We all have a war within us between the healthy child and the damaged child. This war wages on long after we think it ends—for most of us, for our whole lives—and robs us of our energy to naturally develop from one stage of maturity to the next, as a flower seed, with rain and sun and good soil, breaks open to sprout roots, stem, leaves, bud, flower, and seeds for the next generation. Anytime we feel intimidated by a good-looking woman (or man) or by a smart talker; anytime we change our behavior in front of a boss; anytime we are unduly impressed (or depressed) by a human accomplishment to the point that we denigrate our own work and struggles; anytime we feel anxiety about the love or approval or safe arrive of a “loved” person, our healthy inner child has yielded ground to its foe, the damaged inner child and its poor self-esteem.
To rally behind the healthy child and root out this damage is anything but a simple task. The enemy is so subtly entwined with our innocence—call this innocence spontaneity, joy, wonder, self-love (as opposed to egotism, poor self-esteem wearing the mask of self-love, protesting too much)—that often we’ve been tricked onto the wrong side of the battlefield and fought alongside the enemy we were trying to subdue. We’ve found that the healthy child and the damaged child were so entwined that they had one root, or seemed to, which made their separation a more delicate operation than our hands were trained to attempt. The cancer analogy is obvious. Our neurosis is combined with our health the way cancer combines with healthy tissue. It is a very difficult fight to get clean of it. In our youth we assumed it was a matter of a little courage and a good clean shot from our slingshot to slay this Goliath, but later, as David learned, there was a much subtler giant Goliath inside us that wasn’t so easy to slay.
For example, how do we know if our defensiveness against our boss’s power is coming from the damaged or healthy side of our nature, or from both at once? (How does one slay Goliath when one also is Goliath?) It is a sign of healthy self-esteem not to allow oneself to be run over by another; but carry the resistance a baby step further, and one has to question the involvement of the damaged child: general defensiveness, intransigence, paranoia. How do we know for sure what’s where, where’s what?
Another example: it is a sign of health and our capacity to love to be concerned over the late arrival of a loved one; but carry that concern one step further and one has the beginnings of an anxiety attack, which has no real concern for the other in it, but is one’s unresolved abandonment terrors activated.
The examples are manifold. When are we healthily loving our children, and whe are we neurotically living through them? When are we loving our wives and husbands, innocently, joyously, and when are we possessing them like scared children clinging to their parents? When do we travel out of an innate sense of curiosity to see the world and to expand our awareness, and when do we travel to escape from ourselves? When is our reaching for people a healthy need for companionship; when is it a fear of solitude? When is solitude a reflection of healthy self-love, self-containment; when is it a fear of people?
To me a turning point relates always to this struggle for mastery between our real and unreal selves, mapping these inner dimensions correctly by making incredibly sensitive discriminations between our natural powers and their perverted pretenders, and then to fight the battles on the side we really want to be on. After that turning point, after the maps are correctly drawn and followed so that we side always with our positive self-esteem against our negative (conditioned) self-concept, the rest is straight to God, I think, with enough time and any good luck at all.