Unfortunately…it seems We Will Have to Kill the Child

Unfortunately…it seems We Will Have to Kill the Child

I don’t know about you, but I truly love children. Of course I love my own children, but beyond them I love children generally. Children possess a humanity which is absent in most adults. They know how to love, how to laugh, how to cry, and perhaps most importantly how to play. What is life, after all, if we’re not at play.

Sometimes I encounter kids who seem like little adults, embedded in reality; or as Freud would put it, living according to the reality principle. At a young age they already seem to have lost touch with the realm of magic and of play. But that is quite rare, most kids still have this gift, at least until their teens.

Then beyond the physical child, as much as I detest clich’s, I admit I care deeply about my own ‘inner child’.

Let me explain… (And please stay with me here )

I truly loved my father and he loved me. He loved a child called Stephen, and as anyone who is a parent knows this is a deep and un-abiding love.

For me, in turn, my dad was the whole world. It was as though he contained the world rather than it him. God knows he wasn’t perfect, but it was his very imperfections which made him so luminous, so real. He came to represent for me what it meant to be a human being.

He was a beacon of sanity in the sea of life by which I could find my way.

I lost him about nine years ago, and it was really tough to see him go….

But once he died, I consciously internalised his love. My love for him, and the respect I held him in, meant I had a responsibility, to him, to truly love myself as he had loved me. In doing this, I became, so to speak, my own father. So I can say I am now both father and child to myself, and in so far as I am father, my internal image is moulded on my real father who deeply loved his child Stephen.

And in loving Stephen the child I swore an oath of allegiance to him, not to forget his hopes, dreams, and desires. And never to lose touch with the sense of adventure and play.

By now you may be wondering about the title of this post, well you see this is where things become a little unpleasant….


The most exciting Jungian thinker alive today, for my money anyway, is Wolfgang Giegerich. I had the unequalled honour of meeting him recently. I am currently reading the third in his series of collected English papers Soul Violence.

Giegerich makes the point that the Jungian project is a twofold endeavour. The apprentice piece is the shadow work, and the master piece is the work on the anima/animus ‘ the souls own other. These are, in Jungian terms, the foundation of psychology and psychological thinking.

However before we can enter the realm of psychology proper, or at least psychological consciousness, we need to kill the child. Whilst a childlike conscious is present in the psyche the adult remains unborn and the realm of psychology remains out of reach.

Now you may be thinking this is a little melodramatic. After all can we not rather say let’s integrate the child- rather than ‘kill’ him or her?

Well frankly no, not according to Giegerich anyway. You see it is the death of the child that fertilises the birth of the adult. We need a clean cut, a real break with the past.

We cannot allow yesterday (and yesterday’s dreams) to dictate today.

One of the great losses of modernity, particularly post-modernity, is the loss of rituals which demarked the two distinct domains child and adult. Rituals which were designed to bring an end to the enchanted state of childhood and prepare the initiate for entry into the secrets, protocols, and responsibilities of being an adult. There loss sees the child grow older in years but not take the significant step into a new paradigm, anew and adult way of encountering the world. The recent rioting and ongoing issues with youth discipline in the UK are, at least in part, a symptom of this failure in modernity.


Giegerich provides four broad ways in which we can identify the way of being on the world of the child archetype. Go through this list and consider if any of these describe you or are present in your life.

1. Innocence, protectedness, babe-in-the-woods, unwoundedness, harmlessness.

The idea here is that whilst living in the garden of Eden we remain children in way of being if not our age; prior to suffering the inevitable wounds of adulthood, and encountering evil in the world and in ourselves. It is only once we leave home, and lose our status as little princes or princesses, encounter the limitations of the world and in ourselves that we can grow up.

2. Selfishness, self-centeredness, narcissism.

This I think is self explanatory, narcissism in a youth is appropriate and appealing but not in an adult, adulthood entails transcending our ego centred consciousness.

3. Living a life based on desire rather than duty, a life as yet untouched by responsibility.

Responsibility in this sense can be responsibility to others, to a position of trust, to a set of principles by which you live your life. But it is something beyond the pleasure principle, it is the way you define yourself in the world. A life which is not lived in service of a principle of some kind remains still born, the self can only be said to emerge when we stand for something and live our lives in service of that which we stand for.

4. Embedded in meaning, the uroboric state.

Living in a myth which is not of your own creation, the perception of objective meaning, the idea common to childhood and youth of knowing the meaning and purpose of existence, be it based of religion, politics, or culture. Only the rude eviction from this state of grace allows genuine adult consciousness to emerge.

It is only once the initial myth has been cracked, allowing you to see through the veil of illusion that the journey to real meaning and discovering your personal myth can begin.

Once we grow up, and leave the child behind, we are ready to cross the threshold into psychological consciousness. As our bodies and minds evolve so too should our spirits. The spirit of the child is ready for childlike things, but for you and I to take the next step in our spiritual evolution we need to temper our spirit in the fire of true adult consciousness.

I leave you with a quote from The Wonder Years

Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what’s to come. But that night, I think we knew it was time to let go of what had been, and look ahead to what would be. Other days. New days. Days to come. The thing is, we didn’t have to hate each other for getting older. We just had to forgive ourselves… for growing up.

Have you completed the transition from childhood to adulthood?

Do you believe this is an essential step in your personal evolution?

Until we meet again,


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Comments (3)

  • Mattia Reply

    Thank you for this! Very precious for setting some good reference points

    May 1, 2021 at 2:05 pm
  • Serge Reply

    I completely agree that we must shed our childhood instincts to fully blossom into our beings. Very well said. The consequence of the lack of ritual transition into adulthood is very apparent when considering the (western, most certainly) world from this angle, I see it in the states as well. Grown people clinging to the self-centerness of their former developmental states with no cultural framework for setting them right – its a curse to both individual and society. It seems to me these are rare and controversial points you’re making, thanks for writing.

    October 20, 2021 at 10:10 pm
  • Brian Reply

    Is it imperative that we “shed” parts of ourselves like a snake’s skin, or perhaps we have “build upon” our previous life stages? Personally, I see the latter being more useful for humans. We are not snakes shedding skin, we are not butterflies (going from caterpillar to another being all together).

    It would seem Pokemon got it right where there are different levels (of growth) for each of us. Curious your thoughts?

    February 27, 2024 at 7:55 pm

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