We all have an inner child, the part of us that is still connected to our childhood, upbringing, and the things we learned in our most formative years. Unfortunately, when we were wounded in childhood, those pains and patterns often come with us and repeat throughout our adult life, affecting relationships, work, and even our health. When we heal the inner child, we can begin to heal our emotional wounds and embrace the vision we have for our lives moving forward.
What is an Inner Child?
The inner child is a part of us that has been hurt, ignored, or neglected in our past. It is often the part of us that feels most vulnerable and uncertain. The inner child can be very sensitive to our own emotions and the emotions of others, and many people who consider themselves empathic likely were able to tune into the emotional setting around them as a child to feel more safe.
The inner child may seek out relationships that are nurturing and supportive (for instance, I was very close with teachers throughout my childhood and in college), may have a tendency to repeat negative or harmful patterns from the past (like marrying someone who is abusive in similar ways your parents were) or may retreat into isolation and cut off from your intuition and self-knowledge.
The goal of healing for an inner child is to process and move through the harms of the past in order to move forward without repeating the cycle over and over.
Why Heal the Inner Child?
Healing the inner child can help you to gain a greater understanding of yourself and your own emotions. It can also help you to develop more empathy for others, and it can increase your self-confidence. Finally, healing the inner child can help you to resolve difficult past experiences, which can lead to improved mental health and happiness in the present.
As I’ve moved through many types of therapy in my life I found EMDR extremely helpful for accessing and processing inner child wounds. EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is a type of therapy that helps you access traumatic memories, process them, and replace the triggering thought with a more positive one. I found it extremely helpful for my eating disorder recovery. (Also, obligatory reminder that I am not a therapist or clinician, merely an advocate sharing their own story!)
If you don’t heal the things that hurt you, you’ll either keep repeating cycles of harm or completely shut yourself off from parts of yourself that would otherwise be thriving.
I’ve often found with my clients that healing their inner child is an important part of re-accessing and embracing their creative passions. If you didn’t have the ability or support to be creative and passionate as a child, you can internalize messages that creativity or play are frivolous and unimportant. They’re SO important — especially to your inner child!
What are the Basics of Healing the Inner Child?
There is no one answer to this question as the process of healing the inner child will vary from person to person. However, some general concepts that can be helpful in healing the inner child include:
1. Recognizing that you have an inner child and honoring its needs and feelings.
2. Understanding how your childhood experiences influenced your current behavior and emotions.
3. Developing a personal plan for healing and growth based on your unique circumstances and experiences.
You may find it helpful to write a letter to your inner child, or to re-imagine traumatic childhood memories with a positive outcome instead of the traumatic one. Sometimes, I imagine a huge goddess-type figure, sitting cross legged and inviting me to climb into her lap and tell her my problems and needs. Your inner child healing might look like buying yourself the toys or games you couldn’t have when you were a kid, or engaging with your favorite books, movies, and foods from childhood to recreate memories in a safer context.
How to Heal Your Emotional Wounds
It can be difficult to heal emotional wounds, but it is important to do so if you want to move on from a troubling past that keeps sticking around! Here are some tips on how to heal your emotional wounds:
1. Identify the source of your pain. What has caused you pain in the past? Was it something that someone said or did? Was it a physical injury? Once you have identified the source of your pain, you can start to work on healing it. (A therapist, support group, or personal coach is a great resource to help you dig into your past in a safe container.)
2. Talk about your feelings with someone who will understand and support you. It can be helpful to talk about your emotions with someone who will listen without judgment. This person could be a friend, family member, therapist, or counselor.
3. Recognize patterns. Once you’ve done the work to identify the harmful triggers and patterns in your life, it’s easier to notice them recurring in new situations as an adult. Practice reframing them (using self-help techniques from EMDR can be a great resource here) when they occur.
By healing our inner child, we can begin to heal our emotional wounds and work toward a vision of personal growth and development.
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