I am afraid of the dark.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an issue being alone in dark windowless spaces or pitch-black forests. I never go down to basements alone or anything similar in nature. I fear something will come and grab me in the dark. Though I always knew I had this fear, I never needed to face it or work on it because I’ve always lived in an apartment in New York. Until now I have rarely come in contact with dark spaces. Recently, I’ve wanted to go down into my partner’s basement and since it’s a huge trigger point, I’ve decided that it is time to face my fear.
Upon doing some self-reflection and inner work, I realized that my fear was caused by a childhood trauma that lives in my body. Rationally, in my mind, I know there is nothing to fear in the dark. There is nobody out there waiting to grab me. However, the fear in my body consumes me the moment I am conscious of its presence. These emotions are ingrained in a younger part of me. It doesn’t come from my “adult Red” brain and yet I have trouble overcoming the fear- this is when I realized it was coming from my Inner Child.
The Inner Child archetype is a metaphor for a part of us that carries memories and emotions from the time we were children. It was first conceptualized and proposed by psychologist, Carl Jung. While examining his inner emotions, he came across feelings that were child-like. Jung suggested that this is a part of us that plays a major influence on our decisions and the way we show up in the world. The Inner Child archetype plays neither a bad nor a good role, it is simply a child version of us that never grew up and contains both the happy, good, sad, and bad memories. When our child shows up with happy and joyful emotions it can influence us to be compassionate, loving, and generous adults. When our child shows up with sadness and pain, it can influence us to be fearful, angry, and even feel ashamed. This version of our Inner Child is also known as the Wounded Child. This version of us carries bad memories, icky feelings, and pain.
Our Wounded Child generally shows up as a knee-jerk reaction to something brushing up against our open wound. Sometimes it doesn’t take much for that to happen. For me, being alone in a dark place with no light source brings out my Wounded Child. Our Child will start displaying outbursts of emotions when they feel unsafe and unprotected by us, their guardian. As children, we were never taught to self-soothe in situations that made us feel unsafe so we carry it with us into our adulthood. As most adults do, we “brave” situations and push aside the wailing voice of fear, shame, or guilt and we avoid the challenging emotions. This is equivalent to pushing aside a crying child and not allowing them to express their opinions or feelings.
Whenever my Wounded Child showed signs of fear in the dark, I would push him aside. My way of protecting us was to either rationalize it and say “I’m a grown man, it’s silly to be afraid of the dark” or I simply avoided spaces like the dark basements. This isn’t exactly helpful or an effective way to soothe and heal my Child. When we push aside and don’t want to deal with icky feelings our Child brings up, we’re in fact making the situation worse. This part of us will continue to feel less safe, more undervalued and if not soothed, our Child can start showing up in more explosive and unhealthy ways. I think one example we can all relate to is having a tough conversation with somebody. Our Child’s experience with tough conversations was usually because we had done something wrong and were being lectured or reprimanded. Some of us may have even experienced having our feelings dismissed which made us feel invalidated. These memories of those experiences carried over into how we perceive tough conversations as adults. Are we really afraid of being yelled at by the other person? Are we afraid that they will say something back that will hurt us? These are all valid concerns and know they’re really coming from our Inner Child.
The steps I am taking to heal my Wounded Child are by aligning my body and my mind- my subconscious and conscious self. I made an appointment for a Somatic Experience session to help me with my alignment and to heal the trauma within my body. The first session was very powerful, and still, this was only the start. There is still much to do in order to heal my Child. In that session, I was asked to recall a memory that was linked to this fear. It brought me back to an experience I had as a child with my family. One evening, there was news that a man had escaped what I interpreted as a “mental asylum” (I later found out it was a special needs facility and one of their residents had gotten out). I became extremely fearful that a crazy man was going to come through the dark woods and scare me. I couldn’t turn to my mother because I knew she had to take care of my younger siblings so I attempted to brave the angst and the darkness on my own.
After recalling this memory, my SE (Somatic Experience) guide asked me to visualize that fearful younger Red and to ask him what he needed. My younger Red said he needed a hug and yet I couldn’t bring myself to give it to him. My body was filled with the fear he had experienced and I wasn’t able to soothe either him or myself. The transformative moment occurred when my SE guide suggested that I bring a third person into the space to soothe both of us. I brought in my friend, Alex, who is filled with strength and love that we could both rely on. He first embraced my Inner Child and he then welcomed me to come in for a loving hug. This brought comfort, a sense of safety, and trust that everything was ok.
Our journey to healing our Inner Child is a long one and as we heal each wound, we build a stronger and happier relationship with our Child. As the adult self, we’ll be able to see its manifestation in our relationships with ourselves and others, and in the ways, we show up in the world. Like parents, we need to protect and guide our Inner Child. The healing journey is about building trust so our Child knows they can rely on us to neutralize their fear. It’s also important to build our tool kits so we’re equipped to resolve issues in any situation. We can show our support and love for Inner Child by spending time and getting to know them. I invite you to do some Inner Child meditation. This can be a guided meditation in person with a facilitator, or a simple Youtube 10-15 minute meditation.
Understanding our inner needs and pain points can help us heal, grow, and live more joyful lives.
My question for you— What can you do today to love and support your Inner Child?