Embracing healing: strategies and practices for reconnecting with the inner child
- Embracing healing: strategies and practices for reconnecting with the inner child
- The concept of the “inner child.”
- Connecting and healing the inner child
- Theoretical background
- The psychological theories behind the inner child concept
- How childhood trauma affects the inner child and adult behaviours
- Characteristics of the inner child in trauma survivors
- Recognizing the inner child
- Signs and symptoms indicating a wounded inner child
- The importance of the inner child in trauma therapy
- Methods to connect with the inner child
- Self-reflection and journaling
- Art and Creative Therapies
- Psychotherapy approaches
- Expert views and clinical evidence
- Exercise: Discover your negative beliefs from childhood
- Find out your core beliefs
- Find your way out!
- Exercise: Discover your positive beliefs from childhood
- Exercise: Connect your positive beliefs with your inner child
- More exercises
- Resources and further reading
- Key theorists and psychologists involved in work with the inner child include:
- More books
The concept of the “inner child.”
The “inner child” concept refers to a part of your personality deeply rooted in childhood experiences and influences. It contains the sum of early childhood impressions, including positive and negative experiences. The inner child is the part of your memory that carries emotions, fears, desires, and wounds from your childhood. It encompasses your child’s self, authentic nature, and innate qualities such as curiosity, spontaneity, creativity, and playfulness. As it used to be in the past, even within a grownup, the inner child is highly sensitive, instinctual, and in touch with emotions. It holds your deepest emotions, needs, and vulnerabilities. However, due to societal expectations or parental conditioning, many individuals suppress or neglect their inner child.
Connecting and healing the inner child
Healing the inner child involves reconnecting with and nurturing this part of ourselves, acknowledging and processing past wounds, and reawakening the qualities of joy, creativity, and spontaneity within you. It requires providing love, compassion, and support to the inner child through re-parenting and self-care. By embracing your inner child, we can tap into your authentic self and experience greater self-acceptance, emotional healing, and personal growth.
That care for the inner child is called re-parenting. It is an essential part of trauma healing and helps individuals acknowledge and address the emotional wounds and unresolved traumas from childhood that continue to impact their lives. By connecting with the inner child, they can provide all the care, love, and support that have been missing during their early years.
Re-parenting the inner child involves showing the respect, dignity, and love one always deserves. It includes learning good self-care and allowing oneself to receive love from others. By offering this nurturing and supportive environment to the inner child, individuals can heal the emotional wounds and traumas that childhood experiences may have caused.
When individuals contact and help their inner child, they can release negative emotions and discover their aptitudes and hidden gifts. That will improve relationships and easing of addictions. It also deepens the connection with one’s true self and the understanding of personal desires and needs.
Fortunately, while there are countless experiences of neglect and abuse at the base of childhood trauma, there is no need to awaken and work through each of them to heal. Yet, caring for the inner child allows for working through those repressed events and emotions that drive repetition compulsion and cognitive distortions in CPTSD. By truthfully looking at them, individuals can resolve them once and for all.
The psychological theories behind the inner child concept
The inner child concept is grounded in psychological theories that explore the various aspects of the personality and how they are shaped during childhood. It recognizes that childhood experiences greatly influence emotional and psychological well-being as adults. Several psychological theories have contributed to developing and understanding the inner child concept.
Sigmund Freud’s theory is one of the foundational theories that inform the inner child concept. Freud divided the personality into the id, ego, and superego. The id represents the part of your psyche driven by basic instincts and desires. The ego represents the rational and conscious part of your mind that mediates between the id and the superego. The superego represents your internalized moral standards and societal norms. While Freud did not explicitly use the term “inner child,” his ideas regarding the id’s unconscious desires and the influence of early childhood experiences laid the foundation for the inner child concept.
Developed by Eric Berne, Transactional Analysis also plays a significant role in understanding the inner child. Berne proposed that your psyche comprises three ego states: the Parent, Adult, and Child. The Child ego state corresponds to the inner child and encompasses your emotions, instincts, and early imprints from childhood experiences. Transactional Analysis recognizes that your behaviour can be influenced by the childlike or childish aspects within you, which are often shaped by early experiences.
