Healing the Child Within: Connecting with your Inner Child
Healing your inner child offers a direct line to healing your present-day self.
Your inner child is a younger version of you, tucked away within your subconscious.
When you connect with the child within, it allows you to connect with the underlying cause of your present-day pain.
Read on to learn about why connecting with your inner child is so important for growth and healing, and discover 5 ways to start connecting with your inner child today.
What is the inner child?
During childhood, we’re incredibly impressionable. We give a lot of meaning to and place weight upon the way our caretakers interact with us. The things they teach us, based on their own fears and limitations, as well as the way they treat us, can leave significant wounds within us.
Growing up without emotional support means we internalise these wounds rather than working through them in the moment.
The things that happened to us when we were younger, big or small, still live within us today if they were never addressed. It can be something really simple or seemingly insignificant that forms the way we view ourselves, other people, or our place in the world.
Many people try to push things down or out of their minds, but unfortunately, that only buries the pain even deeper.
Conversely, that suppressed pain can come out in the most unexpected of moments.
The suppressed pain can also come out as drug or alcohol abuse, eating disorders, trouble with toxic relationships, and more.
So many of our struggles can be worked through when we face the inner child within us that is pleading for help.
Your inner child consists of previous versions of you that still exist within you.
The inner child that affects our present-day adult lives can mirror any age from our youth, whether it's our 5-year-old self, our 11-year-old self, or even our teenage self.
Why it is important to connect with your inner child
When we heal our inner child, we address our emotional needs that weren’t met and fulfilled when we were young.
This lack of emotional support in our childhood affected us in a variety of ways that could be negatively impacting us today.
The pain of the inner child can hold us back from experiencing growth and healing. It can weigh us down in ways that we aren’t even aware of.
When we create a safe and secure environment in our lives that allows our inner child to feel validated, comforted, and listened to, we’re able to release the negative coping mechanisms we developed when our inner child felt neglected.
Healing the inner child allows us to experience deep healing and growth, so we can live a free and fulfilling life.
How does your inner child affect you today?
The inner child serves as a tie to past pain, neglect, and trauma.
When something happens in our present-day lives that triggers us and we can’t fully understand why, it may be because our inner child was triggered.
For instance, let’s say when you were younger, you were criticised if you cried. You were essentially developing the belief that you weren’t allowed to feel sadness, or express sadness in this way.
As a child, this could have made you feel invalidated, unsupported, or even weak. You didn’t have an environment that made you feel safe to have and express emotions of sadness.
Fast forward to today, and you still have trouble allowing yourself to feel and express sadness. You push it down, and use unhealthy coping mechanisms to try to feel something better.
The pain your inner child felt when they were told not to cry has stayed with you, and continues to manifest in your life in a myriad of ways.
Having your emotional needs not only unmet, but also ignored, when you were a child could have resulted in you having low self-esteem and low self-worth. You feel inherently less than for having regular human emotions.
You ignore your own emotional needs as an adult, repressing any emotions that may be difficult to face.
As you can see, our inner child has a significant impact on how we move through our world today. By healing our inner child, we also heal our present-day selves as well.
Signs your inner child needs healing
If you’re wondering whether your inner child needs healing, there are many signs to look out for.
Some of these signs are as follows:
- Being highly reactive. This means that something simple or otherwise seemingly insignificant situation can set us off emotionally. For instance, your partner doesn’t answer your phone call. You then begin to spiral emotionally and mentally because your inner child suffers from abandonment.
- Harmful coping mechanisms. This means engaging in coping skills that don’t allow you to work through your emotions. Instead they contribute to pushing them down. This can include substance use and binge eating. Lesser-known negative coping mechanisms such as working all the time can also come into play.
- Unstable mental and emotional health. Not feeling safe as a child, whether mentally, emotionally, or physically, can contribute to the development of mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.
- Unhealthy patterns in your relationships. This can mean constantly getting into relationships with the same type of person, who isn’t good for you. Toxic relationship patterns can actually mirror the relationships we had with our caregivers in childhood. Some examples of unhealthy relationship patterns can look like constantly thinking your partner is going to leave you, gaslighting yourself or your partner and creating problems when there aren’t any, or being dismissive or avoidant when a conflict does arise.
How to recognise when your inner child is surfacing
A great way to become aware of when your inner child is coming out is to pay attention to the things that trigger you.
