NUMBER 403• 20 NOVEMBER • THE INNER WORLD
INDEX OF QUOTES
The reason for thinking in terms of the inner world of the child is that it gives us one framework for understanding the complicated world of feelings in which those trying to help children and their families must operate. There are many other possible frameworks, of course and in fact the simple idea of the ‘inner world’ can allow for many different theoretical perspectives on exactly how emotional experience can be explained and therefore on how troubled children can be helped. For our purposes in this book, however, we have mainly drawn upon the ideas of Winnicott and certain other psychoanalytic writers in the British tradition, since these are ideas which we have found useful in our practice both in therapeutic work with children and in the educational setting. We are aware that others may find different ideas more helpful and we are certainly aware that there are gaps and limitations within this approach itself, but we are realists and are not looking for any complete answer: there is none. For those trying to help troubled young people there are some important implications of using this framework: first, it is clearly the inner world that we need to reach if we are to communicate with unhappy children about whatever is troubling them. In some cases this may be relatively straightforward: the child knows something is wrong, knows what it is and knows roughly what her feelings are about it and sooner or later can communicate about these feelings in a productive way For many children and young people, wherever they are growing up, one would hope that most of their experience comes within this category: it is important that professional helpers should be aware of this aspect of normal experience, although for the most part they are unlikely to be called upon to offer sustained help in such circumstances.
Second, there will be some children who do have real problems in their inner world for a variety of reasons, including the experience of serious trauma in early childhood. These are the children whom we are more likely to be called in to help. They may be out of touch with the nature or strength of their own feelings, they may have an impoverished or confused inner world and therefore they may also be unable to express themselves through play or talking. Thus, they may be beyond the reach of help. In these cases, the question of the origin of the inner world becomes of great importance if we are going to understand what the child is struggling with and what has really gone wrong. A small proportion of these children will have experienced such great trauma from so early on in their infancy that they have not developed an inner world and are left in a state of more or less permanent confusion, distraction and despair. This last group are the ‘unintegrated’ children to whom we refer later in the book.
Third, we also need to understand our own inner world as child, adolescent and adult if we are going to appreciate that of the child with whom we are working. It is especially important that we should be able to empathise with some version of the child’s inner world, but without becoming lost in their world in an over-identified way. Children who are so deeply troubled have often had to develop an extreme watchfulness because they are so anxious that further trauma might be inflicted upon them. Often, therefore, they are very adept at judging whether or not the person trying to help them really understands them at all or is ‘just a professional’. This is one of the paradoxes in therapeutic work: you need to be absolutely genuine and authentic in your work and yet you also need to draw upon certain professional skills and concepts which might be seen as ‘artificial’. The key to this paradox lies in the ‘professional use of self’: using one’s own personal resources (including one’s own emotions as well as certain skills and techniques) to achieve real communication. This is what we have called later in this book ‘being real with people’. If you are going to ‘use’ your self, then you need to understand your self and it is for this reason that so much emphasis will be placed on the use of experiential learning (by which we mean in this context ‘learning about yourself from your interactions with others’) and on the overlap between the personal, the professional and the academic areas.
Fourth, if we accept Winnicott’s argument that it is the inner world of the child that eventually develops into the faculties of imagination and creativity in the adult, then this creativity is also an important element in the ‘use of self’ which any counselling involves. It can be argued that many adults, social worker and client alike, have become out of touch with their inner creative resources and that they might benefit from rediscovering them. These are the resources which help us cope with stress, doubt and anxiety and which may help us find meaning and fulfilment in our own lives as well as in our efforts to help other people in such struggles.
Ward, A. (1988) The inner world and its implications. In Ward, Adrian & McMahon, Linnet (Eds.) Intuition is not Enough. London: Routledge. pp. 25-27