We all may think of ourselves as fully grown-up just because we have reached a certain age. The truth is, many adults carry wounded children within themselves. Not literally, but figuratively speaking.
While we were growing up, there were many needs that were left unsatisfied as children. These parts that were not properly “watered” stayed immature to a certain degree. These parts are referred to as “the inner child”. When childhood experiences negatively affect you, your inner child may continue to carry these wounds until you address the source. We cover up childhood trauma by staying busy and dead-serious about everything we do.
This so-called ‘inner child’ can often recall good and pleasant experiences as well as childhood fears, traumas, neglect or significant loss. It can be hard to pinpoint the exact event that is tugging at us, but we can start to notice our internal patterns that have left us emotional blueprints, when we start to explore our inner world and go within.
When we work with clients and make space for those immature parts (inner child) healing, we often see a shift in their healing and overall improvement towards finding clarity and knowledge of the self and greater treatment progress. Uncovering and connecting to the inner child can help foster well-being and break emotional patterns.
How to do the work on inner child and heal from trauma
The best way is always to seek help from a well trained coach or a therapist, as working with the inner child sometimes triggers discomfort or painful emotions, including grief, traumatic memories, and feelings of helplessness or fear. Guidance from a trained professional is then often needed.
Learning to “reparent” your inner child in a safe environment, with a trained professional, can then help you begin addressing and healing traumatic experiences from childhood.
Learning to “reparent” yourself means giving your inner child what it needs on the emotional level, the way you would have needed your parents to do so in the past. As Stephen Diamond explains in his book Psychotherapy for the Soul:
“[T]he adult part of the personality learns (…) to relate to the inner child exactly as a good parent relates to a flesh-and-blood child, providing discipline, limits, boundaries and structure. These are — all along with support, nurturance, and acceptance — indispensable elements of loving and living with any child, whether metaphorical or actual.”
Many adults still try to find someone “out there” to comfort their inner child. To become the parent they needed when they were little. It’s easy to believe that once you find a “perfect” partner, a soul mate, a ‘perfect friend” or a community, everything will finally be solved and ok.
But this is usually a band-aid solution, a transitory one. Other people only comfort your inner child as long as they act according to your expectations and needs. The moment they do something that’s not on your agenda, the minute they set boundaries or have their own stuff to deal with, old wounds are brought to the surface. You go back to pain and suffering.
That’s why understanding and working with the inner child is so powerful and healing. It allows you to become your own parent by consciously working with the trauma you experienced as a child. You learn to give yourself as much loving attention as you require to heal.
The good and empowering news is: you don’t need to depend on anyone for that.
There are many reparenting techniques however, there are three main levels you can work with your inner child: connect, communicate and nurture.
- First, you need to acknowledge the wounds and experiences of the inner child. If it keeps on going unnoticed, you can’t begin your healing process.
- Second: start communicating with those parts of yourself. Finding a way to hear what your inner child has to tell you is key to getting to the source of your trauma.
- Third: step into the role of a nurturing parent. From your adult self, you give your child self exactly what it needs.
Having an inner child doesn’t mean you are immature, a child or don’t want to grow up.
All of us were children once.
Those children are part of us today. Those inner wounded parts are hiding, suppressed. You may not notice them in everyday life. But this doesn’t mean they’re not there. They’re waiting for someone to come and acknowledge their pain.
Acknowledging these parts of yourself can help make it easier to understand your adult experience, heal and embrace the pain in your past experiences, and handle any future challenges with lots of understanding and self-compassion.
Your inner child may sabotage your adult experience by trying to get you to heal its unresolved issues. You can do that through reparenting yourself. This means providing a loving presence and self-compassion that you wished you had received as a child.
Since tapping into this awareness of your child self can help you regain a sense of joy and wonder, you can even consider it a form of self-care.
You may not see or hear your inner child clearly, but forging a connection with this part of you can lead to a stronger, more complete sense of self.
You can start this work by yourself or seek professional help from a coach or therapist. The road can take many different forms, whichever form you choose, don’t let that be the one of ignoring the wounds and needs of your inner child.
We have many lessons to learn from it.