Voice Dialogue, developed by Hal Stone and Sidra Winkelman, further expanded on the inner child concept. They proposed that the psyche consists of various sub-personalities, with the Inner Child being one of them. Voice Dialogue emphasizes the importance of conscious awareness and acceptance of these sub-personalities, including the Inner Child, to enable personal growth and healing.
Additionally, psychologists such as Donald Winnicott and Carl G. Jung have contributed to understanding the inner child concept. Winnicott explored the concept of the True Self, which can be equated with the inner child or Real Self. He highlighted the importance of nurturing and authentic self-expression to promote psychological well-being. On the other hand, Jung emphasized the integration of your inner aspects, including the wounded inner child, to achieve individuation and psychological wholeness.
How childhood trauma affects the inner child and adult behaviours
Childhood trauma has a profound impact on both the inner child and adult behaviours. When individuals experience childhood trauma, such as physical, sexual, or verbal violence, abuse, neglect, or disrupted attachments, the inner child holds onto the painful experiences and emotions.
As individuals mature into adolescence and young adulthood, they develop coping mechanisms to navigate their inner and outer environments. However, the inner child continues to carry the trauma, which influences every aspect of their adult life, including professional and academic environments, romantic relationships, and friendships. For instance, individuals who lack healthy boundaries in childhood may struggle with establishing boundaries in adult relationships, finding it challenging to form authentic connections due to fear of abandonment and a fragmented sense of self.
Childhood trauma regularly represses emotions of anger, grief, and fear, causing the inner child to hold onto these complicated feelings. These unresolved emotions may manifest as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or other mental health disorders in adulthood. Additionally, trauma survivors develop maladaptive patterns of thinking and behaviour shaped by their early experiences based on their early 4F reactions. These patterns form what is called their trauma identity, comprising difficulties trusting others, expressing true feelings in intimate relationships, or seeking validation through external achievements.
Healing the inner child allows the mature adult to develop a conscious and balanced relationship with themselves, similar to a good parent caring for their child. That includes providing healthy discipline, limits, boundaries, and structure. By nurturing the inner child and building self-esteem, the adult becomes able to break through his repetition compulsion, grow out of their trauma identity, and instead access joy, playfulness, and self-empowerment. Healing the inner child will facilitate the release of toxic relationships and create fulfilling connections based on unconditional love and genuine authenticity.
Characteristics of the inner child in trauma survivors
Childhood trauma disturbs the emergence of an integrated self and results in difficulties in resolving emotional challenges and experiencing fulfilment. The characteristics of the inner child in survivors of childhood trauma, therefore, include specific characteristics.
- Developmental Arrest: Childhood abuse and neglect will cause developmental arrest, where the maturation process of the inner child is suspended at distinct stages of development. That may even lead to there being multiple inner children at different developmental stages.
- Forced to be miniature adults: Many survivors of childhood trauma were forced at an early age to become small adults and to reject their childlike characteristics. They may have been pressured to act like grownups and to dislike their inner children.
- Repressed emotions: Due to experiences of rejection and abuse, inner children in survivors of childhood trauma tend to hide their feelings for the horrible abandonment deep inside. That repression of intense emotions can lead to what is called emotional dysregulation and repeated cycles of self-sabotage.
- Sensitivity and vulnerability: The inner child represents our sensitive and vulnerable part. The absence of love, safety, trust, respect, and guidance during childhood naturally brings about chronic anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, and despair in the inner child.
- Need for safety and protection: Understanding the impact of childhood trauma, survivors come to see how much their inner child needs care protection. They recognize the need to create a safe and supportive environment to help their inner child heal.
- Unfulfilled childhood needs: Upon meeting their inner child, survivors often discover that their childhood needs for love, safety, trust, respect, and guidance were unmet. The absence of these primary conditions is the reason for their emotional and physical problems in adulthood.
