What was your dream career as a child? What happened with that dream as you journeyed through life so far? If you are lucky, perhaps you are living very close to your inner child’s dream today. If, however, you feel you are not really near that, this article is for you.
Why work with the inner child?
The inner child is the part of our psyche that contains memories, patterns and behaviours of our childhood. It also contains qualities such as innocence, wonder, joy, play and exploration. Inner child work is about reclaiming those qualities if we might have lost them somewhere on the way. This often happens through healing childhood ‘baggage’ we might be carrying with us into mature age.
A wonderful model to use when thinking about how this works comes from shamanic culture. As children and adolescents, oftentimes we are exposed to situations which are difficult, painful and sometimes even traumatic for the fragile developing psyche. In those cases, a part of our spirit might leave the body, taking with it the pain that is too much for the child to handle. It also takes with it valuable qualities and capacities, as the wholeness of the psyche is compromised.
Years and sometimes even decades later, those pieces return. Sometimes they return because we invite them with intentional spiritual, personal growth or healing work. Sometimes, they come back when we don’t expect them because we are finally at a level of maturity and strength to handle the pain associated with them. Whichever way they return, oftentimes the pain comes first. Only when we process it we are able to reclaim the missing piece and its gifts and step closer to our original wholeness.
Why does the inner child’s dream career matter?
Childhood traumas, pains and difficulties are unique to each individual. Yet there are some patterns that express themselves in the collective, because they originate in our culture. In the Western World, a great example of this is the lack of initiation rituals to give us models, tools and support for a healthy transition from one phase of life into another. The result is that many people end up losing pieces of their inner child at major points in their development, oftentimes without even being conscious of it.
I found this out the hard way. I was doing some inner work when I stumbled on a piece of my inner child that was sitting in a very dark sticky place, afraid and alone. As I pulled her out, she showed me how she ended up there.
Many years ago, I was at a crossroad, needing to make a choice about what to study at university. I knew my childhood dream was to go for archaeology, astronomy or a nature science like botany or zoology. Faced with the actual decision, I felt like I couldn’t honour that dream. Back at that time, in my home country of Bulgaria, one couldn’t make a decent living doing any of those things. A friend was joking with me “Sure, you can study astronomy, but then you’ll need to figure out how to eat pigeons. You won’t be able to buy yourself decent food with that profession”.
I decided to study business instead, because that made sense and was a natural path for a high scoring student like me. I knew it was a compromise, but I never knew how much it had impacted me. Until I pulled out that little girl from that dark place and she showed me how much it had hurt her. I’d basically told her that her dreams were not welcome, as they were not making sense in practical reality. She’d have to make do with something she wasn’t too excited about instead. In short, a part of her, her dream, needed to leave for me to continue down the path I’d chosen.
The return of the inner child’s dream
As the theory states, once a piece of our spirit comes back, it doesn’t just show us the pain, it shows us the gift. I’d have thought that the gift of choosing a career path not aligned with the inner child’s dream would be something like ‘well I learned discipline and valuable skills studying at business school’. That could be enough. But I found out there was much more to it for me.
As soon as the little girl returned with her dreams, she showed me that I was living them in my life today! Just in a way that I’d never had expected as a child. In my shamanic work, I enter in a dreamlike state where I journey up to the sky, down into the earth and connect with spirit beings (plants, animals, rocks etc). Suddenly I saw the links — up was astronomy, down was archaeology and in between was nature science. Her dream and my spiritual work clicked together perfectly!
She didn’t have the concept of shamanism growing up. So she went for what she knew — in order to study the stars, the earth and the beings we share it with, it had to be science. She didn’t necessarily care about science though! It was the wonder, the curiosity, the mystery that she was after, not reason and maths and objectivity. My spiritual work was completely aligned with the essence of what she was after. I got so focused on the form that I didn’t even notice getting closer and closer to her dream for more than 4.5 years!
How to explore this space?
If you made it this far, something of my story resonated with you. Perhaps it’s here to remind you to check with your own inner child. Are you living his/her dream? Maybe on the surface it doesn’t seem so, but remember — this is about the essence, not the form!
What was his/her dream profession? What was he/she hoping to experience doing that? How is that showing up in your life right now? Perhaps it’s not a 100% match. Maybe there’s very little overlap, but don’t worry. Once you know what the essence is, once you see it expressed even in a small way in your current life, you will be able to celebrate that and grow it further from there. In this way, you not only take a step closer to your wholeness as individual, integrating the child and the grown-up. You also open up a whole different journey of looking at what you do through the eyes of your inner child, finding more and more joy as you discover more and more things that match his/her dream.
About Lessons in Paradise
I believe we already are in paradise, regardless of where we are and what’s going on in our lives. I believe life is a journey towards becoming aware of this and enjoying as much of it as we can in the limited amount of time we have here. The Lessons in Paradise vlog is the space where I share my process of shedding patterns and beliefs that obstruct our view in order to replace them with presence, joy and wonder. It’s also my invitation to you — an invitation to connect and journey together in creative ways, as we help each other see through to the greatest expression of ourselves.