Updated: Oct 6
All of us harbor a subconscious version of ourselves that often manifests in unexpected ways. Have you ever found yourself reacting unexpectedly emotionally to a situation, and upon reflection, thought it was a rather 'childish' response? Such reactions can often be attributed to our 'inner child,' a psychotherapeutic concept that represents our suppressed emotions and memories from childhood.
This 'inner child' is not always about innocence, creativity, and joy. Due to traumatic or challenging childhood experiences, this subconscious self can also represent pain, hurt, and long-held beliefs. The definition of the inner child given from Harley Therapy’s blog reads "The inner child reflects the child we once were in both his or her ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ aspects. Both our unmet needs and suppressed childhood emotions, as well as our childlike innocence, creativity, and joy, are still waiting within us." Engaging with our inner child can help adults address root issues. Children subjected to trauma or adversity often mask their pain, shifting into survival mode. Remarks such as "you're not smart enough" or "boys don't cry" can scar the psyche of this inner child, leaving lasting impressions that affect adult behavior.
To truly connect with and heal our inner child, professional therapy is recommended. However, there are several self-help approaches that can be beneficial: writing letters to your inner child, practicing yoga and meditation, or even verbally communicating with this internal persona. Essentially, it's about "re-parenting" yourself, providing the support and understanding that might have been lacking during one's formative years. Someone explained to me once that she was getting her little daughter ready for school pictures and her daughter didn't like the way her mother did her hair. The mother was very receptive and explained to her she will do her hair however she wanted so that she could feel pretty. She then dropped her daughter off at school and processed what happened and the reaction that would have come from HER mother if she reacted that way. She explained that she saw her inner child running around with pig tails and lipstick feeling so beautiful and it made her sob in the happiest of tears. She was healing her inner-child in the process of building confidence and self esteem within her own daughter.
Creating this relationship can be very helpful to the healing process with people suffering from (but not limited to) PTSD, CPTSD, mental health issues as well as addiction. Creating this relationship with my inner-child allowed me to empathize with my story which gave me permission to start forgiving myself. It's unfortaunte to acknowledge that for years, my inner child sought recognition and help, only to be met with my own self-loathing. However, the journey towards embracing and loving my inner child has been transformative. We must realize that any form of negative self-talk or self-harm doesn't just affect our adult selves – it further wounds our inner child. Conversely, positive affirmations and self-love help nurture and validate this deeply embedded part of our psyche.