- Healing through recognition and experience: Healing the inner child involves recognizing and experiencing its presence. By nurturing and supporting the inner child, survivors can reconnect with their joyful qualities, playfulness, awe, curiosity, and other positive aspects of childhood.
Recognizing the inner child
Signs and symptoms indicating a wounded inner child
Signs and symptoms indicating a wounded inner child are all parts of the trauma identity. Their list is long and includes chronic pain and dissatisfaction in various areas of life, obsessive worry and fear, addiction to rage and criticism, accident-proneness, co-dependency or compulsive rescue/control of others, chronic depression, boredom, or creative blocks, feeling vulnerable and in need of nurturing and protection, physical symptoms such as fatigue, aches, pains, and illness, expressions of sorrow, grief, or fear, tears and a strong impulse to hide or be sheltered, feeling scared of big people, feeling small and not taken seriously, feelings of being hurt and made fun of by others, experiencing difficulty in expressing feelings, psychic numbing, decreased ability to recognize and express feelings, decreased interest in important life activities, difficulty in telling one’s story and expressing feelings around it, difficulty in identifying and expressing anger, and engaging in childish behaviours such as throwing temper tantrums, being overly polite and obedient, speaking in a childlike voice, manipulating, and pouting.
The importance of the inner child in trauma therapy
Acknowledging the inner child is essential for several reasons.
Firstly, recognizing and acknowledging the existence of the inner child is the first step in healing. When the inner child remains unconscious, its ongoing suffering will overpower the adult personality and have a significant impact on their emotions and behaviour. By bringing the inner child into conscious awareness, individuals can begin to understand the effects of childhood experiences and family dynamics on their present-day lives.
Secondly, acknowledging the inner child allows for compassionate healing. By valuing and respecting the inner child, individuals can offer empathy and understanding for what they went through in their childhood. That compassionate approach helps create an ongoing dialogue between the adult and inner child, allowing for the confrontation of old pain and unfulfilled needs.
Furthermore, building a conscious and balanced relationship between the inner child and the adult personality is crucial for emotional wellness. Just as a good parent relates to a child, the adult part of the personality must provide healthy discipline, limits, boundaries, and structure to the inner child. That relationship allows the inner child and the adult to access joy, playfulness, and emotional well-being.
Offering understanding, compassion, and love to oneself is essential for the healing process after childhood trauma. Engaging in intentional self-care and self-compassion, motivated by self-discovery, is greatly supported by inner child work, and promotes lasting emotional wellness.
Methods to connect with the inner child
As individual uniqueness would suggest, there are countless ways to connect with one’s inner child, mainly as each pattern of childhood trauma is unique, too.
Meditation: Connecting to your inner child through meditation is a passive process. Simply breathe deeply, relax, allow yourself to witness your thoughts, and ask your question.
Visualization: Create a “safe place” or power place in your mind using your memories or imagination, such as a beautiful garden or any place where you feel safe and empowered. After entering your power place, invite your inner child to speak with you. Connect with your inner child and earlier life traumas during your visualization.
Inner journey: Make an inner journey by relaxing, closing your eyes, and imagining yourself walking down a staircase into your power place. Invite your younger self into your power place, ask your inner child a question, and await their response. Go on a journey through the mountains and caves of your heart to befriend, heal, and nurture your inner child.
Talk to your inner child: Make a habit of talking to your inner child through direct communication or by asking questions and writing down the responses in a journal.
(Please note, consult with your counsellor, and use visualization and meditating with care if you are habitually using dissociation (brain fog) to cope with emotional dysregulation.)
Mirror gazing technique: Use the mirror gazing technique alongside inner child work to open your heart instantly and connect with your inner child. Find a mirror, place your hand gently on your heart, and gaze softly at yourself. That technique allows for a direct connection with your inner child.
Look at pictures of yourself as a child: Go through old photo albums and recreate what you loved to do as a child. That helps reconnect with your inner child and remind yourself of their presence.
Reconnect with what you loved to do as a child: Recreate the activities you loved to do as a child in your present life. For example, if you love climbing trees or playing with toy blocks, try these activities in your current life.
