Understanding your inner child is an essential part of the inner work you will do in your lifetime. We all have an inner child, a part of ourselves that is truly us. In some ways, I think of the inner child as the essence of a person, who they were before the world-imposed beliefs and experiences on them telling them otherwise. It is not that the inner child is the best or fully realized version of yourself, but it is more like the point from which you began — the seed that you grew from and the flower that you continue growing into and blossoming.
The first ten years of our lives are incredibly influential on our souls. We are soaking up and absorbing experiences like little sponges until we begin to form our own opinions and ideas about the world. We begin to become curious children. These formative years are about laying the foundation for the way we think and view the world and creating a kind of framework for our character.
Any kind of trauma that we experienced during these years, no matter how vast or how seemingly small, painful, or tragic the experience affects us mentally and emotionally. They could be anything from experiencing death or loss, emotional or physical abuse, divorce, bullying, changing homes or schools, or losing a particular toy. Whatever your childhood experiences were, how you reacted, dealt with them at the time, and how others responded to you is all stored in your subconscious.
However, you dealt with it, and the level of support you received is what matters here; Your inner child forms from these experiences and how you were able to cope and whether you received help and nurturing through it.
Most young kids are not able to use full cognitive awareness to understand and cope with trauma. That’s why sensitive children often feel they are to blame for the abuse, divorce, and so on. Their inability to understand complex situations and emotions means they internalize the case as somehow being related to something they did or didn’t do. Here, is where I began.
We can become programmed into the belief that we are bad or something is wrong with us. Thinking this way gets internalized into the subconscious mind and stays, despite growing up and realizing the truth of a situation. That programming can remain buried within the inner child, in our thoughts, and can affect other areas of life in adulthood.
Inner child work helps us to reconnect with this wounded element of ourselves. We can connect to the root cause of our fears, insecurities, and negative patterns and heal them by looking at how they originated.
It’s so common for people to resist doing this work, dragging up your past can be painful and tedious. Many people feel their traumatic experiences were not severe enough or were just a normal part of growing up or was too painful to relive it. But your feelings at the time were genuine and should not be ignored. They are a big part of your emotional and psychological baggage in life.
It’s also important to note that doing inner child work is not about blaming others, especially your parents or other members of your family. When you do this work, have in the back of your mind that everyone at all times is doing the best they can with what they know at the moment.
Two years ago, in the summer of 2018, I took a course called, Healing Your Inner Child, by Lisa J. Smith. It was an introduction to Connecting Your Adult Self and Your Inner Child. The course was 9-weeks. This course helped me understand who I was and become aware of who I am, me as a whole, healthy in the human body, mind, and spirit. It helped me understand why I made individual choices that empower or hurt me. It also showed me the root of some issues I was carrying for years; fear, separation, anxiety, loss, abandonment, just to name a few. By doing the work, I explored the “who, what, where, and when” that first hurt me. By acknowledging the hurt, I was healing the wound.
The course was not hard; it was learning what questions to ask and when to ask them. I journaled a lot. I learned how to stay in the moment, understanding my triggers, setting boundaries, and accepting and forgiving old behaviors. It showed me the child’s part in me; the innocent, joyful, creative, and beautiful pieces I have and how to bring out the laughter and joy within myself; the part I had locked away, I brought out and explored the genuine and loving parts of me. I also brought out the parts of me that were fearful, sad, felt unsafe, and needed validation.
It allowed me to be more intimate with my connections. It helped me not to react to my emotions by giving me more clarity and less drama in my relationships. I learned to listen to my inner child with compassion and grace.
There were times when it was too emotional, and during those times, I learned to go slow and be kind to myself. My inner child was grieving and needed space to express the loss. She needed an ear for listening. I am so glad I took this course. It helped me in so many ways by helping my inner child open the door to forgiveness, love, and peace.
I want to share some healing techniques with you today, that I have used to help you learn to soothe and reconnect with your inner child. These will help you to resolve deeply held self-sabotaging life patterns so that you can release that emotional weight and resolve your past. You will need a journal. Do these exercises each day or one a week to help you journey through your inner child.
1. Think about something that happened in your part, a life-changing event or traumatic memory you hold from those first ten years. Try to recall how it made you feel. Go deeply into those emotions and feelings. See if you can relate how you felt then to the way you sometimes deal with things in the present. Journal about all of this as a way to record your memories.
