If you’ve ever experienced a trauma when you were young, you carry that wound all the way through to adulthood. It doesn’t matter if it was a trauma with small ‘t,’ you never forget the experience.
You healing those traumas by connecting with your inner being. By working with your inner child in a loving and authentic way, you can bring closure to decades of unresolved hurt.
But how to do you get in touch with your inner child?
The most effective way is by doing healing exercise designed to heal the rift between your conscious adult mind and the child within.
But if you want to see positive results, it requires your dedication. Doing this kind of inner work isn’t an easy road. There’ll be times when you just want to quit and let things be the way they are.
Keep this thought in mind, though. When you’re working with your inner child, you’re literally dealing your child-like psyche. You need to approach that part of yourself for its level of understanding.
It’s the aspect of you that’s experienced so much negative trauma. All it really needs right now is love. Piling on more shame, blame and guilt isn’t going to help. Your inner child is already distrustful.
It’s time for you to start building bridges.
Table of Contents
The Inner Child Explained: How You’re Shaped by Circumstance
Your inner child is the part of you that forms between the ages of 5-9 years old. Many people confuse it with the ego, the subconscious, and your shadow self. It’s all of these things, and is interwoven throughout your entire inner being.
The assumption that your inner child is a separate part of you comes from cases of extreme trauma. The inner child can be so damaged that it can appear as a dissenting voice inside your head. But it’s only reaching out because it is so damaged. It just needs love.
Between the age of 5-9 years old, you’re at a very impressionable stage in life. Your cognitive abilities are in a rush to catch up with your emotions. So when you experience something ‘bad,’ your young mind can’t process it. There’s no reference point.
This is what leads to formation of traumatic experiences.
You have no way of rationalising what’s happened to you. You can’t bring proper closure to anything that causes you pain. All you can do is file it away in your subconscious. But that doesn’t solve anything. It only saves that problem for later.
Your inner child is essentially the seed bank of your personality. It’s the place from which you develop the vast majority of your preferences. It’s the part of you that stores anything that you repress. And whatever you push down, must be expressed.
Childhood Trauma: Why You Will Always Express What You Repress
Just because you didn’t suffer abuse doesn’t mean you don’t have wounds. You can experience it in many different ways. It doesn’t have to be violent or sexual. In fact, the most common form of abuse is neither of those two. It’s emotional. If you’ve ever felt you’ve had a need go unmet as a child, that is abuse in the form of neglect. It might sound extreme. But it’s true. If you had a parent who was never there for you, it creates a feeling of abandonment, which can feed into all your future relationships.
If this continues over an extended period, you can develop negative belief systems, which fall into several themes. These are:
- I am bad
- I am helpless
- I am a hindrance
- I am not worthy
- I am nothing
The Long-Term Effects of Ignoring a Wounded Inner Child
When you’re young, you view the world from an egocentric point of view. It’s not a flaw. It’s just a stage of your development. We all go through it. But it does create problems later in life. If you didn’t have proper parenting, it can lead to a distorted view of your relationships.
For example, let’s say you’ve been looking forward to spending time with your father in the evening. But when you try and interact with him, he’s in a bad mood. It catches you off-guard, and in your self-centredness, think it must be something you’ve done wrong. Why would your Dad treat you this way?
What you don’t understand is that you were never the problem. Your Dad may have had a bad day at work, had an argument with your Mother, and be under an undue amount of stress for various reasons. So when you come for playtime, he has no energy left. It isn’t you. It’s your father’s inability to treat you with kindness in spite of his circumstances.
As you mature, you experience that same aloofness, again. And when it happens, it triggers those old memories in our subconscious. Because you never processed them, you react in the same way as you did when you were young. But this isn’t you. It’s the wounded part of your inner child that experienced abandonment.
When you’re exposed to trauma at such a young age, it sticks. You absorb everything like a sponge. At this stage in life, your mind is in an information-gathering phase. It’s taking note of everything. And out of that comes the formation of your greatest hang-ups you experience in later life. Here are some of the most common:
- Low Self-Esteem
- Emotional impairments
- Eating Disorders
- Poor Body Image
- Problem Enforcing Healthy Boundaries
- Being a Bully
- Displaying a Victimhood Mentality
- Problems forming intimate relationships
- Addiction Problems
- Co-dependency Issues
What is Inner Child Work?
When people talk about inner child work, they’re talking about healing past traumas. All childhood trauma involves inner child work to greater or lesser extent. So if you experienced abuse at the age of seven, you would connect to that part of yourself to heal the wound.
But the longer you leave that wound, the more of an issue it’ll become. You can’t hide from your problems forever. And at some point, your inner child will make its presence known. People might notice that you’re a bit off. But it is only that inner part of yourself trying to make itself heard.
It’s your poor sense of self-regard that’s causing your problems. And as we’ve mentioned, it can affect anyone. You don’t need to have suffered unspeakable abuse. Parenting isn’t easy. Your parents were doing the best they could with the skills they had at the time. People make mistakes, and it’s ok to recognise that and to want to self-heal.
Reparenting: Treating Your Inner Child as the Loving Adult it Needs
A trauma could be anything that upset you. So don’t be so quick to dismiss your experiences. If they were important to you as a child, they’re just as important, now. Acknowledgement is the first step of working through these old wounds.