Self-reflection and journaling
Journaling is a potent tool to work with your inner child. Here are some ways to use it:
Me-time: Journaling is a self-nurturing activity that allows you to spend time alone and access your intuition. It can aid in making wise decisions realistic plans and unearthing dormant passions and interests.
Dialogue with your inner child: Engage in conversations with your inner child through your journal. That can help you connect with and understand the needs and emotions of your inner child, fostering healing and self-discovery.
Keep an inner child journal: Alongside general journaling, keeping a separate internal child journal is suggested. That journal helps you write honestly about your struggles and offers a perspective on your healing journey’s progress. It can remind you how far you have come and motivate you to keep going.
Venting feelings: Journaling provides a safe space to express and release your emotions. You can write about your frustrations, sadness, anger, or any other intense emotions. Through writing, you bypass the constant head chatter and rationalization and tap into the truth of your real stories within.
Recording dreams and dialogue: Use your journal to record and explore your dreams. It helps you access your intuition, make wise decisions, and unleash dormant passions and interests.
Addressing depression: Many individuals find journaling particularly helpful in dealing with depression. By freely writing about your gloom and focusing on the impressions that come to your mind, you may uncover suppressed sadness or anger you have ignored. Grieving these feelings through writing can be therapeutic and often helps lift the depression.
Therapeutic reminders: Journaling is a way to record jokes, anecdotes, incidents that make you laugh, or anything that brings joy to your life. These entries are heartening reminders during bleak times and can help lift your spirits. Consider pasting pictures of something meaningful to you on each journal page.
Recovery journal: Keeping a recovery journal can benefit trauma survivors. It allows you to document your experiences and discoveries during your healing journey.
Affirm yourself: Use your recovery journal to affirm yourself and build self-compassion. Write affirmations or positive statements about yourself to counter negative self-talk or self-doubt.
Art and Creative Therapies
Creativity plays a significant role in expressing and healing the inner child. It allows the vulnerable, feeling, spontaneous, and creative self within you to be seen and heard. By accessing and nurturing your inner child’s creativity, you can establish a deep connection with your true self and heal various aspects of your life. Engaging in creative activities like poetry or therapeutic writing externalizes inner processes. The book “Healing the Child Within” explores multiple techniques, including storytelling, group therapy, and experiential approaches, to facilitate grieving for ungrieved losses and traumas. These techniques help heal the wounded inner child and bring forth the hidden potential within you.
Music, collages, pottery, sculpting, drawing, writing, play, or dance are other expressive outlets and powerful tools to specifically express content that cannot be mentalized or put into words. All these activities provide a safe space for your inner child to express himself, leading to a sense of rejuvenation, joy, and self-discovery.
Capacchione’s work as an art therapist and her experiences with clients support the evidence that inner child healing is generally linked to creativity. In her book “Recovery of Your Inner Child”, Lucia Capacchione emphasizes the importance of allowing the inner child’s creativity to flow freely. Thus, the inner child can find its voice and guide your growth.
Furthermore, nurturing and rehabilitating the inner child allows for re-emerging joyful qualities associated with childhood, such as playfulness, curiosity, and awe. Creating space for creativity, play, and connection with nature can nurture these qualities and bring a sense of wonder and magic back into your lives.
Especially the inner child journal contributes through affirmations and positive self-talk to nurturing the inner child, rewiring the brain to replace negative self-perceptions with more loving ones.
Capacchione, therefore, mainly emphasizes the importance of consciously experiencing your inner child as a real living presence and reclaiming childlike feelings and sensitivity for healing.
Inner child work involves resolving emotions and trauma held by a hidden child with the help of a qualified person such as a therapist or spiritual leader. The purpose of inner child work is to get in contact with, listen to, and nurture the inner child to find and heal the issues faced in adulthood. That healing process is meant to release destructive emotions and discover hidden talents and gifts.
Psychotherapy approaches like Psychoanalytical, Cognitive Behavioural, Narrative Therapy, or EMDR focus on self-discovery and healing emotions and memories that were repressed. Therefore, these psychotherapy approaches should be incorporated into inner child work to explore further and resolve trauma and emotions related to the inner child’s experiences.
