Chapter Five The Too Serious Kid What is happening When our Inner Child is not playful or spontaneous - Why a Free Inner Child is Essential to a Healthy life - Parental Inversion Families - Parent, Adult Child ego state analysis
When we have a Too Serious Kid then the playfulness, spontaneity and carefree nature of the healthy Inner Child is not being expressed. When in school this child was well behaved and willing to be helpful.Teachers saw no problem in this kid that acted like a little adult. However something was off.
In this chapter we want to understand what is going going on under the surface of the Too Serious Kid. Right into adulthood there are no issues obvious to those who know you. Yes, once your life is bent in this direction, once you become the too serious kid, it is 95% certain that you will become a too serious adult.
There is a fairly consistent reason for this personality adjustment in the family of origen. Something was rotten. Things were out of order. We will get to that later.
What’s wrong, you say? What harm has been done? Are you saying that being a Too Serious Kid (and, later, a Too Serious Adult) is pathological?
No. This personality pattern is normal and not pathological. However it do serious harm to your health, happiness and connection with God. The harm done often goes undetected. It is subtle and little understood. But it is real. Let me give you some examples.
Unless you make adjustments or get emotional healing you are very likely to experience most of the following in your life:
Constant inner criticism.
Low self confidence.
Hyper-sensitive to criticism.
Troubles with intimacy.
Depression underlying or overt.
Disconnect from feelings.
Poor advocate for one’s own needs.
Feelings of failure
It may be ’normal’ to live with a constant inner criticism but it does not need to be this way.
It may be ’normal’ to be depressed all the time but this does not need to be the way it is.
Even though the pattern is ‘normal’ and remain undetected it can have a profound impact on your life.
It is also normal for people stuck in this personality style to be very resistant to going back and looking at childhood issues. They don’t want to look back. They don’t want to look at issues to do with one’s inner child.
One can ignore these issues and this personality pattern but there are consequences. Depression may become worse. There can be a health crisis that slows you down. You may face set-backs at work because of boundary issues. You may realize that you are to risk avoidant.
First, because you may laugh at the idea of talking about your Inner Child, let me talk some about why your Inner Child is a serious topic well worth your consideration.
Why a Free Inner Child is Essential to a Healthy life
The Inner Child and our imagination are closer to heaven than we can ever get through ego, intellect and theology. That is why Jesus called us to turn and become like little children.
Free your Inner Child and you open up your capacity to connect with God, with grace, with divine energy and inspiration.
The free Inner Child is better able to access intuition, inventiveness, creativity, meaning and asense of purpose.
To be born again, or born from above, means one’s connection to heaven is alive. Whenever your channel is open, you areable to receiving wisdom, guidance and revelation from above. However if one is shut down and one’s Inner child locked away, then you may not experience these benefits. The flow of God’s resources of Life, Truth and Spirit get lost to some extent. We miss the fulness. That is why Jesus said we must turn and become like little children.
A free and healed Inner Child is able to experience a full and abundant life with love, creativity and God’s grace in your life. You actually begin to radiate His life from within you.
When your Inner Child is unavailable you are more likely to be troubled with guilt, anxiety and depression. What happened Kid? The Parental Inversion family
So what happened to the Too Serious Kid? Lets look in on ‘Laura’s’ childhood experiences.
‘Laura’ lived with her parents as her father left is regular job and served a small mission church with an inadequate salary to provide sufficient food for the family. Dad would disappear into his office to study or engage in his hobbies. Laura never saw him. Her mother was in despair and would stay in bed. Laura had to scrounge for food. Laura would decorate the home for Christmas and play Christmas music in the face of her dad’s negative comments. Even when her mother needed medical help Laura’s dad did not act and made no move to get help.
Laura, age 8, describes being in the role of family counsellor and running messages between mother and father. She felt driven to solve their difficulties. She tried to deal with each on fairly as she acted as the go-between. She suggested they write notes when they did not want to talk. She did not blame anyone for their immature behaviour and just worked to make it work but the knew it was effecting here.
