Healing the Inner Child


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This article is an excerpt from the book Hope is in the Garden that tells the Story of Sunan Therapy. The book was written by Candace Talmadge and Jana Simons, cofounders of the Sattva Institute.


"Janice"* wanted nothing to do with the inner child that she and her Sunan therapist encountered during her second session of Sunan therapy in October of 1989.

At the time, Janice was a 25-year-old software programmer for a major technology company. She had a razor keen intellect and in some ways was a master, having long ago recognized her spiritual connection to her Creator.

But Janice's act of reclaiming that child within, a mere infant of perhaps eleven months, filled her with unease. Janice did not want to accept that little baby or provide her a place to live. Janice was afraid that having to nurture and care for that child within would make the rest of her dependent.

"Is it dependency or self-sufficiency?" Janice's guides asked her through her Sunan therapist.

A startled look spread across Janice's face, even though her eyes remained shut. "I hadn't thought about it that way before," she replied thoughtfully.

As Janice and her therapist continued the session, they found out something important about Janice. As an infant, Janice wanted nothing more than for her mother to cuddle her, hold her and take the time to read her stories and talk to her. That was her standard for maternal love and how she wanted such love to be expressed to her. Yet Janice's mother, when Janice talked with her soul to soul during the session, explained that she had been overwhelmed by her second daughter's emotional neediness.

"Alice"* had her own fears and needs. She did not deliberately or maliciously withhold love from Janice. Far from it. Alice is and always has been a deeply loving soul. But Alice simply had been unable to give her child the kind of love that Janice would recognize as love.

As a newborn, Janice already had a distinct understanding of what mother-love felt like. Some of her pain as a child was caused by the difference between her expectation of love and the kind of love her mother was able to give her. Recognizing the true source of her pain at the emotional and spiritual levels of her being was very healing for Janice. She finally knew and could feel that her mother had always loved her.

It became much easier for Janice to accept her inner child and let that child remain in Janice's heart, where it longed to live once more.

While there has been a lot of talk in recent years about reclaiming the child within, clear definitions of the inner child are few and far between. The child within is a symbolic representation of the part of self that Sunan therapists call the emotional body.

Part of our problem with the emotional body is that most of us share Janice's apprehensions about that inner child. Once we reclaim this part of our being, we have no idea what to do with it and, to be frank, we're not really sure we ever wanted to fool with it in the first place.

After all, that inner child too often comes forth into our waking consciousness wounded, fearful, confused, powerless and almost overwhelmingly needy. Like Janice, we fear we will end up having to play nurse-maid to this part of self and the prospect fills us more with dread than with enthusiasm.

The other part of the problem is our limited definition of self, which leaves no room for the inner child/emotional body. Although fully one-fourth of self, the emotional body is indeed the proverbial step-child.

The secular, science-oriented members of our society are accustomed to thinking of and talking about self as "bodymind." Religious institutions often refer to self in three parts: body, mind and spirit. The emotional body is almost always left out of these discussions, or lumped together as an afterthought with the mental body.

The Sunan method, however, addresses a whole self that comprises four distinct yet complementary parts, not just two or possibly three. These four parts are the spiritual body, the mental body, the physical body and the emotional body. Other labels that mean pretty much the same thing are, respectively, unconscious mind, conscious mind, cellular mind and subconscious mind.

The emotional body is the part of self that enables us to feel love: the love of our own spiritual body, the love of other souls as well as the love of our Creator. An emotional body that presents itself to us as a small child obviously does not have the resources, maturity or strength to feel love. Small wonder most of us are incapable of experiencing, trusting or holding onto our self-love, others' love for us or the love of God. Our immature emotional bodies simply don't have the wherewithal.

It is possible, however, to mature the child within to an inner adult, thereby addressing our apprehensions about this part of self. To grow up that inner child, however, we first recognize what blocks the emotional body from maturing in the first place. In all the talk about the inner child, few have questioned why the emotional body fails to mature with the rest of self.

Sunan therapists believe that judgment against self stunts the healthy growth of the emotional body. Judgment twists our emotional being into something unknown and so terrifying that many of us simply refuse to acknowledge the emotional part of self, or to bring that child within back up to the light.

We don't start out this way. At some point of misunderstanding, we decide that our emotions and desires have gotten us into trouble. This can be during a traumatic event or over a period of years. This decision can be made when we are infants, as in Janice's case, young children, teens or even in the womb. We also make the decision to disavow our emotions and desires not because of any trauma or abuse, but simply because they are at odds with the judgment-based rules and standards of the outside authority figures we have mentioned, such as our parents and teachers.

When pitted against outside authority, our emotional body rarely wins. We fear that if we are true to our own desires for self, the conflict between what we want and what others tell us is good, right, acceptable and proper will result in our losing love, acceptance, approval and validation. Fear of that loss is too much for most of us. We don't want to be alone and unloved. We snap to when judgment tells us that we cannot eat our cake and have it, too. Scared of losing what we long for, we disavow our emotional body, which is also the keeper of our personal truths, our own heart's desire for self.

At that point of self-disavowal, we unwittingly exile the emotional body to isolation from the rest of self. The isolated emotional body then struggles to fulfill its deepest desires by trying to elicit love, acceptance, approval and validation from parents, siblings, other relatives, friends, teachers and other authority figures.

How ironic. When we deny our heart's desire for self (our emotional body), we bring about precisely that which we feared in the first place: the loss that prompted us to disavow that inner child.

We then have no other option than to look to others to meet our emotional needs. The problem with looking outside of self is that sources outside of self rarely know how to offer love in a way that feels like love to our child within. Each inner child has a unique definition of what love, acceptance, approval and validation feel like.

Having disavowed our emotional body/inner child by judging against our own desires, most of us live our lives precisely like Janice. We are disempowered because we have to look outside of self for love that we cannot then recognize or feel as love.

It doesn't mean that we are not loved. But we struggle to live feeling unloved, unaccepted, unapproved of and not validated because we do not recognize love from outside as love. Many of us also experience Alice's sad and even tragic frustration of loving another person to the best of our ability but knowing that the other person does not feel our love.

Happily, there is one source of love, acceptance, approval and validation that the child within instantly recognizes and feels as love. That source of love is the spiritual body. This part of self knows how to love us in precisely the unique way we yearn for it.

Judgment against self, however, has separated the emotional body from the spiritual body. Until we reunite these parts of self once more, we are unable to reclaim and feel our own self-love. Then, in a state of self-judgment, we keep looking for love, acceptance, approval and validation in all the wrong places, meaning outside of self, outside of our own hearts.

The Sunan method of healing resolution, however, enables us to free ourselves from self-judgment. As we grow in self-understanding and release more and more judgments against self, we find our emotional body also changes and evolves into an inner adult.

An adult who feels love, approval, acceptance, validation, security, joy and spontaneity from within self.

An adult capable of nurturing the rest of self from within while still finding childlike delight in splashing through puddles on a rainy day or stopping to marvel at the colors on a butterfly's wing.

An adult who does not hold the rest of self back, but instead becomes our own inner cheering section and best source of self-nurturing.

An adult who empowers us by making us emotionally self-sufficient instead of disempowering us by keeping us emotionally dependent on others.

The process of growing up the inner child may take just a few or require many sessions of Sunan therapies, depending on our individual issues. Even resolving and releasing just one small self-judgment, however, often gives the emotional body enough hope to encourage us to continue our journey of self-healing and personal growth.

*These are fictitious names for real people used to ensure privacy.