By Jennifer McDougall
Your inner child is defined in popular psychology as an individual’s childlike subpersonality. This does not mean acting childish but rather connecting with the child within you that holds the original version of yourself. The inner child often conducts many aspects of one’s childhood. This includes happy moments, sadness, traumatic situations, and unresolved conflicts of an individual’s past. Canadian psychoanalyst Eric Berne coined the term inner child. It’s a term often used in therapy to help people dig deep into their childhood to discover and heal the underlying conditions of their current struggles.
Everything else in life becomes more apparent when you understand why you are the way you are. For example, it would help if you began to understand why you react a certain way in particular situations, why you may have co-dependent relationships, or a strong desire to latch on to people for a sense of belonging and security. This all stems from your inner child– they deserve and need the healing they have been longing for.
How to Connect With Your Inner Child
- Close your eyes and visualize what you enjoyed as a child
- Write a letter to your much younger self expressing comfort, reassurance, and guidance
- Look at photos of yourself when you were a child
- Walk barefoot in the grass
- Go swimming during the day
- Share stories of your childhood with a trusted friend
- Distance yourself from toxic relationships to discover inward clarity
- Watch your favorite childhood movies to bring back tender memories
- Connect with a few childhood friends to remind you of what things were like “back in the day.”
- Visit your childhood home
If you are unsure if you have unresolved issues from your childhood, here are several signs:
- You have people-pleasing tendencies
- You feel more alive when you’re in conflict with others
- You feel guilty for standing up for yourself
- You have substance abuse-related issues
- You lack the courage to speak up for yourself due to the fear of rejection and ridicule
- You allow people to walk on and abuse you
- You work hard to overachieve
- You are generally afraid of people and try to avoid them at every cost
- You struggle to say “no”
- You feel depressed and lonely oftentimes
- You rarely trust anyone, including yourself
- You desperately seek validation or approval
- You feel afraid to do things alone
- You are extremely critical of yourself and others
- You quickly assume the worst in every situation
- You experience a great deal of anxiety around other people
- You’re afraid to be yourself – personal style, career, the car you drive, clothes you wear, friends you interact with and entertain
- You bottle up your emotions in fear of expressing yourself
- You date a certain type of person because that’s who you’re parents want you to be with
- You engage in sexual activity that you don’t actually want to do
Examples of Childhood Trauma
- Being struck, hit, or paddled, by your parents/grandparents/guardian (physical punishment)
- Experiencing an emotional unavaliable parent
- Not being fed or given a safe place to live
- Being called names by your parents or caretakers
- Child of divorce
- Any form of verbal, physical, or emotional abuse
- Involvement in a major car crash
- Witnessing the death of a loved one
- Being shown pornography as a child, or being the recipient of rape, molestation, any sexual contact (especially from a parent or relative)
- If your personal belongings were damaged intentionally by a parent or caretaker
- Abandonment (if your parent or caregiver ran out or left you alone for long periods of time without a babysitter)
- Being used to commit a crime
- Forced to relocate at a young age
- Witnessing or being the victim of a parent’s substance abuse
Many people experienced trauma as a child. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not your fault. We were born into this world, assuming we would be cared for by a mother and father who could provide us with safety, security, guidance, and protection. Unfortunately, not everyone’s parents follow through on their responsibility to give us the proper tools we need for a healthy and stable upbringing. As a result, many children find themselves neglected, abused, or abandoned.
Some cases are more extreme than others. Some people don’t realize how much abuse and neglect they endured as a child until they became an adult. This usually happens while an individual seeks deeper meaning, healing, and inner change.
Many people live daily with a paralyzing fear; they can’t quite cut the ties from discomfort and weight of unhappiness. On the other hand, some people have healed from the past and share their transformation experiences. Where ever you are on your journey, keep going.
Let the Healing Begin
When you have connected with your inner child and have reached the point where you are ready to begin healing, here are some helpful tips to get started. Also, be sure to check out the guided meditation at the bottom of the blog for more profound healing.
- Document a timeline of your childhood (0-9 months, 9 months-3 years, 3 years-6 years, 6 years-12 years) Include the language your parents and teachers used to interact with you, senses that stand out during each phase, major changes or events that happened during each phase
- Write a letter TO and FROM your inner child
- Meditate on positive affirmations (I will protect you against harm. I believe in you. You’re allowed to say no. It’s okay to speak up. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are enough. You have the courage to be yourself.)
- Practice a visual meditation of meeting your childhood self. Sit in a quiet space for 20-30 minutes. Close your eyes. Imagine walking up to your childhood self and observe the feeling you get when you see yourself there. Visualize yourself playing and having a conversation with your younger self at your childhood home. Ask him/her questions about what’s happening in school, at home, with friends, any hopes or dreams of the future. Listen to the feedback your younger self tells you with an open heart and let it sink in a bit. Let him/her know that you are there to support, love, protect, and encourage him/her. As you process your interaction, pay close attention to every feeling that enters your body. Afterward, write down a page about your experience.
- Take responsibility for your emotional-wellbeing by being your own protector and create healthy boundaries to keep toxic people at a distance.
- Observe and respond, rather than immediately reacting. If something triggers you, makes you upset, or causes you to feel uneasy– observe how you feel, pause, take 3 deep breaths, and consider a thoughtful response without impulse.
- Create a clear policy for yourself for what you will and will not accept from other people. Then train them on how to treat you with respect.
- Schedule time with a professional therapist or life coach to work through deeply tribulated childhood trauma, such as what we offer at Passages Addiction Treatment Centers.
- Daily journaling using shadow work prompts and soul reconstruction
- Spiritual therapy such as what is offered at Passages Addiction Treatment Centers
How to Contact Passages Addiction Treatment Centers:
Call Passages Addiction Treatment Centers today if you or a loved one is battling an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Our admissions department is available 24/7 and can be reached directly by calling our toll-free number at (888) 397-0112. We look forward to speaking with you soon.