What is Inner Child Healing Work
Inner child work is the process of contacting, understanding, embracing and healing your inner child. Your inner child represents your first original self that entered into this world; it contains your capacity to experience wonder, joy, innocence, sensitivity, and playfulness. Not everyone is in touch with their inner child. Often, when people connect with their inner child, it's because they're dealing with a problem rooted in an early wounding. Even if your inner child is healthy and happy, there is a part of you that feels and reacts to life the way a child does. Everyone experiences this. The challenge is to know, accept, and connect with that part of your personality. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, "Your InnerCild is that part of your personality that still reacts and feels like a child."
I’ve worked with all different demographics of people. Over time I’ve come to understand that most people seek help for relationship “communication problems”, destructive habits (addiction, self-sabotage), identity confusion (“Who AM I”), and generalized feelings of low-self worth. All the things I too struggled with during my own emotional healing journey of Emotional Abandonment, Childhood Emotional Neglect, Codependency, Lose Sense of Self, Low Self Worth, and Emotional Binge Eating Disorder.
How the Inner Child Is Hurt
What is it that that hurt the inner child? The list is long according to Dr. Mary Elizabeth Dean author of Inner Child: What Is It, What Happened To It, And How Can I Fix It? Featured on Betterhelp.com Some of the items on this list might seem like normal childhood events, but if the child is left to deal with them alone, it can affect their development. Here are some of the events and situations that can cause emotional injury to the inner child:
Loss of a parent or guardian
Physical abuse or neglect
Emotional abuse or neglect
Being a victim of violence
Substance abuse in the household
Domestic violence in the household
Mental illness of a family member
Being a refugee Feeling isolated from their family
She goes on to explain that
How the Damage Affects You as An Adult
Minor trauma is common in childhood, so even the healthiest childhood doesn't mean you won't need to do inner child work at some point. If you experienced major trauma, however, the results are likely to follow you into adulthood. Furthermore, if no one helps you heal when you're still a child, serious effects are likely to plague you until you do this work. The most common effects of having a hurt inner child can all be classified as destructive behaviors.
It's no wonder these effects are common. The damaged child is impulsive, narcissistic, dependent, needy, and afraid of being abandoned. They haven't learned how to regulate their emotions or act from logic and reason. Such a child is likely to act out, and a damaged inner child is no different. However, healing the inner child can eliminate these feelings and behaviors, even in adulthood.
How to Heal Your Inner Child
You can't necessarily fix your inner child. Once the damage is done, it becomes a part of your history. For most people, it changes the way they feel, thinks, and behave. That said, you can help it heal. When you've accomplished that, the scars begin to fade and become lighter, so you can explore healthier ways of being.
You might wonder about the point of doing inner child work. Well, suppose a child is suffering from a wound, and you do nothing to help them. How do you feel ignoring the needs of this innocent, dependent person? How would the child feel? Wouldn't it continue to suffer until the wound was healed? This is how your inner child feels, and its wounds can affect you well into adulthood. Inner child healing can put an end to internal suffering, which can help you change maladaptive behaviors. Working with a therapist, you can do several things to reduce the suffering dramatically.
Why It Doesn't Help to Deny the Existence of Your Inner Child
Your first task in healing the inner child is to commit to knowing your inner child. That starts with accepting its existence. Certainly, you are a free individual. You can choose to deny that you have an inner child.
But if you refuse to think about having an inner child, be prepared to have a difficult time changing your feelings and behaviors. Doing inner child work, whether you do it alone or in therapy sessions, is a wonderful way to heal that child inside you and ultimately change the way you think, feel, and behave.
Understanding What Happened to Your Inner Child
For some, childhood pain comes from easily identifiable sources. For example, if you know you were physically abused as a child, that situation probably caused many of your emotional problems as an adult. Others find it more difficult to locate the source of their suffering, yet they know it exists because they struggle with feelings like unexplained anger or worthlessness. These feelings have to come from somewhere.
Both kinds of people need to understand what hurt them as a child if they want to heal. Therapists use several different techniques to help you identify the hurts from your childhood. They can even give you tools to continue the work between sessions. Some of these include using guided imagery, art therapy, writing poetry, and journaling, so you can visualize those painful moments.
After you know the source of your emotional pain, you'll need to ask yourself a series of questions. These questions can help you sort out who contributed to causing the pain, whether they inflicted it intentionally, and how you responded to the situation or event at the time. You can also explore how that event or situation damaged your inner child and what role it plays in your life today.
