Healing the Inner Child – Facing Codependency

codependence inner child work

When we are small children, we live in a world of adventure and excitement. Everything is big and new and fascinating, and we have very few fears or reservations – we feel safe and secure, and our main objective is to unabashedly explore. According to Pia Mellody, preeminent authority in the fields of addiction and relationships, suggests that the nature of every child is precious, vulnerable, perfectly imperfect, dependent, and spontaneous. Ideally, these characteristics will be supported by the caregiver and the environment throughout early childhood, and the child will develop in a healthy way – grasping a deep understanding of his or her intrinsic worth. If significant damage is done to any of these core characteristics, then the child will be developmentally hindered. He or she will develop issues regarding immaturity, and these issues will likely persist into adulthood and greatly affect many aspects of adult life.

What is Developmental Immaturity?

Developmental Immaturity tends to occur when a living organism is denied the components necessary for it to thrive in its natural environment. If a flower is not given enough sunlight, water, and soil to adequately grow, for example, it will experience developmental immaturity – it is not the plant’s fault that it cannot flourish and bloom. Similarly, children require the right ingredients to develop into healthy and functional adults. When children experience any degree of trauma, their developmental ability is harshly impacted.

The Many Faces of Trauma

In many cases, trauma looks like a simple lack of nurturing or unintentional neglect. This type of abuse is known as ‘covert abuse’, and is often hidden and indirect. It includes the emotional and physical neglect of a child, as well as subtle manipulation and an over-exertion of control. When we think of ‘trauma’, we typically think of profound physical or sexual abuse. However, a two-year-old who is raised by a disengaged nanny because his parents spend so much time working may be affected just as gravely as a full-grown man in the midst of war. Trauma, like most other psychological hindrances, is completely relative. And covert abuse is often exceedingly more difficult to recover from – because it is significantly more challenging for individuals to identify.

What is Adaptation?

When a child experiences trauma, the five natural characteristics that were mentioned previously will become distorted, transforming into adaptive survival mechanisms. These malformed traits later serve as the core symptoms of codependence in adults, and severely hinder the healthy functioning of interpersonal relationships – and the vital relationship with self. When a child reaches four or five years of age, his or her brain development allows adaptation to the parent to truly begin. This essentially means that the child is able to begin filling the role that the parent needs the child to fill.

For example, if the parent is rarely home and the child is the oldest of three, he or she may take on a caregiver role. He or she may similarly take on the role of the scapegoat, or of the invisible child (children should be seen and not heard). Adaptation is a survival mechanism, and because children recognize that they will be unable to survive on their own, adaptation trumps authenticity. Therefore, this type of deep-seated wounding revolves predominantly around arrested development. Children are not able to develop into independent, self-sufficient adults because they are so consumed with developing adequate survival traits.

The Model of Developmental Immaturity

The associated model is titled ‘The Effect of Dysfunctional Parenting on the Natural Characteristics of a Child’, and it is frequently used in Post Induction Therapy (PIT) – a therapeutic method designed by Pia Mellody and utilized by the staff at Next Chapter. Take a look at how each of the five intrinsic characteristics of a child are transformed into core traits of codependence when the child is abused or neglected.

  1. Valuable

Dysfunctional Survival Trait: Less-than or better-than.

Core Symptom of Codependence: An inability to experience appropriate levels of self-esteem. The adult will either feel above all of his peers (better than) leaving him unable to connect, or will constantly feel below all of his peers (less than), also leading to disconnection, isolation, and disproportionate self-esteem and self-worth.

  1. Vulnerable

Dysfunctional Survival Trait: Too vulnerable or invulnerable.

Core Symptom of Codependence: An inability to or difficulty setting functional boundaries – involves both boundary-setting and containment. The adult will lack a sense of personal boundaries and let others take advantage of his vulnerability, or he will set exceedingly harsh personal boundaries and let very few see his authentic self.

  1. Imperfect

Dysfunctional Survival Trait: Bad and rebellious or good and perfect.

Core Symptom of Codependence: Difficulty expressing personal needs and wants. The adult will have difficult expressing his needs and wants to others.

  1. Dependent

Dysfunctional Survival Trait: Too dependent or needless and without want.

Core Symptom of Codependence: Difficulty taking care of personal needs and wants. The adult may be aware of what he wants, but is unable to obtain it – or consistently sacrifices is.

  1. Immature

Dysfunctional Survival Trait: Chaotic or controlling.

Core Symptom of Codependence: An inability to express reality in a moderate way. The adult either feels as if he entirely lacks control and lives amidst chaos, or as if he is in complete control and bears all power.

The main goal of Post Induction Therapy is getting to the very root of the issue at hand, and re-parenting the inner child so that the individual in question has the opportunity to become a healthy, functional adult. If childhood wounds are left unaddressed, secondary symptoms will eventually appear, and life will become quite overwhelming and unmanageable. Adults with unresolved childhood trauma are liable to experience anxiety, depression, addictive disorders, control and anger issues, relational problems, and issues affecting spirituality. Post Induction Therapy and the related treatment model have been utilized in healing the lasting symptoms of childhood trauma and resulting disorders such as depression and addiction.

Next Chapter and Relational Trauma Therapy

The basic premise of PIT is that childhood trauma (less than nurturing caregiving), is in fact the root of developmental immaturity and codependency, and recovery involves healing childhood wounds through re-parenting and discharging toxic emotions and core beliefs. The goal of this specific treatment model is to come into developmental maturity, reclaiming authentic pieces of adult, functional self and healing past wounds in order to regain balance and self-love. Of course, facing codependence is no small task. In order to effectively do so, we must take an honest and searching look at our own personal history.

We at Next Chapter are one of the few treatment facilities in the country that offer Post Induction Therapy based on the model of recovery originally developed by Pia Mellody. This specific model is utilized in all of our intensive workshops, individual therapy, and family work. Intensive Relational Trauma Therapy is incorporated into our day-to-day curriculum, and specialty workshops are offered to each of our clients and their families. For more information on our program of addiction and trauma recovery, or to learn more regarding codependency and relational trauma, please feel free to contact us today.