Have you ever felt like there was a part of you that never grew up?
An inner child that still carries with it the pains and traumas that you never really took the time to deal with?
Whether you acknowledge it or not, the inner child is inside of you, and it’s holding you back from becoming the best version of who you are.
In this article, I discuss the complexities behind healing the traumatized inner child.
From what causes the pain to a damaged inner child in the first place, why we never end up dealing with those issues, and how we can begin our path to healing the inner child to reach our true potential.
Understanding the Inner Child and How It Affects Your Life
There is a lot of discussion in pop psychology today about the inner child and what it is, but what is it exactly and how do you know if your inner child is hurt and in need of help?
The inner child is a simple idea to understand, but truly helping your inner child requires a lot of genuine work and effort over a long period of time.
Your inner child is simply the child part of your persona that never truly grew up. It’s the part of who you are that stayed unchanged as the rest of your personality matured and turned into an adult.
It’s not wrong or strange to have an inner child; this is a part of ourselves that we all have, and the only difference between people is how much the inner child is acknowledged, protected, and allowed to thrive.
But for many people the inner child is plagued with unresolved issues, and those seeking true personal growth must overcome the obstacles of their unsatisfied inner child.
The Inner Child – How It Gets Hurt and How It Affects You
For some, the inner child is a source of shame and pain. Some people only subconsciously feel the presence of their inner child, and feel a strange sense of disconnection from them.
Generally, the pain connected with the inner child is one caused by wounds that were inflicted on the inner child many years ago which were never dealt with.
Even people who may have had a healthy and happy childhood can still feel pain when reconnecting with their inner child, because the inner child isn’t like the “adult” part of our personality; it’s a child, and like children, the inner child can act immaturely and irrationally.
But the inner child can be damaged in a number of ways.
Some ways may seem like normal childhood events, but children can’t always deal with certain issues the way adults can.
Unresolved problems that are left to linger during our development years can leave long-lasting results. Some of these problems include:
- Physical neglect or abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Severe bullying
- A breakup in the family
- Family substance abuse
- Family mental illness
- Feelings of extreme isolation
- Loss of a parent, sibling, or guardian
- Emotional neglect or abuse
- Serious physical illness
- Natural disasters
- Exposure to violence in the household
- Experiences of being a refugee or losing a home
So is it important to recognize, acknowledge, and if necessary, heal the inner child?
A damaged inner child develops awkwardly, as it doesn’t truly know how to deal with issues that are too big for its presence.
These issues leave the damaged inner child with a number of negative traits, such as neediness, overdependence on others, narcissism, impulsiveness, and abandonment issues.
Adults who have unresolved issues with their inner child can experience various forms of destructive behavior, which manifest in the form of:
- Self-defeating behavior
- Violent behavior
- Passive-aggressive behavior
- Self-harming behavior
Signs that Your Inner Child is Wounded
Many people neglect to acknowledge or care for their inner child for two reasons: 1) because they don’t understand what the inner child is, and 2) because they don’t believe they have a damaged inner child.
But it’s important to understand that even if you didn’t experience a huge traumatic event in your childhood, that doesn’t mean that your inner child isn’t damaged in some way.
Even smaller events and experiences can leave your inner child partially damaged, leaving you with behavior that negatively impacts your adult life.
Whenever you were made to feel unsafe as a child, this could potentially lead to some long-term damage to the inner child.
Here are some ways our inner child could’ve been made to feel unloved and unsafe:
- You were discouraged from being spontaneous
- You weren’t allowed to display strong emotions, like joy or anger
- You were regularly verbally abused or criticized
- You were made to feel responsible for the happiness of your parents or siblings
- You were denied physical affection, such as cuddles and kisses
- You were shamed by your parents or guardians
- You were discouraged from having your own unique opinions
- You were punished for having too much fun
- You were discouraged from speaking up against your parents or teachers
But how exactly does a damaged inner child negatively impact our day-to-day adult lives?
As we said above, a damaged inner child can lead to the manifestation of destructive behavior, or the type of behavior that you look back on at the end of the day and wonder, “Why in the world did I choose to do that?”
This is the behavior that you regret, behavior that makes you feel ashamed and disgruntled, but for some reason you felt like you had no control over yourself, as if you lost yourself in the moment.
These also manifest as feelings, and while we may not always act on our thoughts and feelings, they do weigh us down and indirectly negatively impact our lives.
Here are some signs that you have a damaged inner child negatively affecting your thoughts and actions:
- You feel that there is something wrong with you, even when you have a good day
- You don’t really have a unique or strong identity
- You try too hard to please other people
- You feel most alive when you are in the middle of a conflict, and feel bored or scared when life stable and steady
- You feel guilty whenever you have to stand up for yourself, so you tend to avoid i
- You feel deeply and truly inadequate
- You are your own biggest critic, and sometimes practice self-harm because you feel you deserve no happiness
- You have sex with people just to please them even when you don’t want to
- You don’t often experience emotions such as anger or happiness, but when you do, you experience them very strongly
- You become easily addicted to things; you have trouble controlling yourself
- You don’t feel close with your parents and don’t really care about them
- You put too much of yourself in relationships because you have major issues with abandonment
- You don’t know how to say no to people
- You are a perfectionist but you never feel like you can achieve your own standards
- You have issues with hoarding items sometimes
Inner Child Healing or Inner Child Work — What It Is and How It Helps
When we acknowledge the fact that we have a damaged inner child, what then can we do?
