The Unconscious Child Within

The Unconscious Child Within (reprinted from The Right Brain & the Unconscious (Plenum Publications, New York, 1992).

The Unconscious Child Within
Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D.


In the intact, normal brain, memory traces are often stored selectively in only one half of the brain rather than laid down in both hemispheres. When one hemisphere learns, has certain experiences, and stores this information in memory, this input is not always available to the opposite half of the cerebrum. Nonetheless, these memories and attached feelings can continue to influence whole brain functioning in subtle as well as in profound ways.


The human mind is multidimensional, multi-faceted and consists of several levels. There is the relatively easily accessible conscious mind which relies on language, linguistic thought, and temporal-sequential modes of information processing and which is associated with the left half of the brain in the majority of the population; the right brain is associated with a social-emotional, visual-imaginal, non-linguistic unconscious-awareness . The most primitive relatively inaccessible almost purely emotional aspect of the mind is referred to simply as the unconscious and is associated with the limbic system.


All three mental domains are interlinked, ongoing, and often process and respond to information simultaneously, each in its own unique fashion. In some instances, one aspect of the mind will dominate and will achieve expressive preeminence over the others. In other situations, the mental systems of the right and left brain, or right brain and limbic system will work in concert in a equal and harmonious manner.

Although often two or all three systems may interact in a harmonious fashion with the same goals and agendas, in many cases these mental systems may act in opposition and in a completely contrary and independent fashion, each according to its own memories, perceptions, likes and dislikes, goals and desires. When one mental system responds in a manner totally opposite to the wishes and desires of a different region of the mind, much confusion abounds. People may act or feel "out of control," confused, ambivalent, in conflict, self-destructive, "neurotic," impulsive, suspicious, "out of sorts," depressed "without reason," or even hungry or angry. All the while on a conscious level they may have no rationale for their behavior.

Although the origins of these conflicts may seem a mystery, they are often due to childhood experiences and the activation of certain feelings, memories, and related experiences which helped form conscious and unconscious self-images, including the unconscious Child and Parent egos. In other cases these conflicts are due to the perception of particular events which trigger emotional reactions or memories in either the right brain or limbic system unbeknownst to the conscious mind of the left half of the cerebrum.

For example, while walking down the street on her way to work Betty (i.e. her right brain) observes a man screwing up his face in a particular manner and raising his hand as he hovers over a little boy. Her right brain observes the boy fearfully shaking his head up and down indicating "yes" as the man sternly hovers over him. Her left brain tries to mind its own business and ignores everything. She walks on down the street and observes (with both halves of her brain) a whisky bottle lying in the gutter. However, like the little boy and his father she pays it almost no conscious attention since she is hurrying to work and has other things to think about.

By the time Betty sits down behind her desk she is feeling terribly anxious and upset. She can't keep her mind on her work and feels irritable. She has no idea as to what is bothering her. She snaps at her secretary for no apparent reason and decides to take an aspirin. It must be a headache. Right? Well, although body aches and pains are often a result of the inappropriate expression of emotions through the body (as both are linked within the right brain), this is not the case here.

When Betty was little her mother was a closet alcoholic. As soon as her father left for work her mother would begin drinking and by mid morning was usually quite drunk. Her mother was an angry drunk, however, and would fly off the handle over any little thing. If little Betty made any noise or a mess her mother would be hovering over, screwing up her face in anger and raising her hand as if to strike. Betty would always begin crying and promise to be good.

Although her parents divorced by time Betty was 5 years old and she went to live with her father, these early memories, the drinking, the bottles of alcohol, the yelling, the manner in which her mother would screw up her face and raise her hand in anger were stored away in the right brain.

