The Healing Wheel: The Psychology of the Wheel of the Year
Presenting the eight Festivals within an archetypal framework and connecting that framework to personal development and inner transformation.
Imbolc and the Inner Child
Often we find ourselves speaking about wanting to embrace magic in our lives, about wanting to reconnect to that sense of joy and wonder that we remember having in childhood, about reclaiming that excitement and exuberance that is so evident in the very young. Often we speak in terms that indicate all these experiences are kept in some faraway place: in memories of times so long ago. And in some ways this is true, but it is also a place that is very much within reach.
Inner Child Work came to the fore in the late 1980’s. Primarily the work of Charles Whitfield and John Bradshaw, the work has a direct line to Carl Jung’s concept of the Divine Child and the work of Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis in the 1950’s. In all these approaches, there is a core understanding of an inner aspect of Self which is still connected to experiencing the world with eyes that see the magic around us. Also known as The Magical Child or the Wonder Child, this is exactly that aspect of ourselves that we long to touch and bring forth in our day to day lives. But instead we can find ourselves overworked and overwhelmed, scared and hurt, “human doings” rather than “human beings”. That magical part is there…somewhere…under layers of insecurity and uncertainty. Inner Child Work is a powerful way to find it once again.
The Inner Child is that part of us that expresses our emotional life. Simply speaking, it is our feelings. With a psychological approach to the Wheel of the Year, the Festival of Imbolc is a time to reconnect to the Inner Child and open ourselves to the full spectrum of our emotions, honouring what information they have about our experience and perspective. Imbolc is the first inkling of the thaw that is around the corner. It brings a daily-growing warmth to those parts that have been frozen and barren. The name of the Festival itself references the young that are on the cusp of arrival – the playful leaping lambs that can reflect our own boundless inner joy. There is something fresh and anticipatory about Imbolc. The hard days are not fully behind us yet, but there is a different sense in the air and in the light of the day. We are closer to ease than hardship. There are days of seeing the cold gleam of ice turn into the soft glisten of water. In our inner lives, the same can be said of our emotions. What has been frozen inside can start slowly start to move once again. The Inner Child, as the keeper of our emotions, stirs.
If the Inner Child is the entrance to our joy and magic, why is it so hard sometimes to connect? The reason is twofold.
The first is that, often (if we were to be really honest) we really don’t want to go into our feelings. We want the ‘happy-happy, joy-joy’, but what if we go inside and touch anxiety? Or fear? Or hurt? A voice inside says “Better leave well enough alone” and bounces us back to the surface. Not that the feelings go away, but we can tuck them somewhere deep and ‘safe’, not necessarily realizing that when we do that, we are creating a kind of emotional sludge that sits in that deep space slowly building up and solidifying into that which drags our Spirits down. For better or worse, feelings are a whole deal package, an interconnected spectrum. If we want the ‘ecstasy’, we need to be open to the ‘agony’. When we close ourselves off from experiencing the painful end of the spectrum, we actually also stop ourselves from being able to experience the joyful end, leaving ourselves with a very narrow range of emotional experience that often presents as depression. To truly experience the joy, we need to recognize that there will also be times of pain. And that’s okay. We can learn the tools to be able to manoeuvre through the painful times. This is not to say it is easy and in no way does it minimize what can be devastating and traumatic experiences. It is just a recognition that the way to embrace the happiness is to acknowledge, befriend and release the pain.
Emotion is the chief source of all becoming-conscious.
There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy
into movement without emotion.
~ Carl Jung
(Psychological Aspects of the Mother Archetype, 1938)
The second reason it can be a challenge to access that inner wonder is that the Magical Child lives absolutely in the here-and-now: a place (again, truth be told) we don’t actually reside very often. More often, as adults, we actually spend most of our inner life in the past (being informed and shaped by the negative messages and experiences that are sitting in that solidified sludge that we have pushed to that dark, ‘safe’ place) or in the future (often worrying about how things will unfold). We bounce from past to future without really spending a lot of time in the actual moment of the Right Now. Our bodies may be present, but our minds and emotions are elsewhere.
Inner Child work helps us to melt the frozen surface, dropping us down into the murky waters and the sludge of the past so that we are able to excavate that Magical Child within buried beneath. As we release the hold that old, painful memories and messages have over us, we are actively bringing our Spirits – our whole Selves – up to the surface and into the present. We still have our stories, but they no longer have an emotional charge. They no longer whomp us into those dark places of self-destructive thoughts and messages. Releasing the Magical Child from the prison of the past allows us to fully experience what is happening in the Now.
February has gained the reputation of bringing with it the “February Blues”, believed to be linked to winter light levels and lack of sun. My sense is, along with the environmental factors, it is beneficial to look at the emotional and psychological factors as well. Emotions tend to run high at this time of year. We are tired of being cold. We are drained from the extra energy it can take to get through each Winter day. Our defenses are down (the thaw) and, as a result, we feel those emotions close to the surface. If we do not know how to allow the emotions of the moment to flow through us and instead try to push them down and refreeze them, we are literally relegating our emotional life to a perpetual Winter. All our emotions, when coming from a current and healthy place, are our friends and they have very significant messages for us.
Anger tells us that a boundary has been crossed. It indicates that we feel disrespected and dishonoured. It is a call to stand up for ourselves, to know within ourselves that we matter and to reflect to others how we choose to be treated.
Fear is a warning emotion. It urges us to exercise caution and to become as well-informed on a situation as possible.
Hurt informs us that there has been a pain experienced. Rather than dismiss or minimize our experience, hurt needs to be held, soothed and comforted.
Sadness is our response to knowing we must let go of something that we have held dear. It is our experience of loss. It may be a person or relationship. It may be a life circumstance or situation. It may even be some aspect of self – a self-perception or belief. Sadness helps us acknowledge the perpetual motion of life.
As we connect to the Child within and start to experience the world through his or her eyes, we find ourselves fully engaging in each moment of our lives, allowing the truth of each moment to shine through us. This does not mean we never reflect on the past or never plan for the future. It means that we enter into those activities consciously – for recall and remembrance or for visioning and future-building. But in the general course of each moment in our life, we are responding from the whole of our beings in that moment, allowing space for wonder, joy, excitement, laughter, creativity and…magic.
Imbolc has morphed over centuries into the modern Groundhog Day - yet another cue that the archetypal energy of this festival is looking to that which has been hibernating underground for guidance on how to move forward. As we head towards this Festival of Purification and Light, it does the Soul good to explore what has been sleeping in the dark within and to honour its messages about our own experience of our lives with love, acceptance and understanding.
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