2. Imagine yourself as the age you were during these traumatic/ life-changing events. See yourself standing before you now. Think about how that child version of yourself would have wanted to be supported, nurtured, and comforted. Write a letter to your younger self with everything that you would have wanted to know and hear. Remember to be kind and non-judgemental. Use easy words so your inner child can understand.
3. Meditate quietly and use the following visualization technique to speak with your inner child. Close your eyes and bring your breathing to a regular, calm rhythm. Let your thinking mind be still and just concentrate on listening to the silence within. When you feel you are in a calm state of mind, visualize a beautiful garden or place that makes you feel safe, happy, and empowered. Once you have created this place in your mind, allow yourself to invite your child into this space. There you can meditate quietly and ask your child to speak to you; let them tell you whatever they want to. Just listen and be there to hear them. You can get better at this the more you do it.
4. Speak to your inner child in the following ways to heal and nurture them:
- I love you
- I hear you
- I am here for you
- You are important
- I am ready to listen
- You didn’t deserve this
- You did your best
- I forgive you
- I’m sorry
- Thank you
Say these words as often as you need to while thinking of the past, during the day, as you catch yourself falling into regular patterns or negative thinking.
Treating your inner child with love, compassion, kindness, and understanding is a way to re-parent them today. It is possible to heal and change the past by the way you act in the present. Understanding the inner child is the key to understanding our difficulties with relationships, personal and work, addictions, and anger, jealousy, fear, ego traps, sabotaging, and self-defeating behavior. Too often, we allow our inner child to make the decisions that need to be made by our “adult” selves. Why do we do this? Because we have no idea what is happening. We are children.
5. Remind yourself of who you were as a child. Look at photos and find the ones that resonate and bring you joy. Pin them up around your home in places where you can regularly view them. Remember the spontaneity, adventure, and innocence of childhood in a positive way. You can help you connect with your inner child’s senses of playfulness that you once had and to bring the presence of your inner child back into your life today.
6. Remember some of the activities or games you enjoyed as a child. From coloring to climbing trees or playing make-believe. Without judgment, try to recreate these activities in your life today. It may sound silly, but it’s truly a powerful way to let your inner child know they are essential, and that they contribute to your life. It’s a fantastic way to heal and empower yourself as an adult.
7. Finally, set an intention to be more aware of the way you behave and act moving forward. When you become conscious of your patterns and what informs the decisions you make, you can make sure that you operate from love and not fear or insecurity.
Remember to be kind to your inner child. Acknowledge how you’re feeling. Take a step back and breathe through your triggers and begin to witness your inner child and how they are feeling at that moment. Once you are back to a place of seeing how your inner child is feeling, begin to connect with them. Let them know that you are there for them, that you are protecting them, and hear and see them.
By holding space for them, you are validating that you see them and appreciate them. Once you can make this connection with your inner child, it is vital that you, as the adult, give yourself the validation and the acknowledgment for a job well done. It is not always easy to catch ourselves before we slip into our inner child. No one ever said that kids came with an instruction manual; this is true of our inner child and adults as well.
By learning about your inner child, you can reconnect and balance your adult. How? By remembering who you were and still are in your core, you are better able to understand and remember the beautiful part of who you are. When you remember who you are, you fill yourself with what you need, what feels useful to you, and only bring in the things that will be the highest and best for you.
When we are disconnected, we make poor decisions, react, and lose control; old traumatic emotions trigger us, and we begin to lose ourselves, not valuing who we are, not being heard, not feeling loved. Don’t put yourself in a position where your triggers will be triggered. Make the deliberate choice and decision not to go or do things that you know you will be triggered by…at least at the moment. That is the difference between choosing to live peacefully or living in pain. We always have a choice. It’s just that some options are more comfortable than others. If it is harder to go down one path, then you know that is the path to take because nothing in life is easy.
As an adult who is centered, mature, and equipped with useful coping tools, we can make sensible and beneficial decisions. The best part of all is that by reconnecting the two parts of you (inner child and adult), your adult will feel fulfilled, and your child can feel free from having to do the grown-up work that no child should have to do. Helping your child discover what they like to do and what they like to play will bring that much-needed balance and healing to all parts of you.