When Betty the adult walked down the street that morning, although her left brain noticed nothing of importance, the right brain attended to the man, his face, his hand raised in anger, the little boy, and the whisky bottle. The unconscious memories were triggered and all the hurt, fear and anger came washing over her. By time she sat down at her desk she was terribly upset. But her left brain did not know why. Although her left brain could remember that her mother was an alcoholic, the emotional links between the bottle, the angry man and the upset child were not apparent to it. The right brain realizing these links, was upset, whereas the left brain had no idea as to what was going on.


Spanning the bridge which separates yet interconnects the mental systems maintained by the left and right brain and limbic system are four ego states or rather ego/personalities. These are the IDfant, Child, Parent (which together constitute the "Lesser Ego"), and the Adult Self. These ego states, in part, constitute the conscious and unconscious self image, all of which, in totally, constitute the Ego.


The Ego is generally associated with our conscious subjective impression of who we are; our Self (as in: "He has a fragile ego," or "don't put your ego on the line," or "don't be so egotistical") . However, as discussed by Freud so many years ago, the ego can also be unconscious and in this regard it represents part of the unconscious self image. Hence, we are comprised of multiple ego personalities.

Broadly and generally speaking, however, it could be said that all these many different aspects of the Self, both conscious and unconscious, constitute in total, our Ego. As defined here, the functional integrity of the Ego is a composite of the conscious and unconscious self image and is maintained via the interactions of the frontal lobes. When the frontal lobes are compromised, Ego functioning can become severely effected and the personality becomes fragmented. Concern for consequences, the ability to establish and pursue long term goal, and inhibitory restraint is destroyed such that the individual may act on whatever impulse captures his fancy, or may simply cease to act altogether.

The Unconscious aspect of the Ego maintained by the right frontal lobe exerts inhibitory influences on both the right and left half of the brain and limbic system. It greatly influences information reception and expression within the left brain and conscious mind. The conscious aspect of the Ego maintained by the left frontal lobe is restricted to influencing events taking place in the left half of the brain. Hence, the unconscious aspect of the Ego exerts considerably more control over personality functioning and the expression of impulses than does the conscious aspect of the Ego.


It thus appears that there can be a multitude of selves and egos which are both conscious and unconscious. Although admittedly this can give rise to numerous conflicts, this can also be quite beneficial and adaptive as it allows for different aspects of our personality to come to the fore depending on if we are at work, at play, making love or making war.

In this regard, different people and a variety of situations can bring out distinct aspects of our personality. Sometimes it is OK to be childlike and playful, and certain people might stimulate us to behave in this fashion. Hence, our Child ego personality comes to the fore. However, in some cases we may fly into a childish or infantile rage if someone has hurt our feelings or made us feel insecure. In this instance, a different aspect of the Child ego personality comes to be activated. In each instance, a constellation of highly associated feelings, memories and actions comes to be expressed. This constellation, when extensive, forms an ego personality.

In general, an ego personality could be considered as a coherent matrix of interrelated and associated experiences, feelings, memories, cognitions, and behavior patterns which were experienced during specific developmental periods, including infancy, childhood, and encompassing the transitional period spanning late adolescence and continuing as an ever changing modification into adulthood. These images were shaped by experience, the labels and descriptions applied to us, our triumphs and failures, and the manner in which our parents behaved toward us and each other and all associated memories and feelings.

Consider, by way of example, the formation of the body image, as is maintained by the right brain. All sensory messages arising from the body's surface are transmitted to a zone of cells called the primary receiving area (in the parietal lobe). Each cell receives only a single piece of information from a single zone of the body. All the cells in the primary receiving area in turn transmit, via their nerve fibers (axons), this information to an adjacent row of cells. However, these secondary cells will receive messages from several different primary cells, and will thus have much more information. These cells in turn transmit to yet a third zone of cells, each of which receives messages from many secondary cells. Finally, from this mosaic of overlapping and converging signals from the body, each of which is passed from cell to cell, a map of the entire body is formed.

