The Return to Innocence.

August 23, 2007

The Return to Innocence.


Ted Burnett

Recently, I have come to believe that each and every child is born a whole person with an intact spirit. The late A.S. Neil (the founding headmaster of the renowned Summerhill School, in 1921, in Great Britain) said, “Every child has a god in him; our attempts to mold the child will turn the god into a devil.” In all the places that I have called home, which have been predominantly in the South, I have yet to know someone whom I suspect hasn’t been press to fit someone else’s cast. In every case, it has been a stamping of faulty belief systems by “the usual unconscious suspects” – our family, religion, schools and society. Their intentions, while mostly good ones, often come with major side effects. We are no longer human beings instead we become puppets on a string. We are programmed like little robots. Rather than act, we only know to react when someone pushes our buttons.

The sad outcome is that our once wholesome, healthy and natural selves by His design have been crushed, like a shelled pecan. No longer whole, we become a half of ourselves. We are wounded, sick, insecure, fearful, dependent, and without our self-esteem or self-confidence and feel naked. We lose our authentic selves. We have become fakes, frauds. We are in, both, spiritual and emotional pain. Our connection to the universe is ripped apart. There’s a breaking of the bond between the Heavenly Father and child. As Otto Rank stated, “when religion lost the cosmos society became neurotic and had to invent psychology to deal with the neurosis.” We turn our backs on Our Creator in shame and towards ourselves, towards man.

A heavy price will be paid for this interruption and leads to the overdevelopment of the ego, Freud calls it the Super-ego, to continuously compensate for the damage done – we are isolated, cutoff from the world. All alone, this inflated sense of self is necessary to help us navigate through this “now” lonely and fearful world of ours. Feeling a void down deep inside we need something or someone to make us feel whole again. We seek an external “best” friend, either the two-legged type or the four-legged variety with a wagging tail or make do with a cuddly stuffed animal, to provide comfort and security, to be there for us when we can no longer be there for ourselves. Does that sound eerily familiar? Did you experience this in your childhood? Do you continue to experience this discomfort, this pain as an adult?

Each year as a child, were you promised a visit from Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy to make you feel better, to feel whole, again? Was a gift-wrapped present or two waiting just for you under the tree on a December morning each year? Did this trick measure up to the weeks and months of anticipation? Didn’t those we trust the most lie to all of us? “What’s the harm, its just Christmas,” you say? Don’t all the usual suspects have a lot invested in keeping the charade going? Now, as an adult, don’t you too?

How simple does getting a new toy, inhaling a substance, dropping one more lbs., making another purchase or bringing someone into our life (a friend, a lover, a partner, a spouse, a baby or two) return us to our original state of completeness, to our genuine self? Don’t these attachments only provide us with a temporary high, a temporary fix? Does this social obsession with alcohol, drugs, nicotine, food, sex, work, gambling, religion, politics, relationships, materialism or “insert your favorite addiction” serve as an equivalent substitute to knowing one’s self, to know peace, to feel secure and know our God-given talents? After years of trial and error along with observing others in my life, I no longer believe these quick fixes can or do work. What is the alternative to a life of drugging ourselves out of our misery everyday and out of this world forever?

I have found an answer for myself through spirituality. This solution is a beginning of a new way of life and the journey back home to reclaim ourselves, to reclaim our freedom from the bondage of self. It is never too late to start. Never! Spirituality is simply a relationship between God and us, the One that we were all connected to by another umbilical cord of sorts, before and after birth. There is no intermediary involved, no pope, no preacher, and no religion period to interpret for us or tell us what we should be doing or else where we are all going.

I concluded years ago that God’s Cathedrals weren’t the same as these man-made ones built along the roadside where I sat in each week while growing up. For me, I found His Cathedrals to be everywhere crafted with His own two hands or however many He might really have. One of my favorite Cathedrals is anywhere on the water. Each summer, I like going down to the sandy white beaches along the Gulf Coast and listening to the crashing waves along the shoreline, with blue skies above and the smell of saltwater in the air, watching families camped out on the sugary white sand, children building sandcastles, seagulls raucously calling one another while scavenging for their next meal. Or the countless fishing trips that I went on as a child with my father and friends heading out into the choppy waters of the Gulf of Mexico at sunrise and looking off to the East viewing a spectrum of colors – purples, oranges, reds, yellows, blues radiating from the raising mellow yellow sun through the Earth’s atmosphere. The sight is spectacular and an image of it has been seared into my mind, forever.

To me, it is hiking a trail through the smoke covered mountains of Tennessee, hearing the rush of a waterfall, or caked from head to toe in volcanic mud and washing it off while sitting in a hot and fast moving thermal spring and uneasily listening to the periodic rumbles from above by a notorious volcano in Central America. Or while on my honeymoon and watching from a rope hammock under a thatched roof out back of our casita on a hillside overlooking the brown coastline, as the green waters of the Pacific ebbed and flowed. It’s being present in the NOW, in awe and enjoying His magnificent works not just on Sunday, but everyday of the week. It’s to be one with nature, to be aware, to be living in reality. That is what I call spirituality.