While we can’t go back in time and prevent the damage from occurring in the first place, we can try to heal those wounds in the here and now, decades later.
This is known as inner child healing or inner child work.
Inner child healing is work that can be done by yourself or with a therapist to begin unravelling the issues in your current behavior back to your inner child, and learning how to deal with those issues at their core.
What makes inner child healing so effective is that it deals with our problems beyond the superficial level; we don’t try to understand the causes for our destructive behavior from today’s reasons, but the inherent issues causing them from the problems embedded in our psyche.
Inner child healing or inner child work requires engaging with the inner child, and giving the child within you the proper parenting and love that it lacked during development.
When done properly, inner child healing can help you with:
- Gaining confidence
- Learning how to enjoy life and live in the moment
- Taking care of yourself physically and mentally
- Loving yourself and feeling self-compassion
- Gaining the ability to set your own boundaries and gain a sense of power
- Learning how to live after feeling numb and on auto-pilot for so long
- Accessing the deep, repressed memories causing your issues and problems
Many people find themselves reluctant to begin engaging in inner child healing, because they believe they can fix their problems by dealing with their superficial surface-self.
But the surface-self of our adult personas are usually very set in their ways, meaning it can be difficult if not impossible to change the ways we feel and the things we think.
Accessing our inner child gives us a key into our deeper self, allowing us to change our adult self without engaging with it directly.
The inner child is our path towards true and lasting change, allowing us to help ourselves in a way that goes beyond the day-to-day stresses and worries that bother our lives.
Healing Your Inner Child: 7 Ways To Make Your Inner Child Feel Safe
1) Listen To Your Inner Child
How Your Inner Child is Wounded: Your inner child needs to know that it’s a valid part of your personality.
Sometimes we can’t move on from certain “childish” behaviors, impulses, and sensibilities because we haven’t given it the chance to rise to the surface. Instead of dealing with these issues appropriately, we push them down to avoid seeming childish.
How This Method Helps: Listening to your inner child is one of the best ways to acknowledge the child in you.
As with real children, your inner child will likely not stop and rest until it’s heard.
Giving yourself the chance and space to bring issues to the surface finally gives your inner child the opportunity to address these problems as they are and grow out of it.
2) Journal As Your Inner Child
How Your Inner Child is Wounded: Out of fear of seeming immature or childish, we push down our thoughts and pretend they don’t even exist.
These emotions and sensibilities are repressed, suppressed, and silenced. This forces the inner child to manifest in less controlled and less than pleasant circumstances.
How This Method Helps: Journaling allows your inner child to speak for itself. The act of putting pen to paper is an opportunity for your inner child to concretize thoughts and emotions.
The purpose of journaling is actually two-fold: first, you give your inner child a safe space to exist and communicate with the world around you; second, you get to track your subconscious thoughts and desires and gain a better understanding of your inner child.
3) Surround Yourself With Positivity
How Your Inner Child is Wounded: Children are almost always rendered powerless by their own circumstances.
As a child, being unable to choose your own school or decide things for yourself can create a sense of insecurity and hopelessness.
Exposure to bullies, poor parenting, or excessive criticism can haunt us long after we’ve grown into adults.
How This Method Helps: As an adult, you have a choice in everything you do. Surrounding yourself with positive experiences allows your inner child to rethink its understanding of the world.
If you have an aversion to criticism, it might be because you received constant bashing when you were younger.
Surrounding yourself with positivity is a chance to show your inner child that good experiences do exist, allowing it to heal, one positive experience at a time.
4) Talk To Someone From Your Past
How Your Inner Child is Wounded: Childhood trauma is one of the reasons why most people can’t ever escape their inner child. As we grow into the people we want to become, the traces of our past still haunt us even if we physically distance ourselves from these stimuli.
By completely avoiding the past, you’re not giving your inner child the justice it longs for.
How This Method Helps: Talking to a friend can only do so much for your healing. Reconnecting with old friends, confronting old bullies, or opening up to your parents are all great ways to “interact with the past”.
You may not be able to fix anything now and stop those old trauma from happening, but talking to someone in your past is a symbolic way of taking control of the situation, even if you’re years late.
5) Visualize Your Inner Child
How Your Inner Child is Wounded: For a lot of people, just understanding the concept of the inner child is a difficult process.
They associate these with all the negative attributes they have and treat the Child Self as an entirely alien personality.
This keeps the inner child from fully healing as the adult in you resists to envision that you and the inner child are one and the same.
How This Method Helps: Visualizing your inner child makes it easier to develop a relationship with the Child Self.
This is especially helpful for people who have a distant or a non-existent relationship with their inner child.
