You may have heard of the “inner child,” but many of us don’t know how to access that hidden place or what to do with it once we get there. Inner child healing is a way to reach into your past and reconnect with the parts of yourself that were hurt or scared as a child — so now you can truly heal these wounds and move forward.
Here’s everything you need to know about inner child work.
Definition of “Inner Child Work”
Inner child therapy has been around since the 1960s; it wasn’t until recently that it became popular in mainstream culture, thanks to celebrities who have spoken out about their experience with this kind of healing process. Some examples include Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Drew Barrymore (who wrote an entire book on the subject).
Healing our attachment wounds and tending to the needs we never had the chance to express as children are two goals of the inner child work, also known as inner child healing.
Inside every one of us, we have an inner child who didn’t receive what we needed at the time in our youth, even if it was just from ourselves and not from a primary caregiver.
Developing one’s inner child, like developing one’s inner self generally, entails making room for one’s subconscious to take charge.
Inner work entails digging deep within oneself to unearth feelings and characteristics that others may deem unacceptable or excessive.
To fully accept and integrate the subconscious into conscious awareness, we must give ourselves time to go within, where we can begin to peel back our habitual coping mechanisms (such as avoidance and emotional numbing).
Inner child work helps you heal from past wounds, learn to love yourself, forgive yourself and trust yourself. It can help you move forward in your life by giving you the tools to heal old wounds, so they don’t continue to affect your present and future relationships.
So, how does one go about doing inner child work?
Many therapeutic approaches incorporate work with the client’s inner child.
Trauma therapy, Parts Work, Internal Family Systems, EMDR, sensorimotor psychotherapy, somatic work, Gestalt therapy, art therapy, and story or narrative therapy incorporate an inner child lens.
What makes inner child work unique is its focus on communicating with our inner child on their terms, using an emotional, bodily language rather than one based on words and logic.
What does it mean to tap into one’s “inner child”?
A person may have more than one “inner child,” each of whom represents a different time in their childhood.
The energy, curiosity, and originality we felt as children inform this facet of our personalities.
Getting in touch with your inner child allows you to draw on those qualities and experiences that were important to you then. Those feelings are so real you can almost touch them.
As kids, we are also highly impressionable, soaking up the lessons from our carers and mimicking their behaviour.
Inner child wounds, also known as attachment wounds, can result from a sudden injury or a slow leak in the attachment system that is never adequately patched. To a child, a broken connection is like making a desperate plea for help and having an emotionally distant carer ignore them.
As adults, we experience ruptures daily, whether it’s a partner not prioritising us or an encounter with a rude stranger. Whether or not an experience remains a wound depends on how we internalise it.
Now that we are adults, we can provide the nurturing home life and stable surroundings our younger selves craved.
What’s the big deal about fixing your inner child?
The wounds of emotional neglect and physical abuse are always with us as adults, whether mild or severe. Many grownups believe they are the only ones who experience such pain and suffering, so they hide their emotions to fit in with society’s expectations. This is why it’s crucial to heal our inner children and reassure ourselves that we are good and worthy just as we are. To overcome the guilt associated with simply being emotional.
We create the safety and security our younger selves needed by healing our inner child. When we do this, the best qualities of our inner child can emerge. We free our innate abilities, boundless curiosity, and boundless love.
On the other hand, destructive patterns of behaviour like workaholism, alcoholism, and chronic procrastination emerge when we ignore our pain and feel isolated by it.
Healing the inner child is healing the world. To put it simply, we make the world a better place. Coregulation is the mutual influence we exert on one another, and by healing the inner child, we heal past and future generations.
Symptoms that your inner child needs some love:
1) Having a very quick temper
When our hurt inner child rears its ugly head, we experience extreme reactions to situations, such as feelings of withdrawal or irritation. Our mature selves are constantly attempting to manage and control the very things that are causing them discomfort.
2. Misplaced emphasis on dependence
Repeating the mantra “I don’t need anyone” and refusing to accept assistance are two examples of this behaviour.
