This article is part of our series on ‘Discovering Archetypes’, that we are doing on occasion of the Mental Health Awareness Week. To know what archetypes are all about, please read our introductory article.
The Child Archetype
We have all observed a seventy year old behaving like a child, throwing tantrums or hiding from their caretakers; we have experienced the occasional urge to engage in impulsive shopping and our tendency to sulk and to expect others to console us; these are all the expressions of the child archetype in us.
We usually associate qualities of innocence, impulsiveness, spontaneity, creativity as well as those of dependence, naivety, ignorance, stubbornness with our idea of a ‘child’. These qualities of the child archetype often manifest themselves in different ways for each of us.
As you go through these article, we encourage you to reflect upon the ways in which the child in you finds its expression. You might find yourself identifying more with only a certain set of qualities of the child archetype. Additionally, just like the other archetypes, the shadow side of the child archetype contains its weaknesses, the undesirable traits and its repressed impulses. To know more about the shadow as an archetype, please read our previous article on the same.
How the Child Archetype Makes Itself Known through Us
One of the first qualities that we associate with the idea of a child is innocence. The innocent aspect of the child archetype is naive as well as playful. Those of us in whom this aspect of the child archetype is prominent, would find themselves to be generally easy-going, having a carefree approach and being able to trust others easily. Such childlike innocence is beautifully exemplified in characters like Peter Pan and Snow White.
When the innocent child in us is healthily integrated into the psyche, it enables us to nurture the innocent, playful light-hearted side in us along with being able to carry out responsibilities of adulthood with relative ease and balance.
However, at times when we feel overwhelmed with challenges in our lives, this innocent child might not feel prepared to face them. It discovers that world around us is not ideal nor fair and contains imperfections at every stage. As this child’s happy bubble breaks, it leads to feelings of despair, and the child finds itself feeling overwhelmed.
It is at such times, when the shadow of the child archetype could come into play and the child begins to find comfort in retreating into fantasy: we find ourselves refusing to acknowledge our concerns or deny them and on a broader note, we refuse to ‘grow up’ and take responsibility of the situation. Thus, the shadow side of the child is dominant in individuals who grow overly dependent on others to help them deal with their problems.
At other times, when the child in us is wounded – probably stemming from a harsh environment or severely negative events – the child archetype becomes the source of strength for our psyche that is grappling with the pain. Hugely popular fiction characters like Cindrella and Harry Potter depict the strength of the child archetype. Both of them were orphans and experienced a painfully difficult childhood. However, they succeeded in their quest of transitioning into adulthood. In the real world as well, we see such strength in individuals like Oprah Winfrey or Kalki Koechlin who were sexually abused as children and are now actively involved in fighting for the cause.
Watch this Video To Understand Emotional wounds
How Therapy Can Help in Integrating the Child Archetype
Therapy can reach out to the child by facilitating its journey of becoming independent. Discovering insights and learning new skills helps the innocent, naive child feel confident to deal with the real world and take more responsibility. Therapy also aims to work on the ‘defenses’ that the child erects to shield itself from overwhelming feelings.
Keeping in Touch with the Inner Child
We may not realize it, but if we pay close attention to ourselves we will find that the child tries to make itself known and heard, through various ways. It is useful to get to know this child in us, to acknowledge it and draw strength from it. Here are a few ways in which you can reach out to your child archetype:
- Take moments out of your mundane life and engage in creative pursuits that call upon the child in you. Any activity that brings an automatic smile on your face, the joy in your heart and mind in the present moment is the right answer.
- Bring out the child in everyday activities like having an ice cream, scribbling a not so attractive doodle on your work pad, just to tap in the innocent energy anywhere you need them.
- One of the fun ways to keep in touch with your inner child is to spend some time with a child. Making faces, allowing yourself to be messy, participating in their make-believe play can surprisingly make us feel closer to a part of our own selves.
We hope you stay in touch with your inner child and let it nurture you to peace and wellness!
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A Lot of Trauma can come from Unhealed Emotional Wounds from Childhood
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