Expert views and clinical evidence
The clinical evidence for inner child work suggests that it can positively affect emotional recovery and self-transformation. Working with the inner child acknowledges the recognition of urges and responses in individuals that echo past experiences. Engaging in inner child work helps to learn to love and accept yourself with all your flaws, although these benefits may not be experienced immediately and require dedicated work.
Finding a trusted person, such as a therapist, spiritual leader, or a supportive friend, is crucial, who can guide you through inner child work.
Here are some well-known exercises for working with your inner child.
Exercise: Discover your negative beliefs from childhood
For this task, you will need a fresh sheet of paper and coloured pens, pencils, or markers.
Please draw a child’s outline. Make your drawing look as good as you can. You can decorate the whole sheet however you want and give your child a face and other traits.
- Remember at least one time when you were young and one of your parents did something you thought was evil. Maybe because you felt ignored, hurt, or put down. They might not have been there for you, or you didn’t feel your needs or problems were being heard or taken seriously.
- Now, think of terms that fit this specific situation. How did your parent act? Mean, cold, overprotective, clingy, indifferent, weak, overly indulgent, too compliant, inconsistent, dependent on others, self-centred, unbalanced, moody, unpredictable, domineering, anxious, pretentious, arrogant, very strict, not very empathetic, absent, loud, aggressive, sadistic, and uneducated are some examples of these negative traits.
Do the same thing with your other parent or close caretaker.
- Next, think about what role you played in the family. That job could also be a kind of unexplained duty. In this case, some children believe their parents want them to “make them proud.” Or they feel like they need to help your parents work things out. Some are in charge of being good friends with Mother, making Mother and Father happy, and so on. If you remember times when you were a child that made you feel bad, think about what part or task your parents gave you at that time.
- You can also include things your folks used to say all the time, like “You’re so much like XY or “You’re full of it.” “You’re the reason I’m so unhappy,” “Just wait until Father gets home,” “Look at how much better XY is at that,” and “You’ll never amount to anything,” These should be added to the keywords for each of your providers.
Then, draw a line above the child’s head and write down the names of the two parents. Next, write down what made their relationship harder. List some examples: “Mother was strong, and Father was weak,” “Fought a lot,” and “Mother and Father got divorced.”
- Once you have written everything down, go deep inside and get in touch with your inner child by letting yourself feel how your parents’ actions make you feel. Find your deepest, unconscious ideas that are making you feel bad. What kinds of bad feelings did the way your parents treated you as a child make you have? Why did you come to these convictions? That’s the question, not whether your parents wanted you to have them or not. Children cannot really maintain a critical distance from their parents’ actions. These actions, whether good or bad, are linked to them: If a mother is kind and loving, her child will feel loved. If the mother is upset and stressed out often, her child will feel like they are a bother. Most of the time, the child will feel responsible for their mother’s (or both parents’) feelings, shaping their inner beliefs.
There are many more views than those on this list, but it is meant to encourage you to find your own. Once more, this first step is all about our negative views. The good ones will come later.
When you believe something, you should say something like:
“I am ______” or “I’m not ______,” “I can ______” or “I can’t ______,” or “I’m allowed to ______” or “I’m not allowed to ______.”
A lot of the time, they say things like, “Men are weak,” “Relationships are dangerous,” or “Fighting leads to divorce.”
On the other hand, an expression like “I’m sad” does not show a belief. Yet, feeling sad will happen when you think, “I’m worthless.” Beliefs are causing emotions like sadness, fear, and joy, as are goals like “I want to be perfect.” Often, intentions are made to fight against a belief, like “I’m not good enough.”
Pay close attention to how you feel as you read the list. Which of these statements makes you feel something? Such as “I give in so quickly” or “I am always trying to please people,” these beliefs show up in things other people have said to us before. Here is a list of options to help you find your views.
- I have negative views that affect my self-esteem.
- I have no value. I am not wanted. I am not welcome. I am not loveable. I am not good.
- I am fat.
- I am not good enough.