It is in this manner that the body image, and by analogy, the self image is formed. That is, associations and experiences which are stored in various brain cells, intercommunicate when activated such that a mosaic of overlapping impressions are formed via their convergence. A self image and ego personality is formed. It is in a similar manner that the angular gyrus (which sits at the junction of the auditory, visual, and somesthetic zones) is able to call forth associations to form ideas and concepts.

Some aspects of our personality are unconscious and correspond to the manner in which we were treated or felt as children. Other aspects are conscious and correspond to how we are treated as adults. However, those aspects which were formed during childhood do not go away. It is in this manner that we have more than one ego personality as they tend to be age associated and formed during certain developmental epochs.

The IDfant is associated with the earliest experiences and is affiliated with the functional integrity of the Limbic System and the hypothalamus in particular. The Child and Parent are associated with the right half of the brain and both are formed during early childhood, before language becomes a dominant form of interacting. In this regard, the Child and Parent are mostly unconscious although some conscious elements are maintained as well.

The IDfant is predominantly biological and reflexive, being present from birth, whereas the Child and Parent are largely shaped by experience although genetic and other biological predispositions also play major roles in their formation.


The Ego in totally, is affiliated with the conscious and unconscious mind and is based on subjective impressions, ideals, denials, selective memory, and cultural expectations and is influenced by unconscious feelings as well. From a conscious perspective, however, the Ego is often confused with the ideal of an Adult Self. Nevertheless, although we may wish to view our Ego or Self as adultlike, sometimes it instead acts like a child, or a parent, or like an infant, or even like a criminal. Being an adult and acting like an adult are not the same thing as many adults act very childish and infantile. In this regard, the Adult aspect of the personality is also something of an ideal.


In general, at any given moment the ego personality of the IDfant, Child, or Parent, or any combination thereof may come to dominate psychic and mental functioning, and determine our choices and the behaviors we engage in. Although not active at all times, emotional reactions can be triggered and the corresponding ego personality can become activated.

THE IDfant. Those memories and behavioral features which were mediated by the limbic system during infancy continue to be maintained and mediated by the limbic system throughout adulthood. When this constellation of associated traits are activated a person may act like an infant, displaying selfish, demanding, raging, narcissistic, egocentric, impulsive behaviors without any concern for consequences The Idfant says: "I want it now!"


Those experiences and memories, which occurred and which were stored during later infancy and early childhood in the memory banks of the Limbic System and right brain, continue to be maintained by these brain areas. When activated a person may act like a child, feeling the same hurt, self-doubt, lack of confidence, unworthiness, neediness, deprivation, guilt, rejection, or abuse which characterized their self image so long ago, and act accordingly even when completely inappropriate. However, if much of the child's experience was growth oriented with lots of loving and positive affirmation, then that aspect of the Child may predominate. Nevertheless, even the good child has some not OK feelings.


Our perceptions of our parents, and how they treated each other and us while growing up exerted their greatest influence on the developing right brain. This is because much of our early learning occurred before the advent of language and was stored in visual and emotional images. Hence, our earliest images of our parents are stored in the same manner. Thus, these same impressions and experience also continue to be mediated by the right brain through adulthood.

When the Parent is triggered, emotional states similar to those which were experienced during childhood at the hands of our parents are again reexperienced. That is, an internalized emotional representation of and the complex of associations that form the Parent is activated and it then begins to treat us, or others, in the same manner we were treated as children. It continues trying to tell us or others what to do and how we should feel about ourselves. In some respects it is similar to what has been described as our conscience. However, it is much more than that as it often likes to "guide" others as well, whether they like it or not.

Moreover, rather than promoting the formation of psychologically healthy choices, it is often destructive. In this regard, there is no "Super Ego," or a force that makes us strive toward an "ego ideal," but an unconscious ego personality fashioned in accordance with one's experiences with one's parents and other figures who wield power and influence over one's early life, such as TV and other children. As must of us know, these influences can be both positive and negative and it is for this reason that I favor the term "Lesser Ego."


