“You naughty little girl!” Mary said angrily as she spanked what had been identified as her favorite doll.
All afternoon I had been somewhat at dis-ease with the way Jane, Mary’s mother, had been on her case since they arrived, constantly checking up on Mary and criticizing her. Finally, Jane harshly and unnecessarily yelled at Mary for using a pen of mine which is what precipitated the spanking of the doll.
A few moments earlier, Mary had been sitting at the coffee table drawing on a pieces of paper with a felt tip pen. At one point, she began to make dots by jabbing at the paper with the pen. I was about to show her how to use the pen without ruining it, but begore I could get anything out of my mouth, Jane was yelling at the four year old. Initially, Mary looked up in shock which quickly turned to a look of anger.
As the adult conversation continued, I watched Mary out of the corner of my eye. About sixty seconds later, she picked up her favorite doll, took paper on which she had been drawing, rolled it up into a cone, stuck it into the doll’s mouth and then spanked and admonished the doll.
This interaction that had unfolded before me was one that had happened to all of us personally at one time or another during our childhood. But it is not an event that happens and is over with. Rather, what I saw happening to Mary was a process in which she was creating within herself and internal person who took on the psychological shape of the mother as Mary experienced her; someone who was constantly, nervously monitoring every movement she made (this was confirmed in my follow-up conversation with Jane, who realized that is what she was doing with the little girl but couldn’t seem to stop). As Mary was creating an internal mother who would watch and interrupt her activity as the real mother did, she was, at the same time, disowning the part of herself she understood was not acceptable to her mother onto the doll. This part was then shoved into some deep, dark recess of her psyche. In essence, then, Mary was creating within her Inner world a reality in which she herself was splitting into disparate parts that, in turn, were to be ruled over by an Inner foreigner.
This Inner process is one which we all undergo. Depending on our experience of our Important others during our childhood and how much internal altering we believed we had to do in order to keep their love, is the degree to which we are intact inside or not. Those of us for whom this internal fracturing is moderate to severe, we experience a general malaise about life, an anxiety about failing to make the “right decision” and fear of making the “wrong” one, difficulty in relating to others because we fear we always have to give the other what they want from us or that the other will take us over and we will disappear. Further, this inner splintering is usually accompanied by a broad spectrum of physical pain such as back, neck, head and general body aches as well as intestinal disorders.
All of these kinds of internal and interpersonal strife are caused by these inner other voices that undermine our internal sense of beauty and peache and indeed split it apart to replace it with lines like: “Who do you think you are?” “If you do that, it might not be right and if you’re not right you know that you are nothing.” “If you tell them you can’t come, they won’t like you.” “If you tell him/her you are angry about that, he/she will think you are an awful person.”
What we must do is face those internal demons who tell us these kinds of things and tell them that we refuse to give them power over us any longer. At the same time, we must enter into the place where the parts of ourselves that were cut off a long time ago, to claim them back even though it might mean we have to experience the ancient pain of the exiled internal child.
If we don’t, the internal battle that is constantly waged between the true self of the inner child and the false self of the inner other will continue. The result will that the conscious self is yanked in one direction or the other by these two internal adversaries, never being fully in charge of itself and always being in a state of confusion about who it is and what it need to do in order to be fulfilled in life.
If, however, we decide that we no longer want to suffer the pain of being divided from within, then the malaise, general anxiety, chronic guilt and shame and physical disability can begin to shift. This inner other will continue to attempt to seduce us by telling us that to be ourselves will leaves us rejected by the world and thus entirely alone and desolate. But it is that belief that keeps us enslaved and in pain. It is an unbelievable irony that, when we give ourselves over to our inner others, although we do it to gain acceptance of others, we lose our connection with others because we lose ourselves. Once we are lost to ourselves, we have nothing inside to be connected to others.
But by being faithful to one’s true self we can feel true inner peace and wholeness and a sense of real connection with the outer world of others. The sense of inner void that is bred by the inner other is replaced by a profound sense of the I AM in which we are the image and likeness of God. Once we have arrived at that internal space can we be full within and be truly listening and responsive to the world of others for we are not projecting onto them what we think they want but rather hear what they want because we are truly listening to them!
Jack Walters is a pastor and Co-Director of the IAM Center for Creative Healing in New Albany, PA. He can be reached by calling 570-363-2808. Jack has also authored the book, “Healing The Fractured Self” published by Harper and Row.