- I always take the blame. I am tiny.
- I am really stupid.
- I am not significant.
- There is nothing I can do.
- I am not important.
- I am not good at anything.
- I am not right.
- I have negative thoughts about my caretakers and my connection with them.
- I am a bother.
- I am to blame for your mood.
- I do not believe you.
- I must be careful all the time.
- You deserve for me to care about how you feel.
Negative beliefs that helped you deal with the trouble with your caretaker (a way to protect myself)
- I need to be polite and behave myself.
- It is not okay for me to protect myself.
- I need to do everything right.
- One cannot let me have my own free will.
- I need to change.
- I need to do it myself.
- I need to be strong.
- I cannot show any signs of weakness.
- I need to be the best.
- I need to do well in school.
- I must stay with you forever.
- I must live up to your hopes.
- I am not allowed to separate.
General negative beliefs
- Women are not strong.
- Men are not good.
- The world is not safe. In life, nothing is free.
- It is not going to work anyway. It is not going to help to talk. While trust is good, management is much better.
Write down what you believe in the belly of your child.
The problems you have in life are caused by your bad beliefs. These beliefs cause all problems, except that you think they are just random events. Your negative views are always the root of your problems, whether they are at work, in your relationships, or your daily life; they are also the cause of your anxiety, depression, or compulsions. These ideas are set up to make you feel bad. After writing down all your bad ideas, no matter how many there are, move on to the next step.
Find out your core beliefs
Please get a look at your list of beliefs once more. Reading each sentence aloud as you go through it would be best. Pick out up to three negative statements that really hit home and make you feel bad. These are the ideas you say are your core beliefs. Another way to determine your core beliefs is to think about the things that make you angry, hurt, or embarrassed. Ask yourself, “What makes you lose it, even if it makes you look bad at the time?” “What is the greater thought behind what makes you lose it?” The quick answer is usually a core believe.
As soon as you know your core beliefs, close your eyes, and focus on your chest and belly. What emotions do these words make you feel? Pay also close attention to sensations like pressure, pulling, tingling, heart palpitations, and so on.
You are probably feeling things that you have known for a long time. You might even think that you are stuck in an emotional state that stops you or makes you snap, feel hopeless, run away, or do something else. Most likely, this step makes you feel terrible and sad because it brings out all your painful affects in a harsh way. Still, give yourself a moment to feel these emotions; they will help you heal. You only need to notice them quickly, and then you can back out. You do not have to live out all your thoughts to deal with them.
Connect with a feeling just enough to detect it—spot when you slip into a bad state of mind. The faster you can recognize when destructive emotions are coming up, the easier it is to put them in check. Early detection is the key to taking steps to avoid problems.
Writing down how you felt during this step is helpful.
Find your way out!
If you have trouble overcoming your negative feelings, try doing something else to take your mind off it. As simple as it may sound, getting distracted is one of the best ways to snap out of a bad mood. The brain cannot handle more than one thing at once. It is impossible to feel pain simultaneously when you are truly focusing on something else. Use a grounding exercise like 5-4-3-2-1 or 4×4 breathing.
You can also try working out, hopping around, or using the butterfly hug. The way you feel and the way your body works are connected.
Another great way to keep our emotions in check is to focus only on the physical signs of your emotions, like how your heart beats faster when you’re scared or how your chest gets tight when you’re sad. Then, eliminate all the images and memories that make you feel this way. Throw them out. Get rid of them. Focus only on the feeling in your body, and do not move. It will go away quickly.
When you dive into your bad ideas, there is also a chance that you do not feel anything. That is possible; you might be busy or stuck right now. Do the exercise again another time. You might have to do it more than once before you feel anything. Maybe you do not connect well with your thoughts. More on this problem will be in the part after this one.
Exercise: Discover your positive beliefs from childhood
For this task, you will need a fresh sheet of paper and coloured pens, pencils, or markers.
Please draw a child’s outline. Make your drawing look as good as you can. You can decorate the whole sheet however you want and give your child a face and other traits.