Starting the process of undoing all this damage, this indoctrination, this corruption — call it what you will, whether beginning the process at age eighteen or at forty or even later at sixty — takes time and there’s more work to do, the longer the insanity and destruction in your life went unimpeded. The late Fr. Anthony de Mello said, “We have to unlearn what we learned.” We have to unlearn our fears.

Becoming and remaining a half person results from not getting our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs met daily — food, clothing, shelter, sleep, security, etc. Daily neglect creates all sorts of negative emotions including anger, sadness, hurt, humiliation, guilt and shame. If these emotions are not expressed openly and freely at home, at school, at church or in society, then you have real problems, both, individually and collectively. They are called personal and social problems. Our life gets out of balance like the tires on a car. It begins pulling us to the left or to the right on life’s highway. Sometimes, life might even force us into the ditch. We need real help; we need real tools for living.

Poor coping skills inherited from our parents and family begin to develop, including the most often used coping tool named denial to tell ourselves that what we are seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, sensing is not really taking place, its to deny reality – to deny the truth. We begin creating a fantasy world to cope and we are the center character. All others in our life become the supporting cast in our own never-ending drama. We are cut off from our emotions and no longer trust our own instincts. We miss or tune out the daily cues of life.

The cues are in the communication coming from others (it may consist of verbal language, body language and subliminal messages) as well as from the unfolding events occurring around us. These cues help us to navigate each day efficiently and effectively. Many times, opportunity knocks only once. How many times have we missed out or passed up the chance of a lifetime out of fear? After the moment goes by the realization sinks in and a feeling of regret overcomes us. We are now paralyzed by our inaction to take the next step.

It leads to us turning to our preferred drug(s) of choice to numb the constant and unending pain. We are living a nightmare and don’t even know it. Always accumulating is the emotional pain of the present crisis that is added to our baggage from the past; it weighs us down like a bag of rocks, some are small pebbles and rocks lead to larger stones and boulders. With time, it begins to weigh on us and feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. The stress produced becomes evident on our prematurely aging faces. It becomes a reminder and an ever-expanding cancer that quietly eats away at our spirit, self-esteem, leading to feelings of self-loathing, self-conscious and self-doubt, guilt, shame and regret. Procrastination leads to long periods of boredom all due to our insanity.

The journey home to wholeness is truly the return to innocence. It is to grow in maturity and wisdom from life experiences, yet returning to a state of child-like faith that our daily needs, “Our Daily Bread” will be provided. It’s having the Power to live by faith, minute to minute, hour to hour, “One Day at a Time” and not a power driven by fear. It is to reclaim our child-like excitement, wonder and awe for our world and the universe. This is a “right-sizing” process of our ego. Its acronym in A.A. is Easing God Out, and the miracle doesn’t happen over night, but can and will ultimately occur if the honest work is put forth. The return to innocence is about becoming healthy, balanced and incorruptible like a brilliant diamond; it is to become whole once again. We are restored to sanity.

Innocence is the awakened child in Hans Christian Anderson’s famous story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” While the adults gave applauds to Emperor over his “new clothes” as he paraded through the town, an innocent little boy shouts out for all to hear, as the Emperor passes-by, that the “Emperor has no clothes.” The swift reaction from all those standing nearby was one of anger and shame towards the boy.

The moral of the story: The child is three feet tall and the adults are six feet (giants in a child’s eyes), either get with the program or we will kill you (poison your young spirit). Haven’t the “usual suspects” killed all of us? Does this not explain the insanity in our world, today?

Like a lot of music, poetry, art and writings, the message is quite clear – “Just follow your own way. Just follow your own way.” Below is a link to the musical group Enigma’s hit song “Return to Innocence” on Youtube followed by the lyrics. The lyrics speak for themselves, to the truth and the Indian chat is beautiful and hair-raising.

Youtube: Enigma — Return to Innocence


Copyright © 2007, 2010. All Rights Reserved. “The Return to Innocence” by Ted Burnett.

I am available for speaking, consulting and political advising. My other essays can be viewed at my blog – I can be contacted via email at – My biography can be viewed at


“Return To Innocence”

That’s not the beginning of the end

That’s the return to yourself
The return to innocence
Love – Devotion
Feeling – Emotion
Love – Devotion
Feeling – Emotion
Don’t be afraid to be weak
Don’t be too proud to be strong
Just look into your heart my friend
That will be the return to yourself
The return to innocence
If you want, then start to laugh
If you must, then start to cry
Be yourself don’t hide
Just believe in destiny
Don’t care what people say
Just follow your own way
Don’t give up and use the chance
To return to innocence
That’s not the beginning of the end
That’s the return to yourself
The return to innocence
Don’t care what people say
Just follow your own way, Just follow your own way
Don’t give up, don’t give up
To return, to return to innocence.
If you want then laugh
If you must then cry
Be yourself don’t hide
Just believe in destiny.

I'm an American thought leader and pioneer on the subjects of human, organizational and societal development and health. I write about the role that integrity, dignity, sanity play, as well as, on the topics of spirituality, faith, freedom, happiness, problem solving and risk taking. I produce and deliver original, world-class commentaries on business, political, social and spiritual matters to a global audience of world leaders, chief executives and key decision makers, top faculty and notables in the fields of academia, banking, business, foundations, government (including heads of state, lawmakers and governors), healthcare, media, non-profits and policy institutes. Website: