If you are unfamiliar with the concept of healing your inner child, come take a seat, and let’s chat. Those of us who are in therapy, or at the very least on therapy-tok, have probably heard of the term “inner child” numerous times before. What exactly is your inner child? According to Sheri Jacobson, “the general idea is that we all have a childlike aspect within our unconscious mind. The inner child can be seen as a ‘subpersonality,’ a side of your character that can take over when you are faced with a challenge.” A lot of the trauma that we face as adults can be linked back to our childhood. Oftentimes, these traumas manifest as negative traits or ways of handling conflict that can create less than ideal outcomes for us and those around us. For instance, if you find yourself having a breakdown after your boyfriend leaves for a weekend business trip, it could very well be linked to abandonment issues that were formed during the early years of your life. The famous psychologist Carl Jung is credited for being the first to use the term “inner child” and claimed that this archetype consists of “what is learned and experienced in the earliest years of a person’s life.” Our inner child influences our decisions and behaviors in life and can manifest negatively if they are traumatized, wounded or anxious.
If you are unsure about whether or not you have suppressed trauma from childhood, that is OK. Sometimes things affect us, and we are not even aware that those events have still hurt us. The trauma does not even have to be something major; many types of interactions from when we were younger can have a large role in our lives as adults. Seemingly “normal” parts of growing up can manifest in strange ways as adults, such as fighting with siblings a lot during childhood or having over or under-protective parents. Some ways to tell if your inner child is wounded is if you have trouble with boundaries, you have a harsh inner critic, you have a weakened sense of self, you are highly anxious, you need constant reassurance or you have difficulty with strong emotions. Most of us do have a wounded inner child, and it is nothing to feel ashamed of or embarrassed about. The important thing is recognizing it and working toward healing it so that you can have a healthy adult life.
If you believe your past may have been traumatic for you, connecting to and healing your inner child can be immensely beneficial. Now, how exactly should you go about healing your inner child? Inner child work is basically about parenting yourself and treating yourself gently. Try hugging yourself tightly and saying phrases like “I love you! I am so proud of you!” It might seem silly, but it can bring a lot of comfort. Another way to tune into your inner child is to allow yourself to be playful and joyful. Maybe take yourself to the playground and run around like you did when you were a kid. I took a yoga class recently, and they let us play around with blocks and blankets. I did feel silly for a moment, but then it put me at ease, allowing me to look back fondly on my childhood and remember what it felt like to be a kid. There are a variety of ways to connect and start healing your inner child, you just have to find what works best for you whether it is through journaling with prompts, meditating or talking to a therapist. The first step is recognizing that there is that inner child inside of you that acts out when you feel emotions such as anxiety, insecurity, shame, abandonment or anger.
The benefits and goals of healing your inner child are simply to connect to the past, acknowledge your feelings from a new perspective and work through it so that you can move on. Healing your inner child will allow you to think back fondly to childhood and remember the joys of being young. We can allow ourselves to feel safe and comfortable so that we can “unlock our natural gifts, our inner curiosity, and our limitless capacity to love.”