1. Good beliefs from childhood
Include your parents with your child only if they were not the ones causing your childhood trauma. Just write “Mother” and “Father” (or whatever names you used for your parents or guardians) to the right and left of your inner child’s head. This time, think about the good things about them. What did they get right? Write these down.
If you do not want to include your parents with your child because you have had a tough time with them, skip this part of the activity. Or write down the good things about your parents on a different piece of paper. Perhaps you had a grandmother who loved you, a caring friend, or a teacher who understood you as a child. The names of any of these people you can write next your child.
Once you have made a list of the good things about your caretakers, take a moment to ask yourself: What good believes did these people teach you? Here are some examples to help you.
- I am loved.
- I am worth something.
- I am good enough.
- Thank you.
- What I need is met. I know a lot.
- It looks good on me.
- I deserve to be happy. I am allowed to get things wrong.
If you have found more than two good beliefs, please choose two and write them in the chest area of your child’s drawing.
2. Change your negative core beliefs
Please look over the list of negative core beliefs. You will turn these into good ones now. Do not use negations, like “not”: “I’m not responsible for your happiness” will not correct any emotions. Cognitive framing knows no negation. “I am hungry” and “I am not hungry” amounts emotionally to the same. Therefore, you could say things like: “Your happiness is your own responsibility,” “I can set limits,” “I can do my own thing,” or “My hopes and needs are just as important as yours.”
Many trauma survivors will find it impossible to switch from thinking “I’m ugly” to thinking “I’m attractive.” Then try “enough”: “I am good enough” or “I am attractive enough.”
It also helps to narrow down the scope of your beliefs to make them more logical. While: “I’m important” is pompous, “I’m important to my children/partner/parents” is not. Say what you believe in a way that makes you feel good.
In your inner child drawing, please write down your core beliefs.
3. Complete the drawing: write at least three strengths in the arms of your child, above his head, write at least three of your values and all around it what helps you and your sources of power.
Exercise: Connect your positive beliefs with your inner child
Use this exercise like a game. Stand up lay child drawing on the ground in front of you. Focus on your body. What do you feel? Are your feet firmly on the ground? Do you feel shaky or stable and strong? Pay attention to your chest and belly, where our feelings live.
- Say your good beliefs aloud and feel how they make you feel. How does it feel to say them aloud?
- Think about a time when your good beliefs are true, with friends, at work, while working out, or on vacation. In your life, there must be moments when your good beliefs feel really strong and true.
- Think about your strengths. Use your sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch to call them forth and feel the power in your body when you name them aloud.
- Now, focus on your values. Name them aloud. Do not just think about them. What emotions do they make you feel?
- Say your values aloud, feel the energy and feelings they make you feel in your body. Take note of the strength or calm they give you.
- Feel everything at once. How does your inner child’s body feel now? Move to find a pose for your inner child while staying in her state of mind. Pay attention to how your whole body feels at this moment. During this stage, pay close attention to how your breath moves. Make one slight movement expressing your feelings at a time and check how you feel. Let it come out of your body. That pose should become a firm part of your daily life and help you access your good mood whenever you require it.
- Stay in the happy state of mind of your inner child. Then let a picture come to you from her feeling. Let your child show you this picture. It could be a child’s drawing or imaginary things like the ocean, a beautiful landscape, a playground, or a house in the woods. Let her gift surprise you. Write down a way to remember your inner child’s picture.
- Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of your inner child, using your non-dominant hand. That will let your inner child write to you.
- Write about your childhood and talk about it with your inner child.
- Do activities that help you see your inner child.
- Remember how your parents spoke, what they said, and how they looked when they talked to you.
- In your journal, always write down any feelings or thoughts, even if they are only small pieces.
- Affirmations can help you heal your inner child by sending her positive messages that can counteract the negative beliefs repeated by your inner critic in your head. Build positive mantras from your positive beliefs that help you change your thoughts and become more kind to yourself. You must regularly read and believe these statements to heal the inner child.
- To soothe and connect with your inner child, you can teach yourself how to be a parent and give your inner child the care and understanding it needs.