Laura responded to her family being unsafe by trying to stabilize her parents and keep the family together.Laura’s survival was at stake when her parents are not talking to one another, when her dad did not make enough to buy essentials for the family and there was no food in the frig. Laura responded to her family being unsafe by trying to make things better. At one point she was carrying written messages from one parent to another. At Christmas she put on Christmas music and decorated the house for Christmas.She is trying to rescue their situation from disaster.
Laura’s parents were acting in ways that made the family dysfunctional. They were not acting like adults or responsible parents.
Laura made a choice. Rather than acting up and creating a scene, she took on responsibilities such as scrounging for food to feed herself and helping to get her parents functioning.
Some children may have reacted differently but when Laura’s parents were under-functioning she began to over-function. This is called Parental Inversion. Children are taking on parental roles and responsibility. John and Paula Sandford in their book, Transformation of the Inner Man, were the ones to name this reaction Parental Inversion.
In a family with Parental Inversion, children abandon their Inner Child and over-develop their Inner Parent. The child is compensating for their parents underfunctionning. They take on responsibility that is more appropriate for parents.
The experience brands itself into the child’s unconscious. And from now on they will expect life to go like that. For example, they will not count on or trust others to pull their weight. They will believe that everything depends on them. They feel guilty and over-responsible when things go wrong. From here on they will feel called to ‘make things right.’
The Principle: If you understand the principle here, it will help you understand the childhood of the Too Serious Kid. In general, when adults (parents) act in dysfunctional ways and make family life unsafe for children, then one way that children compensate results in the Too Serious Kid. The Inner Parent in the child is awoken prematurely to stabilize the unsafe family situation. The Inner Child is suppressed prematurely. Note 5.1
More about Parental Inversion Families
Can you imagine a child in these situations being less expressive, spontaneous and playful?
The child becomes anxious and afraid when their parents are fighting.
The child feels unsafe when one or both parents get drunk and fall asleep on the couch.
The child can have PTSDwhen one parent goes into rages and does harm to the child.
When parents are unable to function because of sickness, mental illness or depression, a child might step into the Caretaker Role to fill in the gap where a parent is not able to function. They feel the responsibility to take over and care for the sick parent, to provide cheer for the depressed parent or to provide stability where their parent is unstable.
The responsibility of parents is to provide consistent love, nurture,to children. Parents also are needed to provide order, structure, safety, and security to children. There are more ways in which parents fail to provide love and order. Here are some:
Physical absence - one or both parents are away most of the time and children are on their own or looking after one another.
Emotional absence - one or both parents are unavailable emotionally. For example the dissociated parent with the lost Inner Child who is not present emotionally.
The narcissistic parent - is the extreme of the self-centred parent who does not focus on their child’s needs because they are totally focused on themselves.
The sick or disabled parent who is just not able to be a full participant in managing the household and the children and who needs care.
The alcoholic parent who shows up drunk and disorderly and either drops out or disrupts the family.
Parents who are get in violent or extreme fights that frighten children and threaten the security of children.
Parents who have sudden rages due to borderline personality or PTSD become a threat to the child rather than protecting.
Parents who are extremely abusive in the name of discipline and cause physical harm to the child.
Parents that are verbally abusive and traumatize the child’s confidence and identity with their words.
Parents who put too much responsibility on the child in terms of running the household, looking after the other children or raising themselves.
Children in these situations respond in different ways. The Too Serious Kid responds by trying to get out of the way, be good, help out, to keep their parents calm and keep things safe. When parents are not providing a safe, secure and orderly home for the child, a child may take on some role that will restore order.
These are just some examples of the types of Parental Inversion situations that trigger children to take on adult responsibilities in an attempt to keep the family together for the sake of their own security and survival. This type of family scene creates the Too Serious Kid. Parent, Adult Child ego state analysis
In the Parental Inversion family, parents are under-functioning and children are over-functioning. As a child steps into adult responsibility at such a young age there are major distortions in child development. These distortions will be branded into the child’s personality and continue without a break into adulthood. A discerning family observes that this child ‘lost his childhood.’