Building Compassion for Your Inner Child
Regardless of what caused of your childhood pain, your inner child is still feeling the effects. Your needs were not met in the past. Perhaps someone important to you failed to show compassion for you, either by not being available when you needed them most, by not giving you the love and nurturing you needed, or by inflicting pain on you directly. Since that time is long gone, and you're now an adult, it's up to you to show your inner child the compassion you needed as a child. One way to tune into this compassion for that small, frightened child is to imagine the scene of the painful event or situation from the inner child's viewpoint. Then give your inner child the support it needed in the past. In addition, therapists often model compassion, making it easier for you to do the same for your inner child.
Loving Your Inner Child
Perhaps members of your family loved you deeply and showed it often. Even so, a traumatic event might have made you doubt their love for you when you were a child. On the other hand, if your parents and other important people rarely showed their care for you, you may have grown up feeling distant, unloved, and perhaps, unlovable. How do you learn to love your inner child? A therapist can help you with this process. As you identify what you love about your inner child, you'll be able to feel it more strongly and unconditionally.
Play Like You Did as a Child
Playing like you did when you were a child can help you feel more connected with that part of you. It can also encourage healing. Try playing some of the same games and doing the same activities that you enjoyed when you were young. Approach these games and activities with the expectation that they were fun once and can be again. Throughout your healing process, come back to playing as a child often. You'll likely find that the happy feelings come back to you more and more, helping you to connect with your inner child.
Communicate Verbally with Your Inner Child
Many therapists will guide you in communicating with your inner child through spoken or written words. This can happen in a therapy session, or you can do it at home. You can talk to your inner child in the mirror, expressing your feelings and thoughts about what happened in the past as well as your hopes for the future. Or you can write a letter to your inner child. Is there something you like to tell that small child? Now's your chance to do it.
Take Responsibility for the Care of That Inner Child
A key component of healing the inner child is to take responsibility for them. While you might feel anger toward anyone who hurt you, it doesn't help to blame them or expect them to solve your current problems. They may not be able to help now, and even if they can, they may not be willing to help. Only you can take charge of caring for the child within you now. Your therapist can help, and others can lend support, but it is you who needs to take responsibility.
Parenting Your Inner Child
A child not only needs to be loved, protected, and to have their needs met, but they also need to be taught how to live successfully in the world. At some point, someone failed to teach you how to nurture and care for yourself. Now, even if you're managing many aspects of your life just fine, you still need to find the gaps in parenting that are causing you trouble in the present. You may struggle to regulate your emotions or behave in inappropriate or self-destructive ways. Parenting isn't an easy task for anyone. For someone who is parenting an inner child, this process might seem strange or even incomprehensible. However, with the help of a licensed therapist, you can become a great parent to your inner child.
Becoming a Psychological Adult
So what happens when your healing is complete? What is the goal? First, you may want to change certain behaviors. If so, inner child work can be combined with cognitive behavior therapy to help you make those changes.
You may also want to become an emotionally healthy adult. Or you might resist becoming an adult. After all, so many people talk about how boring or stressful it is to be a grown up. The good news is that even as an adult, your inner child is still a part of you. You can become more relaxed, find more pleasure in everyday life, and experience life with the same joy as a healthy child while being a responsible adult.
As an adult, you know when it's important to be serious and thoughtful, even if that's something you may have struggled with before healing your inner child. Now you can take responsibility as needed, but you also release the responsibilities of others back to them. When you make the choice to become a true adult, you can make decisions that are both helpful to you and enjoyable for you.
Dr. Mary Elizabeth Dean is an educator with over 10 years’ experience as a teacher and curriculum leader. Other significant roles include several years as a family law paralegal and a CASA advocate for foster children in crisis. Most recently, Dr. Dean has taken a break from the classroom to focus on her three passions: traveling, volunteering, and writing.
As a contributor to various online publications, she has written hundreds of articles. Because breaking the stigma of mental health is important to her, much of Dr. Dean’s work as a freelance writer centers on educating herself and others on wellness topics.
A sexual abuse and sex-trafficking survivor, she hopes to use her knowledge to help others overcome personal trauma and be their best selves.
To learn more about Dr. Mary Elizabeth Dean visit better help.com
Original article: Inner Child: What Is It, What Happened To It, And How Can I Fix It?
Author: Dr. Mary Elizabeth Dean