How to Practice Wounded Inner Child Work for Self-Discovery!
If you have experienced trauma, abuse and/or neglect early in life. Then, Inner Child Work or Inner Child Healing is ESSENTIAL for the Self-Discovery process.
First and foremost, what is Inner Child Work? Well, like other acts of self-discovery, working from within enables the subconscious mind to explore. As we dive deep into genuine emotions and portions of ourselves that may have been externally rejected or stigmatized by societal norms. We are given the opportunity to intentionally integrate our subconscious mind by unpacking coping mechanisms (i.e. avoidant, numbness, etc.), dealing with any unmet needs and healing any accumulated attachment wounds.
What is your Inner Child? Closely linked to inherent creativity, curiosity and excitement as a kid. Inner child is defined as a depiction of our younger selves at various times throughout childhood (different ages).
Whether or not we are consciously aware of the temper tantrum voices floating inside our heads. We all carry our younger selves with us (on a daily), no matter how old we get. Moreover, nurturing (or re-parenting) this younger self, is basically what Inner child Work is all about.
READ: 5 Essential Lessons to Unfold in the Self-Discovery Process
Why Inner Child Work is Important?
Easily Impressionable, as kids we absorb our surrounding environments (like a sponge), and is susceptible to wounds and unhealthy attachment patterns. Especially when a traumatic event occurs (i.e. physical abuse) or when a caretaker is emotionally unavailable (neglect).
Until they are safely dealt with. These unprocessed/avoided wounds, as well as, unhealthy attachment patterns/beliefs can persist into adulthood. Turning into destructive behaviors.
Yet, once we are able to cultivate a stable relationship with our younger self. Like, physically going back in time to reconnect with and parent the qualities (i.e. feelings) of these personal experiences. We undoubtedly discover parts of ourselves that were limited and lacking. Such as, gifts, talents, curiosity, infinite potential and unlimited love.
Signs Your Inner Child Needs T.L.C
- Highly Reactive – Feelings of discomfort within lead to detachment or irritation (attempts to control external triggers).
- Your idea of Independence is not needing anyone or reluctant to ask for help.
- Destructive Behaviors or Coping Mechanisms (i.e. alcohol, drugs, overeating, overspending, cheating, etc.)
- Emotional and Mental Health Issues (Depression, Anxiety, stress, PTSD, etc.).
- Unhealthy Relationship Patterns (i.e. repeatedly experiencing different forms of abuse).
KNOW THESE 5 THINGS BEFORE INNER CHILD WORK!
1. Look Beyond the Wounds:
A big step in working with your inner child, is wanting to become something bigger than what’s expected and desiring more than what is encouraged. With a need to do better and be different from what you’ve known, you are given a reason to question what you may lack and were you feel limited. This may bring you back to painful childhood memories of loss, adhering to external negative voices and finding ways to cope with a lack of emotional support.
Yet, finding and becoming your true self starts with facing the healing process (i.e. re-parenting) and realizing, as an adult, you are no longer a victim to the circumstances or emotionally confined.
During this moment, inner child work can look like showing up and standing up for your younger self. Learning new things (or beliefs), you should have been taught as a kid (i.e. how to love or be loved) and unlearning things, like coping mechanisms (i.e. burying pain).
As a child, you didn’t have the power to set the tone for your own life, but now you do. Lean into and fine tune a new narrative by cultivating a sense of self-belonging. Exploring truth in who you are and joy in who you want to be; minus the blame game and dependency on outside influences. Despite any uncomfortable feelings, self-sustain by making space for more self-love and releasing any self-judgement or fear.
2. Time Heals All Wounds:
Although liberating, inner child work can be a slow process that is not only challenging, but demanding. Transitioning into a different narrative requires us to leave behind comfort and abandon parts of ourselves that felt familiar, as well as, safe (coping mechanisms). Festering for years, the wounds we incurred as children are not going to heal overnight and for many of us. The process is an open-ended journey without a definite end.
But, this is where we can see time as a lesson, rather than a burden. Or, use time to our advantage, rather than a block (loss or misfortune).
We’ve all heard the saying, “life is too short.” Likewise, life is not linear and will never be exactly what we want it to be. So, instead of trying to control, or justify, whatever happened in the past, let us make time in the NOW to be with our inner child, and to just heal.
