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“Your Inner Child of the Past” by W. Hugh Missildine Essay

W. Hugh Missildine calls the book I have chosen to review “Your Inner Child of the Past”. This is a very interesting book in which Missildine attempts to solve adult problems by understanding the inner child. W. Hugh Missildine is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Ohio State University of medicine. Through his knowledge of both psychiatry and psychology, Missildine explores factors in childhood that affect adulthood. He implements the view that “children learn what they live”. He was the director of a children’s mental health centre for nine years and this is where he developed his new approach to adult emotional problems. The nature of this book is to learn to discover ones inner child, how to accept and deal with it in every day life and every day situations. It is also a guide for parents on how to establish a happy childhood for their children.

Although this book could be considered as a self-help book, it is also psychologically grounded. Missildine uses many case studies to illustrate his point and demonstrate his theories. In which one can see that his observations and results are verified by psychologists. For example there is one particular case study which is about Alexander Fleming, while he himself was not a patient of Dr. Missildine, he was aware and had researched Fleming’s case history. Alexander Fleming was a bacteriological researcher who found a substance called penicillium, which seemed to treat infections. Fleming believed that this could be a life-saving drug although to prove this he needed to do more research on it. Fleming could not convince his superiors at the research institute that this drug was worth researching.

When Dr. Missildine looked at Fleming’s childhood the reason, why he could not convince his supervisors was evident. He was the second youngest and the age gap between his other siblings was quiet large, what he said, thought or felt was never considered. The role Alexander played in the Fleming household was as a listener and as a person that obeyed the instructions of his older siblings and mother. His sport and games were solitary ones: hunting and fishing on the farm. He walked extended lonesome distances to school, four miles each day. He grew up accustomed to silence.

As a result, when he left home and went to university, his behaviour did not change, his silent “inner child” continued. In fact, it thrived, even though he knew that he had a life-saving drug in his laboratory he could not alter the situation by persuade anyone of its significance. Missildine’s observation of Fleming’s childhood is confirmed by a psychologist Martin Seligman in 1975. Fleming would have acquired a “learned helplessness”. According to Seligman, learned helplessness is “an acquired sense that one can no longer control one’s environment. With the sad consequence that one gives up trying.” Therefore, Fleming’s “child of the past” had learned to be helpless, learned to be silent.

There are three major ideas in this book:

1. Your “inner child of the past”- literally the child you once were, who continues to exist in your life as an adult.

2. Being a parent to oneself – you are already acting as a parent to your “child of the past” whose reactions to your parental attitudes often cause you trouble.

3. Mutual respect – the basis of getting along with your “inner child of the past” and with others.

By means of his case studies, Missildine identifies the patients “child of the past” and teaches the individual not to leave these beliefs behind, but to accept them and respect them. Missildine shows the effect of how people when they reach a certain age they “put childish things away”, he believes that the beliefs and ideas formed in childhood should never be cast away. He illustrates how these ideas should be nurtured in adulthood, how we are a parent to ourselves and how we take on the attitudes of our parents towards us. This is very evident in “The case of a woman who married twice”. – This was a patient of Dr. Missildine. She was physically abused practically every day of her childhood by her father. Her mother supported this beating as she hoped it would teach her daughter better. However, as with punitiveness, she never learned and the beatings continued into her teens.

She dreamed of the day that she would escape this misery, so when a young man treated her kindly she eloped with him in hope of happiness. However, she quickly learned that this man was just as brutal as her father was, but after eight years, she had the courage to leave him. Yet she still punished herself, calling herself all the names she had once heard from her father and husband. She refused dinner dates, lunches, all invitations to social affairs because she was not worthy of interaction with others.

Eventually she realised how lonely and empty her life was and gradually she accepted dates and social invitations. In the end, she married another man who was kind and gentle to her, but after six months of living with him, she felt down and depressed. She felt unworthy of her husband because he did not beat her or call her names. This women was bound by the feelings of worthlessness and guilt of her “inner child of the past” to recreate the circumstances of her punitive family background repeatedly, either by marrying a punitive man like her father or by being a punitive parent to herself.

This book has many strong points. It is a well-written book; while it is comprehendible, it is still medical and factual. I found it very interesting and useful in understanding who my “child of the past” is and who I am because of that. I think that his use of case studies enforced his opinions and beliefs in a personal way because I as the reader could sympathise with the patients and identify them as people rather that statistical information. I really enjoyed this book and it has made me look at situations in a different perspective. I believe W. Hugh Missildine achieves the aims that he has set out to in writing this book.


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