The Child has many faces.
The nature child.
The orphan child.
The eternal child.
The playful child.
The spirited child.
The wounded child.
The dependent child.
The magical child.
The Child archetype calls us to be light-heartened, curious, innocent. As children we establish perceptions of life, safety, comfort, loyalty, trust, dependence, independence, and family. Carl Jung speaks of the Child archetype in exploring the hero myth as “our effort to deal with the problem of growing up” and “potential future.”
Trauma and difficult unexpected events at critical developmental times can cause difficulty in the maturation and navigation of any of these areas.
According to Carolyn Myss, the painful experiences of the Wounded Child often awaken a deep sense of compassion and a desire to help other Wounded Children. From a spiritual perspective, a wounded childhood cracks open the learning path of forgiveness. She speaks of the shadow aspect of the Wounded child as including an abiding sense of self-pity, a tendency to blame our parents for any current shortcomings and to resist moving on through forgiveness. It may also lead us to seek out parental figures in all difficult situations rather than relying on our own resourcefulness.
The Orphan child may develop as a result of not being allowed into the family circle, and requires them to develop independence early on. The absence of family influences, attitudes, and traditions inspires or compels the Orphan Child to construct an inner reality based on personal judgment and experience. The shadow aspect of the Orphan is exhibited when one can never recover from feelings of abandonment.
The Magical Child sees the potential for sacred beauty in all things, and embodies qualities of wisdom and courage in the face of difficult circumstances. This archetype holds the power of imagination and the belief that everything is possible. The shadow of the Magical Child is demonstrated in getting lost in imagination and not seeing reality, or a belief that energy and action are not required and a retreat into fantasy.
The Nature Child is an archetype that inspires deep, intimate bonding with natural forces, and has a particular affinity for friendships with animals. Myss writes that while “the Nature Child has tender, emotional qualities, it can also have an inner toughness and ability to survive–the resilience of Nature herself. Nature Children can develop advanced skills of communicating with animals, and in stories reflecting this archetype an animal often comes to the rescue of its child companion.” Many adults retain this sense of communication with nature and animals as a strong component of their psyche.
The Eternal Child at its best, invites us to remain eternally young in body, mind, and spirit, and not to let age stop us from enjoying life. The shadow Eternal Child often manifests as an inability to grow up and embrace the responsible life of an adult. This can result in living outside the bounds of conventional adulthood or extreme dependence or lack of responsibility.