Discovering Your Inner Child

There is much psychiatry does not understand about how our psyche works. Indeed, because psychiatric symptoms are mostly self-reported, there is little evidence that mental disorders exist. However, all humans recognize in themselves the urges and responses they seem to have that echo past experiences.  

This piece will target the inner child and how it can both negatively and positively affect everyday life.

The Discovery of the Inner Child

The concept of the inner child began with Carl Jung, who became interested in the ‘child inside’ after he broke with Sigmund Freud to form his own practice. Jung became aware that he had lost his interest in creativity and his childhood love of building things.

Jung also became aware of the emotions that arose when he remembered his childhood love of building and began to form a relationship with the ‘small boy inside him.

By the 1970s, the concept of the inner child was being used widely. It helped to form the basis of many 12-step and codependency movements.

Today, inner child work is at the base of most work therapists do with their clients who were traumatized as children.

The Inner Child in All of Us

All human beings have a part of themselves that has never grown up. That part may feel and react to their circumstances, similar to a child. This enigmatic piece of our psyche is called the inner child.

Finding that part of oneself that may or may not be caught in trauma-time can be both beneficial and terrifying. If one’s inner child is happy and healthy, then he or she will cause you to experience joy at the little things. If, however, the inner child was traumatized, such as in sexual abuse, one might find their inner child acting out and having tantrums.

As one might suspect, an inner child that is misbehaving because of unresolved trauma will interrupt relationships and one’s life.

Inner Child Work

Inner child work includes the ability to contact the inner child in you and working to connect with their feelings and emotions. Inner child work allows one to see where issues one may be facing in adulthood came from. Inner child work can help you discover:

  • Emotions that need to be released that are keeping you from finding your full potential
  • How to recognize and meet unmet needs
  • Unhelpful childlike behavior patterns
  • How to increase self-care
  • How to increase one’s self-respect
  • How to increase one’s self-esteem 

While inner child work may sound easy, it is not. This is especially true for folks who harbor in their minds the memories of severe childhood maltreatment. It is highly recommended that inner child work only occurs in the presence of a trained mental health professional.

We shall cover the topic of inner child work in our next article in this series on the inner child.

The Benefits of Knowing Your Inner Child

While growing in understanding of your inner child may seem daunting, there are many benefits to finally acknowledging they exist. By tapping the childlike sense of awe in all of us, below are only a few of the benefits of growing to know your inner child.

Increased Playfulness. One might find themselves feeling free of the constraints of being an adult, even if for only a short while. The relaxation playing brings to us is immeasurable in its benefits to our mental and physical health.

New Confidence. Upon contact with your inner child, you may feel the confidence you once knew to try new things and to go on adventures. This awakening of the adventurous confidence in you will make persistence much more enjoyable and help you to reach your adult goals.

Better Physical Health. Children and adults, benefit from having a sense of belonging and community. Their immune systems are bolstered when we get to know ourselves better, and because of that, relate better to the world around us.

A Better Understanding of Yourself. Through accessing repressed memories and emotions, you can discover what it is that is causing you to have problems in your adult life.

Feeling Self-Compassion. Self-love is so foreign to some people that they reject the notion outright. The idea of telling themselves that they love them is abhorrent to them. Through contacting the inner child, one can learn to love that child inside and, in the process, learn to love and accept every part of their self.

Learn Self-Care. While getting to know one’s inner child, it is impossible not to feel a need to care for them. We might even feel protective and the need to mother them. In the process, one is learning to care about oneself and how to take care of your needs.  

Inner children and getting to know them should not be scary or considered a trivial or silly exercise. There is much healing for those who experienced trauma in childhood in working through the healing that comes from getting to know the inner child residing in them. 

“My quest these days is to find my long-lost inner child, but I’m afraid if I do, I’ll end up with food in my hair and way too in love with the cats.” – Kenny Loggins

“In every real man, a child is hidden that wants to play.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“I’m happy to report that my inner child is still ageless.” – James Broughton

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