Young children from six or seven years of age can be helped and inspired by the knowledge of depth psychology. Of course, it’s best presented to them in simple language.
Some basic thoughts and ideas are offered here concerning what young children can understand and learn about their psychological nature. I broached this subject a few years ago (Teach Your Children Well), and this new post tries to present the same concepts more simply. This post can also help adults to learn the basics.
Such knowledge might come across as mere empty words if the person who communicates doesn’t embody or personify the knowledge. The best guidance for young children might not be the words themselves but rather the emotional strength and kindly conduct of those who would instruct or teach them. In any case, the following statements can guide parents and teachers as they impart knowledge and wisdom to children. Some children can also read this content themselves and make good sense of it.
1 – Understand that we have an inner world of vanished memories and unrecognized emotions. This vital part of our nature is called the psyche. The psyche’s stirrings and dynamics strongly affect our mental and emotional life. These dynamics often operate beyond our awareness. It can be hard for us to see clearly enough what’s happening inside us. We want to become more aware of these inner dynamics so we aren’t limited or hurt by them.
2 – Everyone at times feels emotional hurt and pain. Our bad feelings are not our fault. They’re part of being human. Still, we can learn to avoid unnecessary hurt and suffering, while becoming wiser and more loving. Life is always challenging us to become smarter about ourselves and about the world around us.
3 – As you’re becoming more aware of the nature of your psyche, you are acquiring the strength to pull yourself away from painful feelings and to be at peace with yourself. The greatest strength is to become your own best friend and to maintain yourself in a place of harmony and self-acceptance.
4 – At that place inside you, you can feel how great your life is, even when you’re faced with difficult or challenging situations. One purpose in life is to discover that place within, which is the home of your true and genuine self. When you make this connection with yourself, you understand that your life (and how you live it) is very important to the overall wellbeing of the world.
5 – Most people have a voice in their psyche that tends to be harsh and negative. This voice, though it’s sometimes barely heard or noticed, can feel like an inner conscience, telling you what you should or shouldn’t be doing. But don’t be fooled. This voice mainly wants to rule your life and boss you around, disturbing your inner peace and holding you accountable. You want to learn to recognize this bullying voice and understand that it does not represent truth. Your true and genuine self, once you have established contact with it, is able to push this inner bully into the background of your emotional life.
6 – Watch out also for another inner voice, the part of you that expresses weakness and self-doubt. This voice represents the part in you that is afraid of the inner bully. This passive part is highly defensive, and it’s always trying to pacify the bullying voice or to fend it off with excuses or defenses. This part of us is often expressed aloud when we are being defensive in our dealings with other people. This inner passivity is one of the main sources of self-doubt, confusion, and fear. Like the bullying side, this passive side dissolves and fades away when our true and genuine self emerges.
7 – Don’t try to shut down these two conflicting parts of your psyche, the inner bully and the inner weakness. That’s too hard to do, and you will only feel frustrated. Don’t get mad at the voices, because that will only cause you to be frustrated with yourself. Instead, try to find the place inside you where you can observe the voices. Keep an inner eye peeled, and you will acquire a growing sense that you can step away and free yourself from engaging in the conflict between the aggressive and the passive voices. Your job is to keep yourself free of this inner conflict. As this inner conflict dissolves and fades away, your genuine self emerges.
8 – The two main dynamics in human relationships are aggression and passivity. These are, as mentioned, conflicting dynamics within our own psyche—represented by the inner bully (aggression) and inner weakness (passivity). People shift back and forth all the time from thinking, feeling, and acting passively or aggressively. Sometimes actions based on passive or aggressive impulses are appropriate and wise—but often they’re unhealthy. When we learn to see aggression and passivity at conflict in our psyche, we’re more capable of finding our balance and strength and improving our relationships with others.
9 – Be aware of how you might be willing, at a deeper level, to feel distress or pain through the experiences of other people. Often it’s a good thing to feel their pain in order to sympathize with them and be willing to help them. Other times, though, we feel their pain quite strongly in order to arouse or awaken certain negative emotions in ourselves. If, for instance, we feel the agony of someone’s helplessness, we could be replaying and recycling this negative emotion within ourselves. Doing this is no help to anyone.
10 – Be aware of how you might want to misinterpret the words or actions of others for the purpose of feeling hurt or offended. It’s so easy to feel refused, criticized, belittled, rejected, and unloved. Our psyche jumps at the chance to take on these negative emotions. If we are able to see this inner process clearly enough, we can avoid suffering in this way.
11 – Try to acquire the insight that enables you to understand the human tendency to see in others what you don’t want to see or acknowledge in yourself. For instance, if you are resistant to seeing selfishness or self-centeredness in yourself, you’ll be quick to see and dislike it in others. When we’re smart and wise, we see the world more clearly and realistically. When we’re entangled in negative emotions, we lose our ability to see the world around us in a wise and discerning manner.
12 – We have psychological defenses that can fool us about what is really happening in our psyche. We might, for instance, blame other people for the hurts that we are unknowingly generating inside of us. We can get angry at people because we think their actions are causing us to feel bad. We might withdraw from people and not want to speak to them because we’re convinced they’re being mean to us. Blaming, anger, and withdrawal are often psychological defenses that cover up how we are replaying and recycling negative emotions within ourselves.
Parents should know that to explore our psyche, we need to be open-minded and open-hearted. To show your children what that means, you might tell them, in words to this effect, “If you’re upset at me, I will listen to what you have to say. We will both make our best effort to speak to each other in a respectful manner. That way we have the best chance of figuring out what is going on and then arriving at a happy outcome.”
This message shows children that you’re not afraid of their disapproval or criticism. That teaches them to be stronger in the face of disapproval or criticism from their peers and others; they learn how to refrain from taking things personally. It also helps them to understand how they can be stronger emotionally in the face of the self-disapproval and self-criticism that emanates from the inner critic.
Children are not likely to learn this depth psychology at school. When parents learn this knowledge, they can then find their own words to speak to their children about these deeper elements of human nature.