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[This excerpt is from Suggestions of Abuse: True and False Memories of Childhood Sexual Trauma , pp. 94-95, by Michael Yapko, Ph.D. Simon and Schuster, New York. Copyright (c) 1994. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. Read our review or order it from]

An excerpt regarding the myth of the inner child:

Consider the power of suggestion to reshape perception: I've mentioned the claims of some leaders of the so- called "recovery movement" that most of us were raised in dysfunctional families headed by dysfunctional parents--people who were so out of touch with themselves, their own parents, or their children that they could not provide emotionally supportive or nurturing environments in which their children could develop. Proponents describe in elaborate, excruciating detail abuses that range from the trivial to the profound. They stress the need to discover and heal "the wounded child within" each of us. They encourage each of us through powerful suggestions to find--or create--and then develop our sensitivity to our "inner child." We are encouraged to visualize it in detail, to bring it to life, to give it a name and personality, to soothe it and do for it all the things our parents never did for us, so that we may become "whole." (Some therapists en- courage us to hold stuffed animals as we do so.)

As a result of its relentless promotion through books, lectures, and tapes, the ''inner child'' is now a fact of life to countless Americans. They talk to it, write about it, interpret its dreams, indulge it in carefully constructed fantasies, and most of all, they try to fix it. "Healing the inner child within" has become the goal of therapists across the country, and a handy, highly publicized framework from which to launch their clinical practices and workshops. In the past month alone, I have received brochures advertising workshops entitled "Healing the Child Within," "Learning to Nurture Your Inner Child," and "A Healing Workshop for Adult Children of Affluent Parents." The trauma of wealth?

So, what's the problem? There is no inner child! It is a metaphor, a representation, a suggested way of thinking about your experience; it is not the experience itself. But, for some people, the suggestion has transcended mere metaphor and become a reality. When I have publicly discussed it as an illusion, I've seen these people become angry and defensive, as if I've just called into question the legitimacy of one of their most precious beliefs. To be truthful, I have. Isn't it interesting, though, how so arbitrary a perspective can assume such personal importance and intensity?

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