Within the child in that situation there are three inner ego states: Parent, Adult and Child. It is the role of the Inner Parent to reduce danger, pacify the parents and keep family peace and order. Even though you were still in childhood, due to Parental Inversion in your family, you took on these parental responsibilities. When your parents created chaos they set up Parental Inversion where children take on adult roles and responsibilities. (Research this under ‘Transactional Analysis’ by Eric Berne.)
Parental Inversion impacts each of the Parent, Adult and Child ego states. One’s whole personality is impacted with distortions that may well last for life. Here are some examples of that.
The Inner Parent may take on the job of reducing risks, creating protection, calming people down and creating order. In these ways the Inner Parent is keeping the Inner Child safe. The more extreme is the dysfunction in one’s family the more extreme are these measures to help you and the others in the family to survive as well.
The Inner Child ego state is suppressed and criticized by the Inner Parent. Your Inner Child gets suppressed for a reason - to protect you and the family so you all can survive. However what is left of your self-worth after a life-time of criticism and suppression? The Inner Child has had an experience of shame and will experience an abundance of guilt, depression and anxiety.
When Angela began to listen to her Inner Child she found out that her Inner Child had needs.When she was was able to convey her needs to her adult self here is the list of needs that she expressed:
She wanted to be appreciated and acknowledged.
She wanted to be seen as okay and not perpetually flawed.
She wanted a voice that would be heard and listened to.
She wanted to be treated with kindness and compassion.
She wanted to try new things and learn new things.
And for it to be okay if it didn’t work out.
However the Inner Parent was dedicated to keeping control, reducing all risk and uncertainty and keeping everything calm and peaceful. Therefore, the mission of the Inner Parent was in conflict with the needs of the inner Child. The thought of freeing up the Inner child and giving her a voice threatened the Inner Parent with her dedication to keeping things calm and under control. Angela’s Inner Parent feared being overcome with the inner child’s feelings and emotions. Her Inner Parent was anxious.
The Adult ego state was put in high gear to observe, learn, research to understand what is going on and find reality. Angela’s parents acted in ways that left her deeply shocked, puzzled and confused. She lived in a crazy-making family and would spend her life in ‘Research Mode’ in order find truth that would assure her that she was not the crazy one and that she would not end up being like her mom. The Inner Judge puts the Inner Child into a bad State
The Critical Parent had the responsibility of suppressing the Inner Child. As the Critical Parent hammers away at the Inner child, it wears down the Inner Child and puts the Inner child into these painful emotional states:
1. Depression. The Inner Judge creates an Eeyore attitude to life - always sad and greeting life with a negative attitude. (From the Winnie the Pooh stories.)
2. Anxiety. People go to professional counsellors or medical doctors because of anxiety. The Inner Judge of the Too Serious Child creates anxiety. The Inner Parent wants to avoid risk and keep control. Always assessing risks leads to dealing with too many things to worry about which creates anxiety.
3. Shame. By suppressing the Inner child’s right to speak up or do anything, the Inner Judge is creating shame in the Inner Child. ‘Do I have the right to be?’
4. Guilt. If the Inner Child reports, “I can’t forgive myself,” it means the Inner Judge won’t shut up. The person always feel judged, condemned, guilty and ashamed of oneself. Look at this another way. The Inner Child does not get a break from guilt because the criticism of the Inner Judge never stops.
When our Inner Child has been suppressed by our Inner Parent, the resultant feelings are going to be at the base of who we are. At some level, often below conscious level, The Super-Responsible will experience of anxiety, shame, depression,and guilt.
If you experience depression in your life, this is one source. If you experience fear, anxiety or panic, this is one source. If you are tormented by guilt, this is one source. If you are always apologetic and non assertive, this shame can be the source.