Inner Child Archetypes

Fierce HarryFrom the revised and expanded edition of Discovering Your Inner Child: Transforming Toxic Patterns and Finding Your Joy:

Your inner child deserves all of the love and compassion that every child in this world deserves, but it can be difficult at first to envision a part of yourself as a child. You may be so accustomed to replaying the mental tapes of how bad you are that your child self seems unreachable.

But if you start to think about the other kids you knew when you were growing up, you may notice a tendency to group these many personalities into “characters” that are familiar to you. In one set of groupings, you may have the jocks, the popular kids, the “brains,” and the geeks. This is an oversimplification, of course, and every person has their own special set of circumstances and characteristics that makes them truly unique. Nevertheless, archetypes can be useful in helping you to understand and have compassion for your inner child.

As you read the descriptions of the archetypes in the following sections, you may find that your inner child bears a strong resemblance to one or more of these, and you may have traits from several of them. There is no hard and fast rule here. If you recognize any of these archetypes in yourself, please do not judge yourself harshly. There is nothing wrong with your child self finding a way to cope and remain safe. Your job now is to understand why this happened so that you can heal it.

Two of the seven inner child archetypes are listed here, from the book:  The Invisible Kid and The Bad Kid.

The Invisible Kid

Also known as: The Weird Kid, The Quiet Kid

“Do you remember that kid who always sat in the back of class? What was his name?” The Invisible Kid excels at flying under the radar. Their hair, their dress, their posture, everything about them says, “You don’t see me. I’m invisible. Move along.”

There is safety in anonymity, according to the Invisible Kid. It is far better not to be seen because if you are seen, bad things will probably happen to you. People might want to get close to you, and really, it’s just easier if they keep their distance. The Invisible Kid will never be popular, but they never expected to be popular anyway. They do expect to be hurt or rejected, though, and who wants to go there?

The Invisible Kid’s true feelings

The Invisible Kid feels fundamentally unsafe in the world. They probably experienced some toxic behaviors at home, even if they cannot identify just what those are. Primarily, the Invisible Kid is afraid to be noticed. If someone notices them, then they might be rejected, berated, ridiculed, or worse.

There are many tools that the Invisible Kid employs to maintain their camouflage. Physically, their hair may obscure much of their face; they may slouch; they may choose inconspicuous, dark clothing; and they may (unconsciously) gain weight. Emotionally, they keep their cards very close to their vest. Sharing their thoughts and feelings with someone else may be difficult. They may talk little, fearing that someone will criticize what they say. In addition, talking “gives them away” and might let someone else see who they really are, and that does not feel safe.

How the Invisible Kid rules your life

If your inner child is the Invisible Kid, then you have worked hard not to be seen, and unfortunately, you have probably been wildly successful. As a result, you feel isolated and unappreciated, because no one can see the real you. The downside to invisibility is that you miss out on true intimacy and get overlooked in your job and at home. People literally overlook your contributions and accomplishments and seldom take your needs and wants into account, largely because they do not know what they are.

Healing the Invisible Kid

The Invisible Kid is very distant:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

To heal, you will need to coax your inner child back down to earth. You are indeed a diamond, so bring your brilliance closer and let it shine! How can anyone know you if you do not give them a chance? Let your inner child know that you are in charge now, and that you will take care of them.

Like the Tough Kid, it will take time to convince your inner child that it is safe to be seen. After all, being seen is scary, and it makes you feel vulnerable. But you have power within that you can draw on.

I am loved, I am valued, and I matter. It is now safe for me to be seen. I am a powerful person.

The Bad Kid

Also known as: The Delinquent, The Troublemaker, The Stupid Kid

The Bad Kid is very, very bad. They believe they were born that way, and this belief is reinforced everywhere they turn: by their parents, by their teachers, and by the other kids. Being bad is the only thing that has ever gotten them any attention, and being scowled at or disapproved of by any adult feels like victory.

The Bad Kid is certain that no one can love them because they are so bad, and they set out to prove this daily. Whether they are proving this to a parent or a partner, if their behavior is met with love or tolerance, they are pretty certain that they can eventually elicit what they believe are the true feelings of their loved ones: abhorrence and disgust. If anyone dares to say, “I will love you no matter what,” the Bad Kid responds with, “Want to bet?”

The Bad Kid’s true feelings

The Bad Kid feels inherently unloveable and worthless, and they expect everyone in their lives to agree with this assessment. If they do not, the Bad Kid misbehaves, hoping to get the reaction that they believe is inevitable. When people reject them as a result of this misbehavior, the Bad Kid feels validated. “See? I was right. I really am bad.”

For some Bad Kids, acting out was the primary means of getting attention from their parents. To a kid, negative attention is better than no attention at all. Over time, the unwanted or “bad” behavior was reinforced, and it became a way of life.

Bad Kids often suffered emotional (and possibly other) abuse, so they have been told or shown in a variety of ways that they are bad or worthless, a lost cause, or “a mistake.” When they act out and manage to drive people away, they are trapped in a vicious cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy: they believe they are bad, so they misbehave, people leave, and their belief is validated.

How the Bad Kid rules your life

If your inner child is the Bad Kid, then you sabotage your happiness daily. In relationships and on the job, you push the limits to see how much people will take before they give up on you. Those who do give up are lost opportunities—people with healthy boundaries make good friends and partners. You also risk burning bridges in your career. But there are always a handful of people who hang on and try to stick with you in spite of your attempts to push them away, but they, too, will eventually tire of having their love and loyalty for you tested at every turn. Your happiness suffers because all of your relationships suffer.

If your inner Bad Kid is really bad, you may have pushed it farther than just relationships and your workplace. Maybe you broke the law. Maybe you hurt someone. Maybe you hurt yourself, with drugs or alcohol. Maybe you still do.

Healing the Bad Kid

The traditional song, “The Cat Came Back” fits the Bad Kid well. In the song, Old Mister Johnson has a yellow cat that he tries to get rid of:

Old Mister Johnson had troubles of his own
He had a yellow cat which wouldn’t leave its home;
He tried and he tried to give the cat away,
He gave it to a man goin’ far, far away.

But the cat came back the very next day,
The cat came back, we thought he was a goner
But the cat came back; it just couldn’t stay away.

There are many variations of the song, but with every verse, each attempt to get rid of the cat has truly horrible consequences:

He gave it to a little boy with a dollar note,
Told him for to take it up the river in a boat;
They tied a rope around its neck, it must have weighed a pound,
Now they drag the river for a little boy that’s drowned.

But the cat came back the very next day,
The cat came back, we thought he was a goner
But the cat came back; it just couldn’t stay away.

He gave it to a man going up in a balloon,
He told him for to take it to the man in the moon;
The balloon came down about ninety miles away,
Where he is now, well I dare not say.

But the cat came back the very next day,
The cat came back, we thought he was a goner
But the cat came back; it just couldn’t stay away.

For the Bad Kid, everyone who might care for him or her is the cat. Really, it is Love. And the Bad Kid tries very hard to make it go away so that his or her belief in their own badness will be vindicated. The solution is simple: adopt the cat! Let it into your house, feed it, pet it, and let it purr in your lap. Accept love and know that you are loveable. No one is truly bad. They are just unhealed. And healing is available to everyone, including the so-called Bad Kid.

I am loved and loveable. I am the perfect me today and every day, and I forgive myself for ever doubting this.


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