The Adult Ego/personality (hereafter referred to as the Adult) consists of idealized images of what society (and even television) informs us is representative of truth, honor, justice, fairness, law, order, responsibility, and so. In this regard, the Adult is predominantly identified with the conscious aspects of our mind but consists of unconscious elements as well. It is predominantly based on perceptions and experiences that we identify as being adult-like and which we identify as being an ideal representative of our true and conscious "Self". It is not, however, synonymous with the term Ego as it is only an aspect of this composite feature of who we are.


The Ego represents the Self in totality and consists of conscious and unconscious elements, including the Adult and Lesser Ego. Hence, even the conscious aspects of the Ego are fashioned in reaction to unconscious influences so as to compensate for feared inadequacies. Although most easily consciously recognized, the Ego transcends consciousness by occupying the mental realms of conscious/awareness maintained by both the right and left hemisphere.

The Ego is sometimes overwhelmed by unconscious influences. However, it can also act as a kind of mediator and may try to satisfy the needs and desires of various unconscious and conscious elements. For example, whereas the Idfant demands: "I want it now!" and the Parent says: "You can't have it. You don't deserve it," the Ego may try to work out a compromise.

For example, a young man spies a very attractive young woman. His IDfant might exclaim: "I want sex with her now!", whereas the Parent says: "Are you kidding. You're a geek, a loser. You can't have her!" The Ego acting as mediator may then try to meet the demands of both unconscious forces as well as its own conscious desires, depending on which is stronger. The Ego is able to accomplish this as it is both consciously and unconsciously maintained via the functional integrity of the right and left frontal lobes.

If the IDfants desires predominate and corresponds with conscious and other unconscious needs such that the Ego is willing to act as mediator, the person may walk up to the young Lady, marshal all his right brain social talents, and (although feeling Parental disproval and thus some ambivalence and insecurity) try to start a conversation; i.e. pick her up. If he already has a girlfriend his left brain may simultaneously rationalize, justify, or even deny his obvious intent; "I want her for a friend." However, if the individual was raised in an environment where adultery and lying was commonplace and out in the open, the left brain may feel no need to explain away what he is up to.

Overall, the continuity of Ego and thus conscious/awareness is made cohesive by these ego states which are partly conscious and partly unconscious.


Broadly, the Child ego/personality, maintains the same self-concept, feelings of self-worth, and associated cognitions, memories and emotions which were formed during childhood. It encompasses feelings and emotions aroused by others (guilt, fear, inadequacy) when we were young as well as the labels that were repeatedly applied to us by other children, family members, and our parents in particular.

Good or bad, our initial self-concept becomes the foundation upon which we continue to build our sense of Self, what we are, what we are capable of; that is if we are lovable, hateful, good, bad, ugly, talented, or deserving of abuse. In total, these experiences constitute the Child ego personality as well as the child's self-concept.

Unfortunately, just like the foundations of a house, if the foundation is not solid, is cracked, not properly secured or poorly formed, then no matter how beautiful, how expensively furnished, the house will remain unsteady and can easily fall down. What we experience in childhood Affects to varying degrees our whole life.

A child who feels predominantly "not OK," who has been unwanted, abused, neglected, ridiculed or made to feel like a failure may continue to feel unwanted or like a failure and in fact will seek out confirmation of these feelings throughout life. He may feel compelled to act out again and again what becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A child who is raised in a home where his parents yell and scream, hit each other, and hit their children, will experience these outbursts as "normal." It is "normal" to the child because he or she has little or nothing to compare it with. Insofar as the child is concerned, this is the world and the only world he knows. As such, although unpleasant, it also becomes familiar; it is home. Later in life, this child may form attachments to people who behave similarly, for although they may consciously deny it, this is what they can "relate to."

Jerry was plagued by a terrible stutter almost from the moment he began to talk at age 2. As he was growing up he became increasingly aware that his parents were embarrassed by him and that his two brothers seemed to get all the positive attention. Neighbors would sometimes comment on his stutter and their children would unmercifully tease him. Although not abused by his parents he nevertheless felt rejected by them and everyone with whom he came into contact.