When you’re looking back at your traumas, you see then from the perspective of your ‘adult self.’ You’re coming at them from a different angle than when you were a child. It’s easy to lose sight of how these incidents affected you because they seem so trivial now.
But Denying those experiences is keeping the trauma alive within you. They need to be recognised. And it’s your job as the loving adult to step up and take responsibility. How much longer do you want to withhold the love from your inner child and yourself?
How Do You Begin Inner Child Work?
The success of working with your inner child depends you how you engage with it. Your inner child is not your enemy. Even if you’ve experienced it as negative voice within your head. It’s only trying to reach out and be heard, so it can receive the love it never did when you were in childhood. Before you begin working with your inner child, you need to aware of the following steps:
Embracing Your Inner Child
Nothing positive can happen until you acknowledge the struggle of your inner child. The reason why you may be feeling out of balance, is because your traumas have been suppressed for so long. The first thing you must do is start by building bridges with your inner child.
Recognising Your Triggers
Your main goal here is observation. You need to pay close attention when you react in certain situations and what causes you to do it. What you’re looking for are patterns in your behaviour. Once you’ve established how you’re acting in the present, you can start retracing your steps to the root cause.
Engage in Re-Parenting Yourself
Re-parenting yourself is where your inner work really begins. You need to become the loving adult that was missing at key moments in your childhood. It’s hard to accept. But your feelings are your responsibility. You need to provide yourself with the love that only you can.
The Most Effective Inner Child Healing Exercises (And Why They Work)
Be warned before you begin these exercises. They might bring up some uncomfortable feelings. Working with your inner child isn’t a walk in the park. And if you’ve experienced moderate to severe abuse, you might find you need the guidance of someone to help you – especially if you’ve been sexually abused. But don’t let that put you off, it’ll do you no harm to give these a try. You can do a lot of good for yourself by engaging with these healing exercises. But just be aware of what your limits are. They’re presented roughly in the order it’s best to engage with them.
Speaking to Your Inner Child
Before you do anything else, you need to gain the trust of your inner child. If you’ve been particularly traumatised, your inner child is going to be wary of any communication that might seem disingenuous. You need to start off slow and gentle. Don’t go rushing in, and don’t make promises you can’t keep. And remember, this is your inner child. So speak to it as if it is a child. Be gentle and compassionate. Acknowledge that you’ve been ignoring its needs and start building bridges.
In beginning, you need to say are things like:
I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long.
I’m sorry I’ve neglected you in the past.
I’m here now.
I love you.
Writing Letter to Your Inner Child
This is an extension of speaking to your inner child. If you feel like you’d like to express yourself more, putting pen to paper is a great way create a bond with your inner child. You want to write this letter from the perspective of the loving adult you are now. You could even choose to write as a fictional character who exhibits all the traits you think your inner child needs in their life. You can really have some fun with this exercise. But come to it from a place empathy. You might even want the first letter you write to be an apology.
Writing a Letter from Your Inner Child to Yourself
By reversing the perspective and writing from your inner child, you can uncover a lot about yourself. But it’s advisable that you try the other letter first. Writing from your inner child might take a little practice. It’s coming from a different part of your inner being. The subconscious. A good way in this exercise is not to overthink it. See if you can get into a mode of automatic writing. Once you start flowing, you’ll the information flows through you. In fact, you’ll be surprised at what comes out. But remember you need to be honest with the process. You can’t self-censor. It all needs to come out.
Create Loving Affirmations for Your Inner Child
Affirmations are one of the best ways to reparent yourself. They’re a big step up from simply speaking to your inner child. And it’s where you start doing the real work. Here’s where you get specific about the changes you want to create in your life. You can use the material from the letter-writing exercises to steer you in the right direction. They’ll provide a wealth of insight. Because you want to go beyond simple dialogue. You want to reverse your negative thought-constructs and create a better relationship with yourself. And you do that by rewiring your subconscious. You want to begin each affirmation with, ‘I AM.’ Doing this connects you with your heart-space and allows you to manifest these changes much quicker. Here are a few examples:
I am more connected than I have ever been to my inner child.
I am grateful for the presence of my inner child.
I am at peace with my inner child.
Notice, the phrasing of these is different than the examples mentioned in speaking with your inner child. You shouldn’t choose one over the other, as each have their own purpose.
How Long Does Inner Child Work Take to Complete?
This is going to depend on your circumstances. You’ll take as long as you need to go through your own process of healing. It’s not the answer you want to hear, I’m sure. But it’s the truth. The amount of work you have to do will also depend on what type of trauma you’ve experienced. If your wounds are things such as abandonment and other issues of neglect, they’ll be fairly easy to overcome. But if you have deep-rooted issues with physical or sexual abuse, your journey is going to be much longer.
Do be aware, though… These exercises aren’t intended to make you relive your past trauma. They’re tools designed to help you build bridges with the forgotten part of yourself. So if at any point you feel you feel like you’re bringing too much to the surface, stop. Take a break. Reassess your situation, and then try again when you’re ready. Doing these exercises can offer you great insight. But they’re not the complete package. This is just the start of your inner child work. If you’re someone who’s experiencing profound difficulties, you may want to see a practitioner who can work with you on a deeper level.