Natural Child – our fundamental identity – and partly of the Adapted Child which we developed in response to our environment, filtered thru our natural tendencies. So it houses all the loving, helpful, caring & enjoyable things we received back then, as well as all the experiences that caused us anxiety, sadness, rage, shame, terror….
EXP: In the present, one person receiving a poor evaluation at work may respond by looking at the floor, crying or pouting, as they did when scolded as a child. Another person, receiving a good evaluation, may respond with a broad smile and a joyful gesture of thanks, recalling positive mirroring they originally got from their family.
● This part of us contains all the impulses that come naturally to a child – the source of our emotions, creation, spontaneity, curiosity, connection, adventurousness, fun and *intimacy. It’s the part of us that loves to giggle, laugh, have fun and enjoy the simple things in life – at any age. It can also show up as a brat, be whiny or demanding when we don’t get our way. The 70-year-old man sitting in the park enjoying an ice cream cone or the two adults dancing ‘like no one else exists’ are all in their Child state – in positive ways. However, when we neglect ourselves, hurt others with our damage, refuse to be responsible for our feelings & actions…. we too are in the Child, but in a negative way.
*INTIMACY: game-free exchanges of emotional expression without exploitation (opposite of the kinds of interactions laid out in “Games People Play” by Eric Berne)
● It is mainly the domain of the ‘felt’ – the right brain. It’s good to remember that most, but not all, of our emotions – especially all the old stored up ones – reside in our Child part. Before we learned to talk our whole world was about feelings & sensations! Childhood pleasant or painful emotions can be triggered when a current event copies or reminds of a past one – especially if it was something that happened to us over & over (being ignores, scolded… or being praised, comforted….). For expl, the Child gets activated when we smell a favorite childhood food & we feel happy, nostalgic & hungry. OR when rage, terror or despair dominates reason, the Child has taken over. Then, like with the Parent E.S., we can retrieve our reason or correct our thinking so that the emotions become more manageable, but it’s not easy.
● This E.S. represents our entire identity as we were throughout our early years, & is still with us as grown-ups. Humans go thru 7 developmental stages, & can get stuck in any one of them because of loss or other trauma occurring during that period. In that case, even though we continue growing into the following phases we hold damage in the unfinished/ unfulfilled ones, with their distortions. The Inner Child includes defense mechanisms, thought processes, perceptions, feelings, and behaviors of any developmental phase where fixation occurred. When this E.S. takes over it’s like getting hijacked by something within oneself so we become like a child or younger persona. Presently, one stressor may throw us back to thoughts, feelings & actions as if we were 10, while another event we may make us experience ourselves or the world as we did when we were infants. The re-emergence of the Child at such times shows us the need to repair a particular damage from the past. (Read “Cycles of Power” by Pamela Levin for examples).
Leftover CHILD experiences may be grouped along:
a. developmental lines - you may have had painful experiences which you’ve pushed down into a forgotten mental closet, & being unresolved are still operating in how you function & react.
– at age 4 : when a sibling was born & you were left behind when mom went to the hospital with no one to explain or comfort. Not knowing what was happening you we scared, alone, confused – abandoned & unsafe
– then at age 6 : you started school, wanting to belong but had trouble fitting in, with some of the same emotions of the 4 yr old – confused, scared, lonely, left out ….
– as a teen : being uncomfortable about relating to the opposite sex, not being in the in-crowd …. feeling shy & insecure, like those very first days at school
– as an adult : when sexually attracted to someone, feeling again like that insecure teen or scared 6 yr. old, awkward when talking to them or afraid to approach for fear of rejection, like the 4 yr old who’s mother ‘left’ you for another child!
b. specific events – such as having a long series of losses
– age 4: a parent died or went away permanently. You didn’t understand, weren’t helped to cope with the pain, felt traumatized & withdrew
– age 7 : your family moved far away, separating you from familiar connections with school, neighbors & friends. Starting over was tough.
– as a teen : Your ‘best’ friend left you behind to hang out with other kids. You were devastated & angry.These accumulated abandonments left either trusting no one or trusting too easily – just to not feel alone.
– as an adult : when your mate, best friend of even your child goes out – without you – you may feel a deep pang of abandonment, fear & jealousy, as if they’re never coming back.
These experiences add up to feeling of being unwanted, so you become paranoid, bitter & isolated, OR create a persona to cover the pain – the comedian or the brain or the controlling leader – someone no one can ignore, ever again. Either way the CHILD is in charge, with a weak Healthy Adult & missing the Good Parent.
NEXT: CHILD E.S. (Part 2)