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Healing Your Inner Child

"Healed Hearts," by Amy Grubb

Trigger Warning, this article discusses topics such as mental health and childhood trauma, which might upset readers.

Starting the healing process through therapy, you are usually asked to start at the beginning to allow the therapist to understand the whole picture when focusing on the main problem. The sole problems are tracked down to the inner child. The inner child is a part of ourselves that's been present ever since we were conceived; the inner child has been there throughout all the developmental years, from birth to high school.

The inner child can often recall all the good experiences paired with the bad ones, such as fears, traumas, neglect, or significant loss. Like the happy feelings of being invited to a friend's birthday party and the joy of playing make-believe in the garden with your friends and family. To the feeling upset when being ignored by a family member, the anxiety of starting the first day of school, and feeling dumb when a teacher scoffed at your wrong answer to a "seemingly easy" question. Your inner child is the part that feels understood, calm, and warm when you have a good time with others. It's also the part that feels crushed and betrayed when hurt, neglected, or lied to by someone we trust.

Esther Goldstein says, “Your ‘inner child’ is a part of your subconscious that has been picking up messages way before it was able to fully process what was going on (mentally and emotionally). It holds emotions, memories, and beliefs from the oars as well as hopes and dreams for the future.”

Understanding trauma and healing

One of the reasons the "inner child" can become hurt is through the trauma experienced within the developmental stages. Trauma can take shape in many different forms, such as:

  • Abuse or neglect

  • Bullying

  • Car accidents

  • Death of a loved one

  • Being a refugee

  • Domestic violence

  • Natural disasters

  • Financial distress

  • Substance use disorders within the family

  • Isolation

  • Unstable housing

  • Separation from a caregiver

  • Lack of predictability

  • Childhood assault or sexual abuse

  • Significant life changes or moves

These traumatic events can cause a child distress leaving the child to react in different ways depending on the support and environment that the child is in. Common responses to childhood trauma include anxiety, depressive symptoms, intense and ongoing emotional upset, behavioral change, difficulties with attention and academics, and nightmares. Physical symptoms include difficulty sleeping, eating, aches and pains, and many more.

When working on healing the "inner child," you may address experiences like feeling unheard or unseen, not fitting in, and feeling inadequate, as well as feeling as though your feeling didn't matter. These feelings can be attached to childhood, which are feelings stemming from childhood trauma and attachment. For example, if you are continuously told as a child that you were a "mistake," you will start to embody that negative feeling and carry it with you wherever you go disallowing yourself for positive personal growth. In reality, discovering that every consenting adult can make their own decisions and are reliable for their actions allows the "inner child" to let go of those negative words that have been forced upon you throughout time.

How can inner child work benefit individuals?

The first step is to identify what you experienced as a child that continues to impact your current way of life and mindset. As a child, you might've learned to repress your emotions by having family members or caregivers telling you to 'stop crying,' 'be grateful,' and 'don't be silly; everything is fine' These phrases would have had a negative impact on the child when expressing 'negative' emotions.

Angelica Attard, Ph.D. said, “As children, we internalize the messages we hear and learn that having negative emotions and acknowledging them is not a good thing…not having something model how to express and cope with emotions may lead to the development of coping strategies that focus on avoiding and inhibiting negative emotions.” Emotional repression comes through for many other traumas developed within childhood, further damaging our “inner child.”

This type of therapy isn't just for individuals who were traumatized as a child but for anyone who believes it may benefit them; this type of therapy can increase self-low, self-awareness, and connection to your inner self.

The benefits include;

  • understanding your past

  • Feeling connected with yourself

  • Forgiving your caregivers or parents

  • Forgiving yourself

  • Imagining an ideal childhood

  • Feeling safe in your body and home

  • Feeling able to parent and care for yourself

  • Feeling able to be alone and independent

Ways to start healing your inner-child

Dr. Diana Raab says, “Being in touch with the joys of childhood can be an excellent way of dealing with challenging times.”

Acknowledging your inner child's presence mainly involves recognizing and accepting things that caused you pain in your childhood; bringing these events forward can help you understand their impact on you as a child. Listening to what your "inner child" has to say might also help further the healing process by providing you with what your "inner child" wasn't able to receive when they were hurting.

Kim Egel, therapist from Cardiff, California says, “these feelings often come up in situations that trigger strong emotions, discomfort or old wounds.”

When listening to your "inner child," you might discover certain emotions such as;

  • Anger or unmet needs

  • Abandonment or rejection

  • Insecurity

  • Anxiety

  • Vulnerability

  • Guilt or shame

If you can trace any of these emotions back to specific childhood events, you may realize that in similar situations in your adult life, it triggers the same response. Raab suggests writing a letter to your inner child to open a dialogue and start the healing process.

Other ways to start healing may involve age regression therapy with stuff such as coloring, music therapy, and even play therapy. Or take part in activities you were deprived of as a child, like pottery painting, finger painting, or other creative activities, and listen to upbeat music by creating a playlist to pair for certain moods.


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