Healing Trauma Through Inner Child Work
Posted On July 11, 2020
So far, in this series on the inner child, we have discussed inner children, and how, when they are wounded, they can affect adult life. We learned that every person has an inner child that is part of our psyche, that is a childish self, inside all of us.
There is a model of healing known as doing inner child work. In this article, we shall tackle this subject to understand how we can begin the healing process from having a wounded inner child.
What is Inner Child Work?
Inner child work is something you do with a qualified person to resolve the emotions and trauma held in by a hidden child.
While inner child work can be handled alone, it is ill-advised as some of the memories and their accompanying emotions might be quite disturbing. However, not all the emotions that are harvested through inner child work are traumatic. This is because the inner child also holds the joy, innocence, and confidence that was yours at birth.
Inner child work involves self-discovery of all the emotions and memories one is forced to repress. The idea of inner child work is to get into contact with, listen to, and nurture inner children to find and heal the issues one may be facing in adulthood.
The Hidden Emotions of an Inner Child
Trauma in childhood leaves children filled with shame, and this forces inner children to hide their experiences and their accompanying emotions to survive. They are forced to do so because, as children, we are forced to live with and depend upon our caregivers. To admit as children to oneself that our caregivers will not and do not take care of us, or worse, harm us is akin to emotional suicide.
Thus, inner children learn to hide their feelings of rejection, experiences of abuse, and fear of abandonment deep inside. Unfortunately, by repressing these intense emotions, adults find themselves stuck in cycles of self-sabotage.
Self-sabotage includes actions against oneself that stop one from achieving the goals one wants, drives away relationships. Self-sabotage convinces you that you do not want these things. Adults who have unresolved inner child pain find themselves seeking out a parent and feel disappointed and rejected when the partner cannot fulfill their demands. On the other end of the stick, survivors may not seek out relationships at all for fear of being hurt again.
Why Contact Your Inner Child?
Trauma in childhood robs us of the knowledge and ability to successfully move forward in our lives as adults. Yes, repressed events and emotions that occurred with childhood trauma are horrific, but they do not go away on their own. Sometimes you just need to take the memories out, truthfully look at them, and work through them to resolve them once and for all.
It may seem counterintuitive to examine what happened to us in childhood because those memories are painful. If not done correctly, inner child work can leave a person retraumatized and struggling. However, if contact is established with an inner child precisely, healing will begin.
To ignore the memories and emotions we stuffed in childhood is to force ourselves to live in the pain of the past. While we may not feel this pain in our conscious awareness, it will haunt our decisions and our relationships all our lives.
Once contacted and helped, the inner child will release not only bad emotions. All the aptitudes and hidden gifts you have will suddenly become apparent. Relationships improve, addictions ease, and we experience a deepening connection with who we are and what we want.
The Bones of Inner Child Work
Inner child work works to help adults love and accept themselves with all their flaws. Although these benefits are not experienced immediately, love and acceptance of oneself will happen with dedicated work.
There are many methods for meeting and experiencing your inner child, including any or all the following:
Write out and discuss childhood with the inner child.
Reflect upon and discuss childhood trauma with your inner child. Try to cover each stage of life, infancy, toddler, preschool, and school-age, and with each step, try to recall how you felt. Did you feel safe? Afraid? Alone? Cared for? What were you experiencing internally during each stage of life?
Write down any physical sensations and memories you have, even if they are fragmented. Record the tone of voice, words, and expressions your parents used when interacting with you. Do not shy away, even if a memory seems silly because the inner child’s perceptions are vital to understanding.
Writing letters to and from the inner child.
Pretend that you have adopted your inner child and write a letter telling them how much you love and respect them. Tell them how you want to spend time with them and that they are safe with you. It will take time for the inner child living in your psyche to trust you, but it will happen if you are persistent.
Do not do all the talking. Allow your inner child to write to you by writing a letter to yourself from the perspective of your inner child using your non-dominant hand. Using your non-dominant hand helps get more in touch with the emotions and feelings of your inner child.
Share the pain that is discovered with a trusted person.
The pain shared with you by your inner child must be validated. To do so, the memories and emotions need to be shared with someone else.
This trusted person may be a therapist, a spiritual healer, a group, or a good friend. Just remember that sharing what your inner child has told you with a trusted person is vital to healing. You can try to go it alone, and you can accomplish a great deal by yourself, but for a breakthrough, you will need to bounce what happened off someone else who can validate you.
Doing inner child visualization.
To meet and understand your inner child better, you will want to visualize them. You can utilize your safe place in your mind to do this or just lie down and imagine your inner child standing before you.
Then, after introducing yourself, ask the all-important question, “What do you need the most from me?” Do not be surprised if your inner child exhibits shyness, fear, or even anger. Remember, they are hurting little ones who need your love and have been through a lot.
After practicing several times, you will find yourself and your inner child becoming more comfortable in each other’s presence.
Reading and internalizing supportive affirmations.
While this method may sound new age or useless, be assured reading and internalizing supportive affirmations is not. One must understand that negative tapes are playing in your mind. They were put there by those who traumatized your childhood.
Caring affirmations are a powerhouse to healing because they affirm your worthiness and make you feel safer. Standing in the mirror and repeating positive affirmations daily rewires your brain and replaces the old tapes of negative statements with new, more loving ones.
A few positive affirmations may be:
- I am worthy of respect
- I am worthy of dignity
- I am worthy of love
- I do have a place in the world
- I am opening my heart to trust again
- No one can take my truth from me
- It is okay not to be okay
- My emotions are legitimate
- I will allow myself to be happy today
- Every day in every way I am healing
Keep in mind, this is only a shortlist of affirmations, and more are available on the internet.
Learning to parent yourself.
The next article will cover self-parenting in-depth, but in general, reparenting oneself includes showing the respect, dignity, and love you always deserved to yourself.
Self-parenting may include learning good self-care or merely allowing you to receive love from others.
Keeping an inner child work journal.
Even if journaling is not your cup of tea, keeping an inner child journal is critical. By writing honestly about the struggles, you are going through, you complete two asks.
One, you gain insights into what you are going through, and writing them down is like downloading information into a computer. Once a memory is in black and white on paper, your brain will not be so cluttered with the emotions you may be feeling because of inner child work.
Two, keeping an inner child journal allows you to look back later and gain a perspective on how far you have come in your healing. This can be very affirming and help you to keep going.
Some people think that they do not need to face their pain and that they can move ahead without facing their past. While this author does not deny that thought, it is not a good thing to avoid the past because it is always there, haunting your thoughts and dreams.
It cannot be stressed enough that it is crucial to find a trusted person, a spiritual leader, or a therapist, who can guide you through the process of inner child work.
The pain of the past is not something that should be faced alone.
“Hold the hand of the child that lives in your soul. For this child, nothing is impossible.” – Paulo Coelho
“The real you is still a little child who never grew up. Sometimes that little child comes out when you are having fun or playing, when you feel happy, when you are painting, or writing poetry, or playing the piano, or expressing yourself in some way. These are the happiest moments of your life – when the real you comes out, when you don’t care about the past and you don’t worry about the future. You are childlike.” ~ Miquel Angel Ruiz