Not surprisingly he began to feel quite quite angry, resentful and extremely sensitive about his "little handicap." Even when no one seemed to notice he was sure they did and felt picked on where ever he went. Being big for his age, however, enabled him to act out his feelings. By the time he was 5 he had become quite violent and had attacked and beaten several children who had laughed at and teased him. Fortunately, he began receiving speech therapy and by time he had reached the 4th grade his speech impediment had become a slight stammer which almost completely disappeared over the next few years, except when he became upset.

Nevertheless, the Unconscious Child at his core never stopped feeling upset, rejected, angry and overly sensitive. Consequently whenever he became upset and the Child became fully activated, not only were feelings and emotions from his younger years expressed, but he acted like a child, speech impediment and all.

When he came into therapy with his wife Donna she complained of his violent temper.

Donna: "It's like walking on egg shells. Everything sets him off. If I put too much in the garbage and a can falls on the floor, he's all over me, screaming and yelling that I did it on purpose. If he comes into the kitchen and I'm on my way out, he loses his temper and begins screaming about how I am trying to avoid him. No matter what I say, or what I do, it's a put down or an insult. I can't even get up to go to the bathroom without him taking it personally."

Jerry: "She is always nit picking and insulting me. Nothing measures up to her standards. Everything I do is wrong. Everything I like she doesn't. I like to watch TV and she doesn't. She knows I am trying to diet and she makes big lavish dinners..."

Dr. J: "Tell me about the incident with the garbage."

Jerry became angry. "It's goddamned filled to the top, and what does she do? She's got to put one more thing in it and the whole thing falls over. It's her way of trying to say I didn't take out the garbage. She did it to piss me off. "

Donna: "Why is that trying to piss you off? It just fell, that's all. It had nothing to do with you. I cleaned it up didn't I? I swear, everything makes him mad. He comes home from work, throws his coat on the couch, and if I hang it up he flies into a rage, accusing me of hiding his coat."

Jerry: "You did it because you knew it would make me mad. Why couldn't you just leave it? I would have hung it up. It's just your way of trying to put me down. Like you have to pick it up for me."

Donna: "If I left it, then you would have been yelling about how I never clean up. I can't win with this man. Sometimes, it's just like living with a child."

Jerry: "See what I mean? There she goes insulting me again."

Donna is correct, of course. Jerry does act like a child. And yet, Jerry was right about feeling picked on and insulted. However, it had nothing to do with his wife. He was still being picked on by the complex of feelings that made up his unconscious self-image.

Moreover, his Unconscious Child was still hurting and still trying to strike out for all the rejection experienced when he was young. Always feeling inadequate, her Unconscious Child scrutinizes every word and action for rejection and then strikes back at every opportunity. By behaving in this manner ultimately he was inviting rejection; an attempt to maintain a self-fulfilling prophecy. In any case Jerry was acting like a child because the Child was easily activated.

Indeed, this collection of childhood experiences never goes away but is stored in the memory banks of the right brain where it can continue to influence thoughts, feelings and behavior forever. hence, the Child often seeks to maintain the familiar and avoid what is different or unusual.

John's father had been a selfish and violent man who often slapped and yelled at his children. From an early age he could remember his father calling him "useless," a "sissy," "lazy good for nothing," "selfish little pig." He would threaten to leave him at the city dump or give him to an orphanage. When John would begin to cry, his father would sometimes slap him across the face.

When John's father would call him names, he took them as the literal truth as to who he was and his self value. He could not see that his father was a cruel, hateful man who treated everyone with disdain and ill temper. For John his father's words were like physical blows which hurt just as much and which scarred him just as deeply as being beaten.