Now independent adults, we can also make room for growth by learning how to devote our time to what is important rather than, what isn’t (i.e. unhealthy relationships, unsatisfying career, etc.).
Furthermore, as we listen to our inner child for guidance, we can use time as a way to obtain a life that may have felt like it was beyond our reach. Let go of what could have been different (it doesn’t change what was), it only creates a focus on expectancy; or re-living neglect, uncertainty, failure, etc.
With inner child work, there is a lot to learn. Yet, with a newfound awareness, time gives us room to accept and understand our childhoods, as we move forward. Offering knowledge with clarity, resilience with peace and love with perspective. Time also gives us space to work through the emotional mess, patiently sort out any kinks and find grace in the midst of chaos.
3. Soothe the Suffering Wounds:
As previously mentioned, Inner Child Work can be challenging, demanding and painful. But, tuning into your inner child can also lead to a sense of wholeness, boosting courage and inspiration. This is where identifying triggers can be very beneficial.
For a long time, I didn’t know about triggers. I didn’t realize I had any until speaking with a Therapist (hint, hint). Baffling things would surface that I typically tried to ignore or write off. Only to later recognize them to be my inner child having a tantrum, needing attention but most importantly, love.
Did you know that Art Therapy, EMDR, Gestalt Work, Internal Family Systems (or IFS), Parts Work, Narrative Therapy, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Somatic Work, Trauma Therapy, are treatments (to mention a few), that include Inner Child Work?
Becoming aware of repeating cycles, I could no longer silence the wounds of my inner child nor dwell on things that I could not change (i.e. release attachment, let go of control or a need to fix). Alternatively, I took comfort in knowing I had the ability to discover and learn new ways (tools) to self-soothe.
Do not underestimate or under appreciate the value of suffering. Like time, it can be a strange and wonderful teacher. Helping you to see that you, as a being, matter and are worthy enough to make a radical decision to choose yourself (every effin time.)
3 Simple Ways to Soothe Your Inner Child
- Practice Mindfulness with Breathwork, Meditation & Yoga
- Use your imagination and get creative (i.e. cooking, drawing, gardening, reading, writing, etc.)
- Schedule Unstructured Time to nap, wander (travel), treat yourself, etc.
READ: How to Self-Help Depression & Anxiety: 5 Strategies to Try (right NOW)!
4. Openly Accept Family Wounds:
No family is perfect, and for many of us, growing up in an environment without a strong foundation, is not uncommon. Since we are the most impressionable between the ages of 1-7, family dynamics is a big catalyst for Inner Child Work.
With many kids feeling out of place, confused and unsafe. The need to fit somewhere, anywhere, lingers into adulthood. Manifesting in different ways, like hanging out with the wrong crowd or entering into a highly dependent relationship.
For me, some of it was social anxiety. When I think about personal childhood experiences (memories), a pattern of rejection was a recurring thing. So much so, I found myself establishing an isolated safety bubble as a way to cope.
A way to numb feelings of not being supported emotionally or to avoid the feelings of disappointment, in being a part of a detached family, with deep loss and very little outward expressions of love. These family wounds started to heal when I openly acknowledged how unsafe and uncomfortable I felt in the presence of family. Acceptance followed when I started to create boundaries for myself.
READ: 6 Sensational Ways to Tune into Your Intuitive Guidance!
Then understanding occurred. I couldn’t expect them to know my needs and wants, if I wasn’t willing to speak up for myself. Lastly, forgiveness and compassion; my family tried the best they could with what life had given. I am Now capable, despite my childhood, to explore and establish (define) what family truly means to me; unconditional love, care, consistency, etc.
5 Books to Consider for Inner Child Work
- The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self (Revised Edition) by Alice Miller
- Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving – A Guide & Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma by Pete Walker
- The Emotionally Absent Mother (Updated & Expanded 2nd Edition): How to Recognize & Heal the Invisible Effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect by Jasmin Lee Cori, MS LPC
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, & Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
- Self-Love Workbook for Women: Release Self-Doubt, Build Self-Compassion, & Embrace Who You Are by Megan Logan, MSW
5. Wounds Heal with Resilience:
In all, healing with Inner Child Work or any other self-discovery process takes resilience. We must be courageous in preparing for the challenges, disappointments, and setbacks. Similarly, learn from the emotional chaos, despite the adversity. A bumpy ride, expect the unexpected and grasp the importance of letting go of control and trusting the divine plan.