Do you have a relationship with your inner child?
Are you aware that you have an inner child that lives within you? This may sound strange or even silly to some, but you do. We all do. Our inner child is the part of our mind that holds emotional experiences and the meaning we assigned to them from childhood.
Whether traumatic or relatively carefree, all of us have been shaped by the experiences of our childhood. While many were positive and aided in our growth, other experiences instilled patterns and beliefs in our minds that hold us back and no longer serve us. As children, when our emotional needs were not met or we misunderstood our role in certain situations, we often assigned meaning to those experiences and created a story around them.
Here’s an example – Dad comes home from work every day in a grumpy mood. As children, we may not understand that dad has a lot of stress at work and finances are tight. Instead, we may assign a different meaning to dad’s grumpiness that we’re not worthy of Dad’s love or we’re a burden to Dad. And this becomes a pattern and a story we tell ourselves. Then, into adulthood, we may find ourselves in a similar situation when a partner or loved one comes home in a bad mood, we revert back to that same story or thought pattern we developed as a child, where that wounded part of self feels unworthy or like a burden.
When we react from the place within us that is still wounded from childhood, we may find ourselves using the same habitual reactions and coping mechanisms we did as children. By bringing awareness, understanding and compassion to these wounded parts of self, we can begin to heal and assign new meaning to these experiences.
You may be thinking, how do I know what my inner child wounds are?
We can often identify our inner child wounds by looking at our triggers – times when we have a disproportionate emotional reaction to something that generally would not cause such intense emotions. Or, emotional patterns that seem to repeat over and over in our lives, causing us much sadness, fear, pain or suffering. It’s important to note that remembering the specific childhood experience that created the wound is not required in order to heal it.
So, what do we do to heal and support our inner child?
The first step is awareness and acceptance that we all have a facet of our personality that is childlike.
Next, understand that our inner child is and has always been trying to help us or protect us in some way, while also recognizing that way may no longer serve us, and often holds us back.
The third step is to validate the feelings and emotions that are coming up when you are having an emotional reaction or trigger, and the meaning you’ve attached to them. Give your inner self the compassion, love and support you would a small child asking you for help. It may take some curiosity and exploration to identify the deeper meaning or story.
Then, ask yourself what the child within needs.
Finally, find ways to meet those needs for yourself and the child within. This will begin to heal and unravel the story you’ve been telling yourself about these types of experiences since childhood.
I like to create a visual in my mind’s eye of my inner child and have an interaction with her. Personifying the emotions and feelings that come up with a visual of a child helps the mind accept and work with you rather than against you in the process. Validate how the child is feeling, even if it seems illogical to your more mature, developed adult mind. These are true feelings that reside within you, and they are very real. Then ask this child within what he or she needs, ensuring you will work to support and meet those needs. Let them know you will always be there for them, to support, love and help them. This type of visualizing may not feel natural at first, but with practice, it can become very normal, natural and healing to create a relationship with your inner child in this way.
It’s important to remember that this work is not always easy or linear, so please try not to get frustrated as you explore, observe and discern your inner child’s emotional reactions and underlying unmet needs. With consistent effort and a commitment to the work, we can meet our long-held unmet needs, shift our mindset and response, while supporting and loving the child within.
Creating a relationship with my inner child has been one of the most eye opening, rewarding, and healing aspects of my journey, and I hope you will consider giving it a try.