Moreover, as a young child, not recognizing his father's shortcoming, he viewed his father's behaviors as the result of his own shortcomings. Little John believed he had done something wrong, was bad, and thus deserving of abuse. Over time, being treated in so poorly a fashion became "normal:" unpleasant, but normal.

Later as an adult, John became involved with girl after girl, woman after woman who would treat him poorly, pick fights, and generally walk all over him. Although he hated the manner in which he was being treated, as well as the arguments and name calling which always ensued, he stuck with each relationship until they "dumped him." When this inevitably happened, he always felt terrible and sometimes would call and beg them to come back.

At an unconscious level he believed the abuse he received was deserved since the complaints of his girlfriends always rang familiar and made him feel guilty. He assumed that the fights and arguments were really his fault and due to his own bad behavior, lack of understanding, selfishness, and insensitivity. Certainly these were accusations his girlfriends flung in his face. Their complaints seemed so familiar he had become convinced they were true and accurate descriptions of his character flaws. In that he had always been treated poorly this was only a continuation of what had long ago become registered as normal. Insofar as his unconscious Child was concerned, he was a bad little boy. Of course, maybe by then he was a bad boy and had unconsciously instigated the annoyance of his girlfriends so that he could unconsciously feel that everything was "normal."

When he got married, his wife would similarly criticize and attack him in a very demeaning fashion, calling him a "lazy, good for nothing, selfish...", threatening to leave him and forcing him back into the role of the bad little boy whom no one could love. In John's mind, being yelled at and fighting were not only familiar, but the "price" he believed he had to pay in order to get love. Since he was so "bad" how could he expect to be treated much better. Moreover, rather than fight back, he would usually sulk and withdraw. After he got married, in fact, he would often panic after one of these one sided arguments and sometimes even begin to cry and/or beg forgiveness.

Essentially John was picking women who in some manner corresponded to his own unconscious Parent; women who would criticize, reject him and make him feel badly, or women who he could provoke so as to confirm his bad boy unconscious self image. This was the crux of the attraction and in this regard they were completely compatible.

In fact, as pointed out by his wife during one of our sessions together, he often did things to provoke her. He would leave his clothes and underwear on the floor and expect her to pick them up, not clean up after himself when he used the kitchen or bathroom, and was always being forgetful and failing to do simple things that he had promised to attend to.

Thus, John's unconscious Child was not merely reliving its hurtful legacy. He was at times acting like an immature, selfish child and was behaving in accordance with his Parental dictates. He was acting out a self fulfilling prophecy and sabotaging his relationships so he would be treated badly and could relive the hurt from the long ago.


Among adults, the Child still remains an active part of our psyche and can take control over or influence behavior and attendant feelings, particularly during times of emotional stress. When triggered by some memory or event, there is a replay of these original memories and feelings of anger, guilt, depression, rejection, abandonment and frustration as well as a replay of all associated behaviors. As such, we may react in a childish manner, become upset and not know why. Hence, if someone were to complain that you are acting "childish" it may be that the inner core of your being, i.e., your unconscious Child, has come to the fore.

As pertaining to childish outbursts, I often ask my patients that when they behave in this manner, "how old" are they acting? If they, for instance, say "a 6 year old," I then inquire as to what traumatic event might have been experience around that age? There is almost always a relevant answer. Sometimes to get in touch with that injured child enables a person to gain control or at least an understanding as to what might be disrupting their lives. If someone acts like a 3 year old, then it is useful to wonder as to what might have happened to them at that age. Why is that 3 year old still crying?


In general, every person whose "not OK" unconscious Child has been sorely injured will periodically or continually attempt to overcome the hurt or to achieve the love that was denied while a child. However, this requires that he find someone who can recreate the familiar hurt so that it may be overcome. This is not too difficult as the unconscious child is easily able to recognize individuals who will provide the familiar hurt. Such people seem familiar (because they are) and are easy to relate to.

