I am deriving the inspiration to write this article from Claudio Naranjo’s The Divine Child and the Hero: Inner Meaning in Children’s Literature, and a presentation I have to give to the class on the topic :Work with the inner child in Gestalt therapy.
It is often said, that there is a child in every adult. Some individuals are better able to recognize this child than others. If this inner child were to exist, it lives in the intra-psychic world of the adult person. Being a child, it is vulnerable. Being vulnerable, the inner child is often the one that feels the fears (in panic attacks, perhaps?), feelings of abandonment, the rage in depression, the loneliness of existence… In gestalt therapy, this inner child is sometimes synonymous with the “under-dog”.
Existing with the “under-dog” is, of course the “top-dog”. The “top-dog” is the grown-up person’s psyche. This is made up of the introjected voices of a person’s mother and father. It is also sometimes referred to as the super-ego. The super-ego protects the individual as he/she grows into an adult. The top-dog steers the person to achieve all the things he/she want’s in life (e.g. sense of self worth, protection, etc.).
In our strife to get the most of life, to be more autonomous and less vulnerable, the inner child gets sidelined. This “under-dog” suffers in secret. This suffering often goes unnoticed. The suffering sometimes also manifests itself as psychological or physical (a.k.a psychosomatic) distress.
What is the inner child about, really?
I hope you enjoy this short presentation:
There are many types of children’s stories. Naranjo (1999) shows us how these stories can be categorized into 2 broad groups: The matriarchal- and patriarchal-type stories.
The stories he cites as patriarchal are:
The lion, the witch and the wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis; The Hobbit, by J.J. Tolkien; The book of three, by Lloyd Alexander; and The Sword and the Stone by T.E. White.
Others I can think of are: princess stories, stories of overcoming good and bad…
The stories cited as matriarchal are:
The little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry; Tistou of the green thumbs by Marcel Druon; The Animal family, by Randall Jarrell and Charlotte’S Web by E.B. White.
Others include: Alice in wonderland, Life of Pi, Dr. Seuss.
How are these groups different?
Stories change us. Time changes us. We develop. We develop to be adults, while our inner child remains the innocent “divine” child. Children stories tell us much about ourselves. We are not one or the other, we are both. We are both top-dog and under-dog. We live with our internalized matriarch (mother) and our internalized patriarch (father). These adult voices help us to grow up and gain autonomy. The inner child, however, remains always curious and trusting.
Naranjo, C. (1999). The divine child and the hero: Inner meaning in children’s literature. Gateways/IDHHB Publishers.