The inner child is an individual’s childlike part that includes what a person learns before puberty. It is a semi-independent sub–personality/persona and a piece of an individuals overall personality. The inner child within each of us is made up of a set of beliefs, thoughts, feelings and intentions.
Who is the inner child?
It’s the little you:
- Who knows how to have fun and play. Who needed to be nurtured and loved.
- The free spirit that you have tamed and controlled.
- The lost and forgotten child that still resides within your subconscious.
- The part of you that needs healing, support, and positive reinforcement.
How is the inner child formed?
From the day that we are born, we are innocent and instantly accept all of the information we receive. Since a child is new to the world we need our caregivers to nurture us in order to survive. We are influenced and therefore shaped by our parents or guardians; taught right from wrong and punished or rewarded. Our parents shape our belief system, view of the world, and impose their expectations upon us.
Children have no choice but to comply to whatever expectations and standards are put upon them. A child has no point of reference of what a healthy or unhealthy family dynamic looks like. Therefore, growing up, how would a child know if their family is functional or dysfunctional? To each child, whatever they are going through would seem normal. How would they know otherwise? This is called normalization, i.e. rationalizing abnormal, harmful, toxic, and abusive treatment as normal.
Since a child rely’s on their caregivers for survival they accept whatever they are being told. Some of those truths or mistruths are pushed on them by family members, by school, by church, by their community, by peers, and by society as a whole. In most cases parents have the most power and influence over a child’s development.
More importantly when we fail to meet our parent or guardians expectations of us it can cause us pain. In order to protect ourselves from emotional pain, we create defence mechanisms and sub-personalities in order to numb out from past wound(s) and past trauma(s).
Many children grow up feeling they have not lived up to their parents expectations in one way or another. There may be feelings of guilt and or shame that are deeper than any intellectual insight we may have. These feelings of guilt and or shame go back to our earliest years. A child may feel forbidden to express their true emotions, thoughts, needs, preferences, and grievances. A child’s sense of not having lived up to their parents expectations can feel oppressive and stay with them into adulthood. Many children grow up negatively affected by the expectations, roles and standards placed upon them as children.
How does the inner child impact us as an adult?
When the adult gets caught up in a painful story, it is usually connected to some past experience. It is the inner child that has shaped the quality and density of our thoughts. At times the adult doesn’t associate their painful story with the past but when we look back, we can often connect how our current thoughts our old stories created out of past beliefs and experiences, making those stories feel true.
Looking backwards creates if only phrases like these:
- If only I had never been abused, I would be happy
- If only I had been treated with respect, I wouldn’t be so angry all the time
- If only my mother or father had not neglected me, I would have a healthy relationship
- If only that had never happened to me, my life would be better
- If I behaved better, my parents would still be married
The Wounded adult identifies themselves as a victim, getting stuck in a story of suffering and feeling hopeless. Themes of rejection, failure, unworthiness and longing are all prevalent in this initial common pattern. The pain from a childhood wound will replay itself over and over in adult life until the trauma is tended to and healed. You are bound to recreate the dynamics experienced in childhood, with you as the victim.
If you were bullied at school or picked on by siblings, cousins or other peers you may continue to feel bullied as an adult by co-workers, friends and other peer groups. If you were abused by a parent or an adult you may feel abused by your boss at work, or any other perceived authority figure. Your present reactions and perception will match the way you coped with the abuse or bullying as a child.
For example…. If you suffered a handicap as a child and needed constant care you may recreate the dynamic as a caretaker in your personal relationship(s). Pay attention to the “this always happens to me” type of experiences. This can be an effective tool for recognizing the wounded child within the adult that causes us pain.
How do we heal?
- Acknowledging the little in you
One of many ways to acknowledge your inner child is to recognize and accept the things that caused you pain in childhood. Visualize your inner child, what might they be wearing in the visualizatioin, how old might they be? Where are they? What do they need? If any messages arise of hurts or old wounds bring them out into the light so you can begin to understand their impact. Dialogue with your inner child. Let the little you know that you’re there, treat them with kindness and respect and communicate self-nurturing things.
You may want to tell your inner Child
- I love you
- I hear you
- I’m sorry
- I am proud of you
- You are smart
- You are good enough
- I forgive you
2. Forgiveness, self-love and acceptance.
Forgiveness is one of those words that is routinely misused and misunderstood. Letting go is not forgiveness although forgiveness cannot happen until you let go first. Forgiveness is what happens when you stop rejecting the true cause of your suffering.
Forgiveness means making room for more.
When we are unforgiving, we reject our hurtful past by not allowing it to be a part of us. Forgiveness is opening up and making room for hurt and losses.
Healing is about feeling the pain and being emotionally uncomfortable. Feeling emotions and not numbing out is often the most difficult task for people. Sometimes our inner child may just need a hug from our adult self.
The Enlightened Wounded Child discovers that by entering the darkness of their pain and working through it, they can stand in the fire of pain and not be burned.