The Unconscious Child changes but little and remains exactly as it was formed. It will attempt to live in accordance with unconscious Parental dictates so as to maintain its well ingrained self image. If that unconscious self image is bad, regardless of the conscious Adult Self image, the Unconscious Child and Parent will attempt to maintain a self fulfilling prophecy and will fail at certain endeavors, irritate others, find mates who will hurt, use, or reject them, and otherwise seek confirmation of what they unconsciously feel is reality. Many present day situations will be contaminated with this unfinished business. Indeed, sometimes when an individual experiences success (which he may ardently strive for as a form of compensation) he may do whatever is necessary to sabotage it so that the familiarity of the past can be reexperienced.


By and large, the feelings of the Child, its memories, sense of self, angers and frustrations may remain unconscious, seep in and out of conscious-awareness and may be experienced at a conscious level only as a source of tension and personal discomfort. A person may feel upset and not know why, or, he may look for reasons to be upset, because that is the way they feel. When this occurs he may blame lovers or friends of doing something inappropriate, when in fact they have done nothing. His Unconscious Child is hurting and is blaming others for its pain. Others thus may be accused of causing hurt when in fact the pain was already there to begin with.

When the Unconscious Child has been severely hurt, it always feels pain, forever. Sometimes that pain will wax and wane in intensity, disappear for long time periods only to suddenly bare its fangs and tear out a piece of your heart or insides (figuratively speaking), or simply smolder, suppressed and forgotten deep in the core of the unconscious. Although regardless of its intensity, the hurt can remain hidden and asleep, it is always there and can be reawakened. The Unconscious Child always remains a source of potential tension and discomfort.

However, if not too sorely wounded, and if molded in response to glad tidings, it can also be a source of fun, creativity, joyful inquisitiveness and playfulness. The Unconscious Child is not necessarily a bad thing.


The imprinting and internalization of the Child and Parent are fairly well ingrained by age 5 or 6 but can continue for many years longer. However, unless there is a drastic change in the family or parent and child relations (such as due to divorce, illness, or the death of a parent) much that is experienced after that age is pretty much a reinforcement of what has already occurred. Hence, what is learned and retained early in life retains its original non-linguistic stamp as the framework for all future experiences.

Experiences which are a continuation of what has already been experienced usually act to only reinforce what has already been learned. They are not learned anew. Hence, it is unlikely that these experiences, insofar as they are not new, will begin to be stored in the language dependent region of the brain except to a minimal degree. However, even so, this can only occur insofar at these experiences may be coded in a language format. It is in this regard that the Child and Parent ego personalities can be partly consciously maintained. Predominantly, however, these unconscious ego constellations continue to be stored in that aspect of the mind where they have always been stored; i.e. in the right brain and Limbic System.

These original childhood experiences and their emotional hurt being maintained within the right brain can only be partially accessed by the language dependent consciousness of the left half of the brain with some difficulty. The conscious half of the cerebrum may admit, "Yes, I was treated poorly," however, it will also likely declare: "But it didn't bother me that much," or "I got over that a long time ago."


Knowing that we have child-like qualities that must be suppressed can be a source of embarrassment and potential tension, particularly if it takes great effort to control and hide this aspect of our self. However, as this is an aspect of the totality of the Self then it must be treated with tolerance, acceptance and understanding. for otherwise it is like rejecting the fact that one has two legs.

No matter how hard one may try, you can never completely erase or eradicate the Unconscious Child. Good or bad, the child we once were is still part of us; hence we all retain child-like qualities. Although these qualities may be controlled, eradicated, "outgrown," or suppressed to varying degrees, it is very difficult to act "grown up" or be an "adult" at all times under all circumstances. However, we are all expected to act as if the child we were has ceased to exist.

The effort to be an "adult" at all times can be a source of discomfort, for this requires that we deny who we are. Particularly among men, whenever any child-like qualities are expressed, be they good, bad, charming, or endearing, they are sometimes treated, or these men treat themselves as if they have behaved in an inappropriate fashion. This in turn engenders a sense of self-contempt. Even if these qualities only seldom come to the surface we may feel still embarrassed and contemptible.

