Barry K. Weinhold
Inner work is the ability to use the skills of self-refection and self correction to transform your relationship with yourself and with the world. The concept of “inner work” is part of many spiritual traditions and psychological approaches, and includes the use of tools such as mindfulness, prayer, meditation and chanting.
Most of Western society values “doing” — being active and out in the world. It doesn’t really value or appreciate those who spend time and money focused on their inner world. When we were living and studying near Zurich, Switzerland in 1986, for example, we were struck by the introverted nature of the Swiss people. When we observed them in public they seemed a bit aloof and distant in their daily interactions with others. Rarely would people look at you walking down the street or on the street car. We realized that our American point of reference seemed off the charts on the extroversion side of the equation. What better place for Carl Jung to work and study the inner world of people?
Carl Jung: Champion of Inner Work
From his private practice just outside Zurich, Carl Jung’s patients brought him their inner world, and he began to map it out rather completely. He discovered the concept of the “shadow” or the split-off part of the Self that carries lots of hidden information about our traumas and our potential. The Shadow often can be visible in our projections on the outer world. According to Jung, the Shadow must be fully understood and integrated back into the Self through inner work.
Any time my reaction to an event in the here and now is greater than is called for, I know I am reenacting some old unhealed trauma or unresolved conflict. This is a sign that I am being “triggered”by a memory that contains strong feelings that I don’t want to look at. The natural tendency its to deflect attention on something or someone else. This also helped me identify what is unfinished that I needed to work on. Our book Healing Developmental Trauma is a great resource to help know what to do to heal these traumas as they show up.
The Shadow and the False Self
In addition to the Shadow, Jung’s work led directly to the discovery of the concept of the “false self.” This is an artificial or “public” self we create to hide parts of ourselves that we or others have deemed unacceptable. Most people operate out of a false self, and create ego defenses to protect their most vulnerable parts of themselves. One of the most common ego defenses people use is projections. Projections involve blaming or criticizing others in order to avoid seeing parts of ourselves that we don’t want others or ourself to see.
Another way to avoid feeling those unwanted feelings connected to your false self is through self-medication. All “addictions” are self-medicating attempts to help us avoid feeling some unwanted feeling. My “favorite” addiction is working hard in order to distract myself from my emotions. Our books, Breaking Free of The Codependency Trap and The Flight From Intimacy, are excellent resources for helping you identify and change your “favorite” addictions and your unhealed traumas.
Jung also discovered “complexes,” the most common of which are the “mother complex” and the “father complex.” My book Breaking Family Pattern: How To Identify Your Family Patterns is a good place to start to identify your complexes. The companion book Breaking Family Patterns: How To Change Your Family Patterns is also a good resource to help you learn how to change the patterns you have identified.
Inner work requires the full use of your ability to self-reflect and to self-correct. I have used these two skills extensively in my own quest for inner wholeness and integration. Other inner work tools that that Janae and I have used are featured in our books and on this website. Some of the related posts under this “Inner Work” page talk about how to utilize these tools to do your inner work. The tools that I have found most useful include meditation, prayer, centering, body work, breath work, guided meditations, active imagination, applied kinesiology, art therapy, psychodrama, and gestalt therapy.
My Own Inner Work Journey
I started learning how to meditate in 1978 during a six-week Lomi Bodywork Training. The method I learned is called Vipassana meditation, which is supposedly the one the Buddha taught his followers. It is also called insight mediation, because deeper thoughts or insights will show up when you quiet your surface mind. It is a practice and you have to do it everyday if you are going to get benefits from it.
I currently do about one hour per day because I can adjust my daily routine to allow that much time at one sitting. If this is too long for you, then twenty minutes is minimum. The practice is relatively simple and involves sitting in a chair or on a pillow with your back straight and focusing all your attention on your breath. You can feel your chest rising and falling, visualize your breath coming and and going out or her the sound of your breath as it passes through your nostrils.
I have prayer since I was a teenager. I remember praying in church for wisdom and for help me keep my life in harmony and balance. Later my prayers involved seeking guidance and discovering who I am. Currently, I ask for help from the Ascended Masters of the Great White Brotherhood of the Light in everything from decisions I have to make to diagnosis and treatment any illness I have.
I also use Applied Kinesiology or muscle testing to find out what my body wants or needs in specific situations. I also use this tool to select all my nutritional supplements and determine the dosage I need. I regularly use connected breathing to help relieve any stress I feel in my body or mind. Fo me this involves seeing the in-breath as pulling me up to the top of a ferris wheel and then the out-breath felling like going down the other side. I don’t pause at the end of either the in-breath or the out-breath thus connecting them.