I admit it. I thought the concept of the “inner child” was a little too “out there” until a year ago when I was facing a clinical depression. Sparing you the gory details, I had an epiphany during those days of sitting in my favorite chair, snuggling my doggies. I realized that I had not recognized and dealt with some significant issues from my childhood. My inner child needed some serious acceptance, nurturing, love and compassion. Who knew?
If you think about it from the perspective of memories, it isn’t a stretch to recognize that at different developmental stages, you have different understandings of the world and your place in it. The child you were at seven had different experiences and a different ability to understand those experiences than the adult you are now. Your inner child represents the sum of your experiences, emotions and beliefs from your childhood. It embodies the innocence, wonder and vulnerability you possessed during that time.
The concept of the “inner child” usually refers to the wounded and vulnerable aspects of ourselves that originated from childhood experiences. For individuals who have experienced neglect, trauma or pain during their formative years, these buried emotions often resurface in adulthood, impacting their mental, emotional and even physical well-being. Recognizing and healing the wounds of your inner child is a powerful journey towards reclaiming your self-worth, fostering self-compassion and breaking free from the limitations of the past.
Strategies to Heal Your Inner Child
Begin your healing journey by developing self-awareness. Take time to reflect on your childhood experiences, acknowledging any pain, neglect or trauma that affected you during that time (e.g., your inner child). Understand the patterns, beliefs and behaviors that stem from these experiences. Journaling, therapy or guided meditations can aid in fostering self-awareness and understanding.
2. Inner Child Work
Engage in inner child work, a therapeutic practice focused on healing the wounds of your inner child. This process involves connecting with your inner child through visualization exercises, dialogue or expressive arts. Consider seeking professional support from therapists or counselors who specialize in this.
3. Emotional Release
Allow yourself to feel and express the emotions associated with your inner child’s wounds. Participate in activities that encourage emotional release, such as dancing, painting or practicing mindfulness. Sometimes even watching a sad movie can serve as a safe trigger for this catharsis.
4. Self-Compassion and Self-Care
Practice self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness, understanding and forgiveness. Embrace self-care practices that nourish your mind, body and soul. Prioritize activities that bring you joy, such as taking walks in nature, practicing yoga or meditation or indulging in hobbies.
5. Read Books on Inner Child Healing
Educate yourself on the topic of inner child healing through insightful books written by experts in the field.
“The Drama of the Gifted Child” by Alice Miller
“Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child” by John Bradshaw
“Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families” by Charles L. Whitfield
“The Inner Child Workbook: What to Do with Your Past When It Just Won’t Go Away” by Cathryn L. Taylor
“The Power of Your Childlike Spirit: 8 Empowering Practices to Reclaim the Passion, Joy, and Innocence of Childhood” by Marisa Peer
Healing your inner child is courageous and transformative work. By acknowledging the wounds of your past, nurturing self-compassion and engaging in inner child work, you can pave the way for profound healing, self-discovery and personal growth.