One of the biggest stereotypes I encounter teaching lawyers about mindfulness is the fear that meditation will cause you to turn into a hippy obsessed with your inner child. I’ve written several times that this isn’t true. In fact, I have experienced the opposite and I proudly say that mindfulness has helped to make me a badass lawyer.
But, I have to be clear about something. That inner child which people like to mock all the time? Well, it’s real. The sooner you accept that and learn to embrace it, the better off you’ll be. In fact, the badassery I claim my mindfulness practice has given me emerged when I accepted my inner child and learned to take better care of her.
This is what The Origins of You, a book by Vienna Pharaon, intends to help you do. Despite her many followers on Instagram and the popularity of the book, I didn’t know what it was about when I borrowed it from my library. I had long been a fan of considering one’s origin story, perhaps because I write so much and understand the teaching value of a good story. So, it was the word “origins” that first got my attention.
Pharaon, a marriage and family therapist, never uses the word “inner child” in The Origins of You. Instead, she opts to use the term “wound” to describe the many injuries that each of us humans tend to experience in life and carry around with us as adults. Perhaps we experienced a “prioritization” wound because we experienced neglect or a “safety” wound if we experienced an injury or were treated recklessly.
While this linguistic choice makes sense from the standpoint of reducing identification with the past experience for the purposes of understanding it better, the presence of a wound implies a subject who was wounded. The thing I like about the book, however, is that it helps the reader understand that the inner child—even a wounded inner child—can grow up and heal. And who is the person who can help that child do this? Well, it’s you.
The book doesn’t just explain the variety of wounds that we ordinary people can walk around with and unconsciously try to protect every day. It also offers strategies for becoming aware of them, learning to face them, and ultimately to heal them. It shows how therapy, subtle changes in relationships, new styles of communication, and even practices like meditation can assist in that process.
As a whole, I found the book to be highly accessible (especially in contrast to other works that address healing from traumatic life experiences), practical, and useful to a broad variety of people. The book also does not only focus solely on traumatic experiences, but also explains how a range of life experiences (like a car accident or a medical procedure) can leave us feeling wounded and affect our lives for years to come.
In addition, I respected the balance that Pharaon offers in recognizing that not all personal wounds are necessarily anyone’s fault. The other common trope that goes with the “inner child” is the idea that personal healing inevitably causes us to blame our parents. As Pharaon acknowledges, though, sometimes wounds happen even when our parents or other caregivers in our life are doing their best or are affected by social or economic factors outside of their control. Instead of blame, the book offers high accountability, guided reflection in a way that doesn’t feel so lonely, and tools for positive change.
My one concern is not something that should cause anyone to avoid the book, but is more of a heads up for those who read it and try the practices. The book includes several guided meditations intended as practices to help readers face and heal their wounds. I found the practices to be well-crafted and many appeared to be rooted in research-based practices with which I was familiar.
People new to mindfulness, however, might find them challenging to do on their own. As I have written before, meditation may allow traumatic memories and experiences to arise and past trauma can make focus and stability during meditation a challenge. For those new to healing or new to the practice of meditation, give yourself ample time or consider seeking support before doing the practices.
Overall, The Origins of You is a well-written and accessible book full of practical tools and clear analysis of the wounds that trouble so many of us. Though most examples in the book address personal relationships, lawyers could easily benefit from it given how critical personal relationships are to law practice. If you want to learn more about yourself or the other people in your life, check out The Origins of You for some helpful tools for learning how to take better care of your inner child to help you be the adult you want to be.
Want to learn more about mindfulness and compassion? Check out my new book, How to Be a Badass Lawyer, for a simple guide to creating a meditation practice of your own in 30 days. And to share mindfulness with your little one, check out my new children’s book, Mommy Needs a Minute.
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