Have you ever paid attention to the little voice inside of you? The one that might remind you of your younger self? No matter how old we grow, we carry our younger selves within us each day.
To clarify, the inner child is real. Not literally, not physically, but figuratively, metaphorically real. It is a psychological complex which in layman’s terms is a core pattern of emotions, memories, perceptions, and wishes in the personal unconscious. Complexes are organised around a common theme, such as attitude or behaviour. The Inner Child is a psychological reality, and an extraordinarily powerful one at that!
Indeed, most mental disorders and destructive behaviour patterns are, as Freud first intimated, more or less related to this unconscious part of ourselves. We were all once children, and still have that child residing within us. But most adults are quite unaware of this. And this lack of conscious relatedness to our own inner child is precisely where so many behavioural, emotional and relationship difficulties stem from.
Often we get ‘triggered’ and this can be from childhood, most of my work with adults does relate back to childhood and often one ‘tiny’ moment that happened can trigger us into feelings of being stuck, causing fear, anxiety and other harmful negative emotions that don’t serve us as the grown ups we appear to be.
You have an inner child. I have an inner child. We all do. Your “inner child” is a part of your subconscious that has been picking up messages way before it was able to fully process what was going on. It holds emotions, memories and beliefs from the past as well as hopes and dreams for the future.
Inner child work, also referred to as inner child healing or parenting yourself is a way to address our needs that haven't been met as children and heal the attachment wounds we've developed. Inner work is the act of going inside ourselves, to explore our true feelings and parts of us that may have been rejected by others. By allowing ourselves time to go within, we begin peeling back our coping mechanisms such as being avoidant, numbing of our feelings, often through over-eating, taking drugs, alcohol etc and are able to fully accept and integrate our subconscious into consciousness.
As adults, we walk around carrying wounds from our childhood, whether it's simple or complex trauma, from emotional neglect to physical abuse. Many adults feel they're alone with these hurts and feelings, and so they cover them up because they feel like that's ‘what other grown-ups do.’ The fact is that the majority of so-called adults are not truly adults at all. We all get older, if you’ve been blessed to do so. However, psychologically speaking, this is not adulthood. True adulthood depends on acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for loving and parenting one's own inner child. For most adults, this never happens and this is why most adults have negative, self-destructive feelings and behaviour.
Inner child healing is so important, it’s to remind ourselves that we're not bad, wrong or inadequate. By healing our inner child, we begin to create the safety & security our younger selves have always needed. By doing so, the positive traits of our inner child have room to shine. We unlock our natural gifts; our inner curiosity, imagination, creativity and our limitless capacity to love. However when we avoid addressing our past hurts and feel alone with them, they transform into self-destructive behaviours and relationship issues.
What is lovely about inner child work is its intention to speak to our inner child through their language, a language that is emotionally based and embodied, rather than expressed through intellectual thoughts and words.
How to notice when your inner child is being activated…
Feeling Highly Reactive
We can notice when our wounded inner child appears in our daily lives when we find ourselves highly reactive to situations, suddenly feeling very detached or irritated.
Destructive Coping Behaviours
This can manifest through coping skills such as too much alcohol, needless shopping, cheating, gambling, food, and even persistent procrastination.
Poor Emotional and Mental Health
This can show up in a many areas of life including feelings of depression, feeling unmotivated, weight gain or weight loss, not being focused or productive, increased anxiety, sleep difficulties, wanting to be alone (or being surrounded by others) or not wanting to have sex (or continually wanting sex in order to feel connected).
Repeating patterns in your relationships
People with attachment wounds tend to unconsciously recreate attachment patterns they experienced as a child in their adult relationships, including repeating patterns of childhood trauma.
This can look like repeating the narrative "I don't need anyone" and not allowing yourself to ask for or receive help. Many first borns have this pattern of behaviour as they were expected to be the ‘grown up sibling’.
Please see the inner child grid I created for you for further understanding of inner child wounds…
What to do to connect with your inner child…
We can start by first taking ourselves out of the left brain which is associated with language, logic, time and critical thinking and get into the right brain; associated with our emotional expression, intuition, imagination and creativity. Think back to childhood experiences of those happy fun times - that’s the memories we are going to re-create, after all, imagination and reality are the same.
Heart focused breathing…
Connecting to our deep heart focused breathing and physical body helps us move out of the stresses of the adult world and ‘fight or flight’ sympathetic arousal, so we can be inquisitive about the present.
Use all five senses to check in with our body. We can do this by taking three conscious deep breaths. It can help to place one hand on your belly and one on your heart area.
As you relax, note one thing you see, one thing you hear, one thing you feel and one that you taste and smell - this activates the structure of experience as we notice the external stimuli and as soon as you have a meaning, you have an emotion. This happens so fast we rarely notice. Do this for at least 10 minutes.
The process of visualisation is a great way to connect to your inner child. Visualisations help us tap into our imagination and senses. When first starting out, guided visualisations can be most helpful which can be found online or in apps such as Insight Timer. Vision boards are also a great way of connecting with your inner child - remember when you used to have a scrap book and glue made from flour and water? Please know that it is safe to dream and visualise, no-one is going to throw the chalkboard rubber at you, or was that just me aged 12 years?!
Journaling is a great ‘therapy’ as it allows you to create a safe space for you and in this case, your inner child to express yourself honestly without the expectations of the outside world. The key is honouring your inner child's perception of their own experiences without filtering or correcting them and if you write with the pen in your non dominant hand, you will truly get the benefits of connecting with your inner child as well as building new neurological pathways. I run journaling courses on zoom and in and around the UK so please feel free to join me.
Mindful colouring or craft work
I find mindful colouring and craft work really connects me to my inner child, it was something I loved as a child and I still find the benefits of it today. Try different colouring books as it has taken me a while to find I love ‘small picture detail’ rather than ‘big picture’.
Be impulsive and use your imagination
Do things you did as a child as long as it’s safe to do so, connect with the part of you that longs to be heard as the benefits are impressive as you are able to access repressed memories and emotions that have held you back. You will feel again and will learn to set boundaries taking better care of yourself, enjoying life more and gaining from self-confidence and forming a healthy self-esteem.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, now go and do something fun and dance like no-one is watching! Enjoy and laugh at yourself.
With love and appreciation, always 💚