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What is Inner Family Healing?

You, along with everyone else, have an Inner Family, comprised of a Grownup and a variety of Inner Children. "Inner" refers to what exists in a person's internal awareness only, as opposed to what exists outside the body and can be seen by others. "Family" refers to patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that resemble members of a family structure. You may not have thought of having an Inner Family in just those terms, but most of us can easily identify words and phrases that run through our brains to tell us how we are or should be thinking, feeling, and acting in response to what's going on in our lives. When we listen carefully to these words and phrases, they begin to sound as if they are coming from particular personalities with distinctive characters. As we continue to observe, it becomes clear that some of these characters sound adult while others sound childlike. Moreover, their patterns of internal communication-both negative and positive-recall our own upbringing. Let's take a closer look at the Grownup and the Inner Children who comprise this Inner Family.

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The Grownup

The Grownup is the part of us that is legally responsible for taking care of business, taxes, family, and self in the outside world, and emotionally responsible for taking care of the Inner Children in our inside world. Unlike the Inner Children, the Grownup continues to age chronologically, and to benefit from experience in the here and now.

In a properly balanced adult personality, the Grownup functions as "Captain of the Will"; that is, master of the power to select, commit to, and pursue a particular direction for our lives, in concert with or despite our emotions or preferences. In other words, the Grownup is the part of us that is ultimately responsible for exercising the power to choose at each decision point.

The Grownup is also capable of continued transformation as a being, of becoming stronger, wiser, deeper, more knowledgeable, and more versatile.

In this capacity, it is normally the Grownup who sets the goal of inner peace and freedom and who moves resolutely toward forgiving, no matter what feelings, emotions, and thoughts may seem to impede that progress. And feelings, thoughts, and emotions do interfere with that progress, because in addition to having a Grownup, we also have Inner Children.

The Inner Children

Except for the fact that Inner Children live inside your body, they are just like normal children in the outside world. Inner Children compete with their Grownup for control. They want what they want when they want it. And, like normal "outer" kids, your Inner Children have different ages, characters, ideas, tastes, and even genders.

Some may be introverts and some extroverts. Their preferences and desires differ one from another and from those of the mature adult body in which they reside. They are creative, active, courageous, curious, intelligent, emotional, kind, grabby, combative, sweet, and hungry for the right kind of attention. They are inherently wonderful.

However, their survival behaviors can make it difficult to understand and live with them when we are adults. Inner Children do what they must to survive, whatever that may be. It is they who carry the pain, fear, and anger from the past, and it is they who make decisions arising out of early trauma. For example, if Inner Children can't get the right kind of attention, they'll go for any attention at all, because without it, they starve and fail to thrive. If abuse is all that's available, they'll learn to adapt to a diet of abuse.

Until the Inner Children are healed of the wounds sustained when you were small, they often insist on occupying the driver's seat of your life, especially when they feel threatened. As most of us can attest, having a 3- or 6-year-old in charge is a tough way to make a living, raise a family, or handle a crisis. These young ones do their best, but there's no way they can adequately substitute for an experienced, mature Grownup. The Inner Children are trapped in the past. In effect, each lives-for good or ill-in an emotional time capsule comprised of your history from their point of view.

The Inner Children never get any older than they are, but if the Grownup learns to take proper care of them, they can be healed. Fortunately, the Grownup has the capability of entering into the Inner Children's time capsules to help release their pain, to refashion their environment into a healing and joyful one, and-above all-to help the Inner Children to revise the survival decisions made when you were small.

As bizarre as it may sound, you have the power to create, literally create, a happy childhood, a childhood into which you and the Children can feed attention and energy, a childhood that becomes the predominant backdrop for you reactions to life in the here and now.



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