Nearly 60% of adults report having experienced some sort of childhood trauma. The effects of childhood trauma can follow an individual into adulthood and negatively impact mental health relationships and employment. One way to alleviate the pain of childhood trauma is by healing your inner child.
Continue reading below to learn more about when an inner child is and how to begin the healing process.
What is an Inner Child?
The concept of an inner child has been around for many years. The philosopher and psychologist Carl Jung likely coined the term in the 1920s. In Jung’s teachings, the inner child is a part of our subconscious mind that never grew up.
The inner child holds all childhood memories and learned behaviors and reflects the true and original self. This part of the subconscious mind is often controlled by the conscious mind; however, its presence can influence actions and reactions.
Everyone has an inner child that remembers feelings of playfulness, creativity, and hope for the future. Unfortunately, the inner child also remembers negative childhood experiences or wounds, including neglect or trauma.
A wounded inner child may manifest itself in various ways—for example, difficulty meeting your needs and forming healthy relationships or unhealthy attachments and coping techniques.
Healing your inner child doesn’t happen overnight, but these seven steps are a good place to start.
1. Acknowledge Your Inner Child
Healing will never occur if you don’t first acknowledge your inner child. You have to want to meet your inner child. This can be a difficult journey of self-reflection, and many people find it challenging. If you feel resistant or skeptical, it will be hard, if not impossible, to reach your inner child.
Thinking of your inner child as a separate individual can be helpful. You can talk to your past self as if they are next to you. First, think back to childhood memories and the person you were. Identify that child and give them a face.
If you struggle to find that child, try journaling or writing a letter to your younger self. In the letter, practice using kind words of affirmation like, “I’m sorry we went through that,” “it wasn’t your fault,” or I love you.
2. Validate Your Trauma
Avoiding conversation about what happened won’t make the painful events go away. But talking about them can help ease the pain and allow you to process what happened and why it wasn’t okay. Your inner child needs validation of their trauma.
3. Listen to Your Inner Child
Once you have acknowledged your inner child and validated your experiences, you can begin listening to your inner child. The inner child part of your mind is trying to tell you your needs and potential triggers. You have to listen.
Listen by considering an event or reaction through the eyes of your inner child. For instance, if you feel rejected and ashamed by constructive criticism, this could be because your inner child remembers an old wound or trauma.
If you listen to the inner child’s voice, you can see patterns and behaviors in your adult life triggered by your inner child feeling unsafe. From here, you can begin to nurture your inner child.
4. Nurture Your Inner Child
If you know your inner child well and what makes that part of your subconscious anxious or uncomfortable, you can begin to nurture and heal that part of you.
Your inner child needs assurance and needs to feel safe to be a carefree child again. Allow for that. Maybe as a child, you always wanted a particular toy or to see a specific place. Give those things to your adult self and watch how your inner child feels validated.
If you felt unheard as a child, find someone to listen to you or try listening and hearing yourself.
If your childhood lacked play, be silly by blowing bubbles or jumping in puddles. Your inner child will thank you and can begin to heal.
Nurturing your inner child requires first determining what your inner child wants. Do this by acknowledging, validating, and listening to your inner child.
5. Forgive your Inner Child
Many wounded inner children carry the blame for their suffering. They likely had a parent who blamed them for their unhappiness or money problems. Likewise, abuse victims often blame themselves thinking they somehow deserved the abuse.
Remember, it’s never a child’s fault, and letting go of the shame or guilt you feel is a huge key on the road to healing. You must forgive yourself and your inner child for the suffering you experienced.
Meditation has many health benefits and can be a great way to get in touch with your inner child. One pillar of meditation is mindful self-awareness. Through self-awareness, you become familiar with your feelings as they arise.
Meditation teaches you to sit with your feelings and experience them instead of burying or deflecting them. Through this practice, you can begin to recognize your emotions and better express yourself.
Meditation will be beneficial if your inner child feels trouble expressing themselves.
7. Seek Help
The work of healing your inner child is a continual, non-linear process. Expect to make good progress one day and encounter setbacks the next. While on your healing journey, remember there is no shame in talking to a trained professional.
Finding a compatible therapist with whom you can form a trusting alliance will significantly benefit you and your inner child.
Your inner child is always with you. Creating a healthy and caring relationship with that part of yourself takes time and effort. Begin by acknowledging, validating, and listening to your inner child.
Nurture and forgive your inner child, try meditation, and never feel shame about seeking help. A healed inner child can help you overcome childhood trauma and live a full and gratifying life.