You’ll come to find that there is a pattern in regards to the things that trigger you.
When you become triggered, you may experience emotions such as:
When these emotions arise, try to pay attention to what sparked that feeling within you. It can be difficult to look beyond the present situation that triggered it. Usually, when such strong feelings are evoked, there is something more behind it.
If you find that you’ve been triggered to have one or more of these emotions, try to reflect back on a time when you were younger and you felt this way.
After becoming more and more aware of the patterns and how they’re tied back to your youth, you’ll realise that certain situations trigger such strong reactions within you because your inner child is feeling the hurt all over again.
How to start healing the inner child
The inner child lies within the subconscious. Engaging in practises that allow us to look inward and tap into the subconscious mind will allow us to connect with our inner child.
The inner child is continuing to get hurt and so deeply affected by present-day situations because its needs weren’t met in the past.
As an adult, you now have the opportunity to reparent your inner child. You get to connect with your inner child and provide them with everything you wish you would have received emotionally when you were younger.
Facing our inner child can be painful. For once, we’re pushing back against our coping mechanisms and allowing our subconscious feelings to come to the surface without shoving them down. We’re facing some really difficult and painful emotions head-on.
It’s critical to actually sit with the emotions when they come up, instead of pushing them down and continuing to quieten the inner child.
For some who may have experienced significant trauma, it may be best to do inner child work with a trained therapist or counsellor who can safely guide you through the process.
Below are 5 ways for you to begin working on healing your inner child:
The first step towards healing your inner child is acknowledging your inner child. It may feel silly at first, but say hi to your inner child. Observe how your inner child feels, and what they need. Acknowledge what the inner child’s feelings were, and validate them. Oftentimes, children don’t feel heard or validated. Let your inner child know that you hear them, and that you are listening. And then, when situations arise that trigger your inner child, console them.
2. Write a letter
An exercise to help you connect with your inner child is to write a letter to them. Create a dialogue and ask your inner child how they are feeling. Nurture them, and write in a way that makes them feel safe and loved. This creates the space inside yourself for your inner child to respond. Provide them with validation by letting them know, “I love you, I hear you, I’m sorry you went through this, I’ll take care of you now.” Tell your inner child that you intend to help them and heal their wounds. You can also try writing a letter to your inner child after something happens that reminds you of when you were a child. This gives you and your inner child an opportunity to explore these emotions in a safe space.
Meditation serves many purposes when it comes to healing the inner child. One reason is that meditation helps foster self-awareness. This will help you become more mindful of how you’re feeling throughout the day. It’ll also help you become more aware of when you’re getting triggered. Practising meditation can also help you learn how to sit with difficult emotions, which is important when engaging with your inner child. Listening to guided meditations specifically for healing the inner child can also be a very powerful exercise. These can be found with a quick Youtube search, and a great example of one of these meditations can be found below:
Instead of the previous tip in which you write a letter to your inner child, this tip focuses on giving your inner child a voice. Just as journaling helps many people declutter their minds and organise the chaos of their thoughts and emotions, it can also help give clarity to your inner child and the feelings they experienced. Write from your inner child’s point of view, and let them take the lead. Allow the inner child to fully and freely express themselves without feeling a need to filter anything. Let your inner child share how they feel and express what they need. Journaling as your inner child can also help you become aware of negative patterns that developed in childhood.
5. Talk to someone
If you experienced significant trauma in your trauma, it’s best to seek the help of a therapist or counsellor when doing inner child healing work. This is because the nature of healing the inner child inherently brings with it many difficult emotions to face. When you’re not equipped to manage these emotions, it can become very challenging and can cause you to respond by reaching for a negative coping mechanism. Connecting with your inner child alongside a therapist or counsellor ensures that you can freely explore this part of yourself in a safe, secure, and supportive environment.
A final note on healing your inner child
Healing work isn’t a linear process. Be gracious with yourself, as we don’t heal deep-rooted wounds overnight.
Fortunately, as you do this work, it gets easier and easier. You’ll find yourself becoming less and less triggered, as life becomes more and more peaceful. Joining a mutual aid group such as Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional families can also immensely help with the healing process.
Also, always remember that your past doesn’t define you. At any given moment, you have the choice to decide who you're going to be.
Author - Thurga
Adult Children of Alcoholics - ACOA: Healing From Childhood Trauma
6. Adult children of alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families: https://adultchildren.org