3. Maladaptive coping strategies
Alcohol, shopping, cheating, gambling, eating, and procrastination are all unhealthy coping mechanisms.
4. Mental and emotional illness
There are many possible manifestations of this, such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Devoid of drive
- Increasingly desiring time apart or with friends (avoidance manifesting in different ways)
- Using sex to create intimacy with a partner or denying a partner as a form of avoidance
- Problems falling asleep
- Gaining or losing weight
- Reduced ability to concentrate and produce quality work
- Increased stress in various areas of life
5. Relationship patterns that don’t change
Those who have experienced trauma in their attachment relationships as children often unconsciously repeat those patterns in their romantic and platonic partnerships as adults.
This suggests they are acting out the same traumatic experiences from their youth.
Examples of attachment behaviours include:
- Acting evasive when a partner brings up their emotions or when there is a conflict.
- Neglecting your own or your partner’s needs in the relationship
- Convincing oneself that there are no issues when, in fact, there are
- Relational anxiety or fear manifested by putting partner satisfaction above all else.
- Worrying excessively that your partner will leave you or reject you
Finding the way back to your inner child
Our inner child can only be understood by listening to and speaking in their language, which is sensory and somatic.
If you remember what it’s like to play with a child, you know that kids make intuitive noises and use their bodies to communicate instead of using complex sentences to explain what they want.
That’s why it’s important to stimulate all of your senses when trying to reawaken your inner child. When we can fully experience the present moment rather than trying to reason through it, we connect with a realm beyond our habitual cognitive narrative.
We have the opportunity to reconnect with our inner child right now.
First, we can shift our attention from the left brain, which controls our rational thought processes, to the right brain, where our feelings, intuition, and creativity are housed. Here are a few suggestions to get you going:
1.Breathing exercises and meditation
The stresses of the adult world and the “fight-or-flight” sympathetic arousal can be left behind as we reconnect with our deep breaths and physical body, allowing us to be present and curious.
One of the most straightforward techniques is to bring our attention to our breath.
Putting one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest and taking three deep purposeful breaths
Make a mental note of the following:
- What can you taste?
- What can you hear?
- What can you smell?
- What can you feel?
2. Foster your imagination.
Doing what we love—whether allowing ourselves to draw, paint, cook, put our hands in the soil, read, play games, or sit —is grounding and reconnects us with our inner child.
3. Accumulate a collection
How did it feel when you were a kid to amass a collection of things? Whether it be snow globes, sticks, rocks, shells, crystals, or trading cards.
We do this not for any practical purpose but for the experience itself.
4. Visualisation Exercises
Visualisation is a powerful tool for getting in touch with your inner child. Imagination and perception are enhanced when we use visualisations.
Guided visualisations can be especially useful for beginners. My Insight.Timer “Meet Your Inner Child” visualisation meditation is a good place to begin.
The purpose of keeping a journal is to give yourself (and, in this case, your inner child) permission to be completely open and honest in your writing. One method is to check in with one’s inner child by asking them how they’re doing. The secret is not judging or correcting your inner child’s interpretation of their experiences.
If you’ve ever felt like something is missing in your life or that there are wounds from the past that need healing, inner child work can be a great way to start. It’s important to remember that everyone has an inner child who needs love and care–even if they don’t know it yet! So if this sounds like something that might be helpful for you or someone close to you, I encourage you to try out some of these exercises as soon as possible.
If you’d like to go deeper
Contact me when you’re ready to learn more about the Inner Child healing services I offer as part of my life coaching packages.
Samantha is an intuitive healer and visionary who holds space for heart-centric souls to discover their strengths, find their true purpose and take bold steps towards living a life aligned with their core values and soul purpose. Through a fusion of psychology, spirituality, Human Design, Reiki Energy Healing, and two decades of business experience, Samantha has supported hundreds of people to find their purpose, live life with more flow, and build thriving businesses.
She is is a registered practitioner with UK Reiki Federation and CMA.
As a though-leader, her work has been featured in numerous publications and television appearances on BBC and Channel 5 News.