Visualization frees a lot of discomfort associated with having an inner child, and brings you closer by knowing your inner child on an intimate level.
6) Protect Your Inner Child
How Your Inner Child is Wounded: No matter how old you get, your inner child will still feel powerless against certain stimuli.
Deep rooted issues from your childhood can make you feel vulnerable towards things like criticism, abuse, poor relationships, or even intimate relations.
If you continue to expose yourself to these things and still fail to stand up to yourself, your inner child will eventually sap your self-esteem, reinforcing all your deepest fears.
How This Method Helps: Your inner child needs to know that it can count on you now; that you’re no longer the helpless child you once were.
Standing up to yourself, setting boundaries, and cutting out toxic relationships are ways to affirm control and show your inner child that your adult self is capable of protecting itself now.
This helps build confidence and self-love — two things that you may not have been able to experience when you were younger.
7) Do Things Your Inner Child Used To Love
How Your Inner Child is Wounded: Work and life expectations can make us feel like we have to do things we don’t want to do.
This means adopting personality traits and acquiring hobbies that are textbook “adult”, even if they don’t feel natural.
Societal pressures can compel us to pretend to be people we aren’t just to appear more responsible and put together. This in turn creates a discord between yourself and your inner child.
How This Method Helps: Growing up doesn’t mean putting on a tie every time you go out to dinner. There are a lot of meaningless, unnecessary “adulting” gestures in the modern world.
Instead of succumbing to the pressure, give yourself the chance to explore the things you once loved. As they say, we only grow old when we stop enjoying the things we once loved as kids.
4 Promises You Need To Keep For Your Inner Child Moving Forward
Healing the inner child is a lifelong process.
A damaged inner child can learn to trust you and the world again, but it needs to be reminded and coddled to make sure it stays happy.
Here are some promises you need to keep for your inner child for your to keep it positive and healthy:
I’ll Prove You Deserved Better
Abuse, abandonment, and embarrassment can make your inner child feel like it’s the only thing you deserve.
Growing up with these can be convincing that troubling experiences were caused by who we are, and that we brought it upon ourselves.
This makes your inner child self-conscious, convinced that it doesn’t deserve better than what it got.
You have to keep working with your inner child and exposing yourself to positive experiences to finally understand that the bad experiences you had weren’t something you deserved or brought on your own.
No child deserves to be abandoned, abused, or shamed. It was never your fault then and it’s not your fault now.
I’ll Love and Accept You
If you have a debilitating sense of responsibility or perfectionist tendencies, it’s likely because your inner child doesn’t feel like it deserves affection until it’s perfect.
As children, we can’t help but compare ourselves with peers and siblings, believing that only good grades and great skills can make us more lovable.
And that’s not entirely your fault. Too many adults grow up with parents who don’t readily communicate pride and affection.
This results in so many individuals feeling like they have to overachieve just to receive praise or acknowledgement.
As an adult, it’s now your responsibility to let your inner child know just being around is enough; that it doesn’t have to overcompensate or pretend to be someone else to be loved.
I’ll Hear You Out
Properly handling emotions is a skill people don’t often learn as children.
Instead of knowing how to manage emotions effectively, most adults just repress what they feel or explode due to their inability to control their impulses.
Your inner child deserves to be heard.
Instead of suppressing what your inner child is trying to say, reach out and coax out your Child Self.
Find ways to work through your problems without shaming your inner child for what it feels or how it reacts. It’s a slow and steady process but it’s worth it.
I’ll Forgive You
Children have the tendency to immediately blame themselves and think everything is happening because of them.
This is especially true for children of divorced parents and single parents.
As a child, we can’t help but think that we have the responsibility to make everyone feel better, even if it’s at our expense.
As an adult, you now have the wisdom to understand that circumstances happen independent;y of you.
Self-blame only contributes to negativity and doesn’t do anything to change the situation.
Forgive your inner child by letting go of its “faults”. Let your inner child know you never deserved the blame.
Teach your inner child that there are simply some things you cannot control, no matter what.
Too many of us neglect to have a dialogue with our inner child precisely because it represents everything we want to run away from.
But only after healing our inner childs can we achieve true peace.
The next time you think conversing with your inner child is too much to handle, just think of it this way: to become the person you want to be, you have to help the person you once was.
Your inner child isn’t the enemy; it’s a part of yourself that needs the extra nudge so you can achieve your full potential.
Putting yourself first
What’s your number one goal at the moment?
Is it to buy that car you’ve been saving up for?
To finally start that side-hustle that’ll hopefully help you quit your 9-5 one day?
Or to take the leap and finally ask your partner to move in?
Whatever your goals are, there’s a hidden trap in how you set them.
The trap is this:
You’ll only experience genuine life satisfaction when your goals are aligned with your values.
Because when values and goals are aligned, you enjoy the journey much more. And this makes achieving your goals much more likely.
If you find it hard to articulate your deeper life values, I suggest downloading the free values exercise by career coach Jeanette Brown.
It takes only a couple of minutes and will reveal a number of powerful insights about your underlying values.
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