The world of psychology has changed greatly over the past 40 years. One of the comparatively recently developed areas of research into the human psyche is the identification of the archetype of the ‘Inner Child’.
The Inner Child is an aspect of the psyche that develops during the years of infancy and early childhood. It is a powerful force that is responsible for many of our psychological pains and issues as adults.
One of the more immutable laws to be found at work throughout our Universe is that everything in existence has its opposite. This suggests that the Inner Child aught to have an equally mischievous opposite twin.
Is there such a thing as an Outer Child?
Psychotherapist and founder of the abandonment recovery movement, Susan Anderson, believes there is.
In Taming Your Outer Child, she offers her professional assessment of what the Outer Child is, how it came about and what its function is.
So, what is the Outer Child?
Anderson describes it as
…the impulsive and willful adolescent in you; the person who has trouble regulating behavior and resisting primal urges.
On the basis of this description, the Outer Child does not appear to be that big a deal—and may be a little entertaining.
However, the author follows her initial description with a more troubling diagnosis of this aspect of our natures.
She states that:
As with an Inner Child, we all have an Outer Child; it is not a flaw, It is, however, the obstinate, selfish, self-centered part of us we all share—a part that until now we have failed to recognize as universal.
In short, it appears that the Outer Child outwardly manifests what the Inner Child feels inside.
Having identified what the Outer Child is and how it operates, Anderson explains that the idea is not an entirely original concept but that it emerges from Freud’s concept of the three-cornered relationship of the personality: the Id, Ego and Superego.
Anderson uses Freud’s approach as a basic framework for underpinning her concepts of the Inner Child, its counterpart the Outer Child and the matured Adult Self.
Taming Your Outer Child is not simply a manual of psychological theory. In part two of the book, the author introduces the reader to her Outer Child program—an active workbook that guides you toward understanding your own Inner/Outer Child relationship and how you can resolve it.
This program is comprised of three steps: ‘separation therapy’, ‘guided visualization’ and ‘action steps’. It involves you working directly with all three components of your personality at the same time.
In the first stage of this therapy process, Anderson examines abandonment and ways that the Inner Child has experienced and responded to it. In the second stage, she deals with the level of self-esteem, or lack of it, that arises from it.
The next stage offers you the opportunity to overcome these inner psychological issues and to begin the creation of a new, more self-empowered future via the act of imagining.
As a way of establishing or affirming that life improvements are on their way, she advises writing a letter to your future self. This should include encouraging words of gratitude and appreciation for the work that you have undertaken to get yourself to that more empowering stage in your life.
That is in the future. To move on to that point, the author feels that it is important to access your past and so she introduces some neurological ways that explain how memories are stored in the brain.
She points out that, as these are stored electro-chemically, they may not be accurate recollections of what occurred. This can cause additional problems when trying to resolve inner pains and conflicts.
One of the primary modifiers of memory storage and recollection is stress and so Anderson dedicates a chapter to the subject of trauma, emotional triggers and repetitive compulsions.
In part three of Taming Your Outer Child, the author reveals the role that the Outer Child plays in our everyday challenges and experiences.
Here, she warns that any challenges that we make to our Outer Child’s dominant position and role in our lives are doomed to fail and invariably results in power struggles between the two camps.
The way to resolve this, according to the author, is to employ a process in which the Inner and Outer Child are separated, leaving unconditional love to intercede between the two and that through applied self-love it is possible to move what she refers to as ‘drive energy’ into the hands of the Adult Self.
One of the many areas of control that the author investigates is the part that the Outer Child plays in our eating habits and how it tends to prefer that we indulge in those food types that supply a sense of emotional comfort and instant gratification.
The second key element to recieve the Outer Child based analysis is the debilitating disfunctional process of procrastination (laziness to you and I).
Anderson explains how this issue is, in part, caused by the effect of dopamine in the brain—a neuro-transmitter that has a close connection to our reward and addiction functions.
Talking about addictions, love relationships are next up for analysis. And, once again, Anderson reveals the key psychological activities that govern the way that these are formed and influenced via our twin fears of engulfment and abandonment.
In the chapters that follow, the author expands upon the topic of relationships with consideration of the issue of losing passion and then finally that most debilitating feeling of all: of not being loved at all.
Anderson next considers the way that our Outer Child influences our relationship with money and finances. Here, the author uses the example of the typical immature Outer Child activity that was prevalent in the banking industry and which resulted in the economic crash in 2008.
Given the importance that our emotional relationship with financial well-being plays throughout our lives, along with the sense of well-being and happiness that it generates, it is not surprising that the next chapter of her book finds Anderson taking a look at depression and its attendant condition of anxiety that results from any sense of lack.
The author characterizes depression in an interesting way. She says that:
…with depression, Outer Child is waging a relentless protest against an internal psychic injury.
The author then moves on to examine various core reasons for depression, including the chemical effect of Serotonin in the brain, reversible neuro-degenerative disorders and physical disorders within the body.
In the final chapters of her book, Anderson characterizes what it means to become an fully-conscious, goal-directed and enlightened individual. She underlines her core belief that psychological change comes about thriugh activation of the mental muscles while, at the same time, being under the influence of the behavioral muscles in our brains.
It is from this point that the author believes we are more capable of controlling emotional responses (Inner Child), behavior (outer Child) and cognition (Adult Self)”.
In closing, Anderson provides some helpful resources for those who want to explore their Outer Child more deeply. She also includes endnotes, a bibliography and an index.
Most people think of childhood as something that we grow out of. For many people, this is indeed the case but does this important process result in a more mature and self-aware individual or one that tends to stagnate and avoid any form of psychological growth?
In her book Taming Your Outer Child Susan Anderson identifies and explores the important link that exists between the archetypal energy patterns that are formed during our childhood and the way that they continue to express themselves throughout adulthood.
The main thrust of her argument is that If, as a child, you suffered from any form of abandonment, these issues will determine the way that you act as an adult—whether you are aware of it or not.
The approach that Susan Anderson takes in this book is different from most popular psychology/self-help books. She is one of the few researchers in this field who acknowledges the important part that the chemicals in our brains play with regard to our psychological experiences.
This is, like the majority of the material in this book, wholly refreshing. Many writers lose sight of the fact that, as human beings, we are extremely influenced by our neurotransmitters and their like.
This book is a thoroughly enjoyable read. It is a product of the authors deep understanding of the way that the Inner Child is moulded but more importantly of the way that we get stuck in later life due to the fact that it controls so much of what we are and how we react to circumstances.
I found the material on abandonment somewhat chilling and yet loving at the same time—it made me less sympathetic to our Outer Child, which, it should be said, causes us to behave like idiots 90% of our lives.
This is a richly rewarding book. It reveals hidden depths and unexplored territory with every successive read (I read it four times for this review!). The Outer Child Program, which Anderson has taught in workshops for several years, is clearly well-honed, tried and tested to the full.
Its addition of case studies, bullet-pointed keypoints and questions that provoke response from her reader are extremely well-integrated into the main narrative.
This is one of the most insightful, challenging, resourceful and empowering popular psychology books that I have read in many years.
Taming Your Outer Child skillfully captures the essence of who you are, who you can be and, more importantly, what you aught to become. It cries with the pain of the Inner Child, admonishes the arrogance of the Outer Child and glorifies the essence of what it means to live a fully conscious life. It is a mightily powerful and transformative piece of work!