Is it not perhaps more contemptible to have deny who and what we are? Is it not self-defeating and demeaning to hide and suppress aspects of our selves as if they represent some major flaw? Even if flawed, to engage in suppression and denial and to try to ignore our own traits and limitations forces us to behave as if partially blind. How can we successfully navigate through life with our eyes half closed? Self imposed blindness is the sure road to inadequacy. Once cannot gain control over one's self if that individual denies who he is, and he cannot overcome his weaknesses if he does not know what they are.

To have Child-like qualities, is no more a flaw than having two eyes and two legs, particularly in that every one has them. Indeed, the Unconscious Child, being a part of the right brain mental system also represents many good qualities. The Child can also be inquisitive, charming, creative, playful, loving, open minded, intuitive, inferential and endearing.

The person who can allow his Childlike nature to emerge at appropriate times can be fun to be around. It is indeed healthier to be able to "cut loose," to "horse around" and have fun or to be silly at times than to be a perpetual straight arrow or a uptight, disproving Parent at all times. The person who is not in touch with his Child and who cannot express it is the one who is truly inadequate, for he is not allowed to be who he is. Of course, there is a time and place for most everything.


For some women, the "little boy" that so obviously resides in their boyfriends or even husbands is a source of endearment. Although the man may deny that this "little boy" even exists, many women find this attractive and its presence sometimes makes it easier for them to love their mates and to express their own needs to behave in a caring, nurturing and sometimes even motherly manner -attentions that this "little boy" seems at times to accept eagerly. This "little boy" enables the man to be less threatening, less distant, more caring, cuddly, sweet, sensitive and vulnerable --qualities that appeal to the "maternal instincts" of some women --that is, until the "little boy" becomes childish, acts selfishly, or throws a tantrum or gets upset because he is no longer getting his way or because a son or daughter has been born and he can no longer be the "number one kid."

Similarly, many men find "the little girl" in their wives or girlfriends to be extremely attractive features. For some men, this child-like quality makes their mate more "feminine," innocent, and charming. For others, this makes their mate less threatening and insures a certain level of dependence and creates an illusion of being in control: "Me Tarzan, you baby!"

However, taken to the extreme, when this aspect of the Child dominates psychic interactions the person may not only act in an innocent, charming manner, but speak and interact like a child as well. This may take the form of excessive use of baby talk which, rather than endearing can be quite irritating when prolonged. In others, this may take the form of reverting back to a child-like behaviors or behaving in a helpless, dependent fashion at all times.

When in the mode of the Child (or even that of the IDfant), a person may behave in a selfish, self-centered manner, break things and throw a tantrum whenever he does not get his way, or engage in the continual seeking of attention, security and thus reassurance. Indeed, some people never grow up and remain fixated at the level of the Child. They are a child most or all the time.

A prime example is the man who although married and with children, feels a need to "be out with the boys" several nights a week, drinking, womanizing, and carrying on. "Boys will be boys" is fine for boys, but for men who make a career of being a "boy," there is certainly something inappropriate going on. They are demanding to be able to act like a child because basically the Child aspect of their ego predominates.

Of course, those who behave as a child, require other children as their mates or a perpetual Parent to take care of or rescue them. When they form a relationship with someone who takes on the role of Parent they are not only seeking someone to "baby them," but someone who might instead criticize or abuse them, or someone they can retaliate against for all the hurts their own parents caused them, real or imagined. In some respects, this may seem rather ideal. However, by and large, it constitutes the formation of a potentially very damaging and emotionally upsetting relationship. The best relationships are those where the Child and Parent are recognized and treated with understanding and acceptance, by two adults who have decided to forge a life together as adults and not children or critical parents.

Copyright: 2006, 2000, 2010, 2018 - Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D.