- When you find pain in your inner child, it can help to talk about it with someone you trust.
Resources and further reading
Key theorists and psychologists involved in work with the inner child include:
- Pete Walker: The author of the book Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving and The Tao of Fully Feeling, Pete Walker is a highly qualified psychotherapist specializing in helping adults with C-PTSD. He shares his own experiences and knowledge in his works.
- Alice Miller: The book The Drama of The Gifted Child by Alice Miller is recommended for overcoming denial and understanding the impact of growing up with poor parenting. It is particularly relevant for individuals with a “fawn” response to trauma.
- John Bradshaw: Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child is compatible to Pete Walker’s approach. Bradshaw’s work is influential in inner child work, offering practical techniques for individuals to reconnect with and heal their inner child.
- Virginia Satir: Satir’s book Conjoint Family Therapy is mentioned as a resource for understanding family dynamics and relationships.
- M. Scott Peck: Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled is a seminal work in the field of self-help and psychology. First published in 1978, the book combines insights from Peck’s experience as a psychiatrist with spiritual, psychological, and personal anecdotes.
- Theodore Rubin: Rubin’s book Compassion and Self-Hate is recommended as a guide to self-compassion.
Many other resources can provide a wealth of information about inner child work for those seeking to recover from childhood trauma.
Dealing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families by Charles L. Whitfield
That book delves into the concept of the “child within” and offers insights into the process of healing from childhood trauma.
Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child by Thich Nhat Hanh
Written by the renowned Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, this book provides a spiritual perspective on healing one’s inner child through mindfulness and compassion.
The Inner Child Workbook: What to Do with Your Past When It Just Won’t Go Away by Cathryn L. Taylor
That workbook provides exercises and techniques for individuals to work through and heal their inner child issues.
Recovery of Your Inner Child: The Highly Acclaimed Method for Liberating Your Inner Self by Lucia Capacchione
Capacchione introduces a creative, hands-on approach to exploring and nurturing the inner child.
The Inner Child Healing Workbook: Powerful Techniques for Rapid Healing and Inner Peace by Rozella Hart
That workbook offers guided exercises and techniques to help individuals rapidly heal their inner child and achieve inner peace.
The Journey of the Heroic Parent: Your Child’s Struggle & The Road Home by Brad M. Reedy
While not exclusively about inner child work, this book provides insights into parenting and its connection to your own inner child experiences.
The inner child is a vital part of our psyche, representing emotions and memories from childhood.
Inner child work allows for healing childhood wounds, resulting in improved relationships, reduced self-sabotage, and a better understanding of oneself. It also provides for the release of both negative and positive emotions, uncovering hidden talents and aptitudes.
Yet, starting a journey to get in touch with your inner child is brave and life-changing, especially if you’ve been through many bad things when you were little. Trauma in childhood is complicated and lasting. It affects many parts of a person’s life in ways that aren’t always obvious. If you want to talk about these sensitive topics in a safe and organized way, speak to a trained therapist or psychologist who specializes in trauma and inner child work. They can give you personalized advice to help you deal with tough feelings and techniques that are made to fit your specific wants and experiences.
Bradshaw, John. 1990. Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child. New York: Bantam.
Capacchione, Lucia. 1991. Recovery of Your Inner Child. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. 2006. Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child. Berkeley, California: Parallax Press.
Stahl, Stefanie. 2015. Das Kind in Dir muss Heimat finden: Der Schlüssel zur Lösung (fast) aller Probleme. München: Kailash.
Stahl, Stefanie. 2017. Das Kind in Dir muss Heimat finden: In drei Schritten zum starken Ich – Das Arbeitsbuch. München: Kailash.
Stahl, Stefanie. 2020. The Child in You: The Breakthrough Method for Bringing Out Your Authentic Self. London: Penguin.
Walker, Pete. 2013. Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map for Recovering From Childhood Trauma. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.
Walker, Pete. 2015. The Tao of Fully Feeling: Harvesting Forgiveness Out of Blame. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform.
Whitfield, Charles L. 1987. Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families (Recovery Classics Edition). Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, Inc.