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Tools for Healing: Connecting to your inner child

She held herself until the sobs of the child inside subsided entirely. I love you, she told herself. It will all be okay.
— H. Raven Rose, Shadow Selves: Double Happiness
Artwork by Alexander Milov

Artwork by Alexander Milov

What is the inner child?

We were all at one time children.  Nobody is born an adult, neatly mature, responsible, and with all the skills necessary to navigate this world.  At some point in our lives, we become adults and lose touch with our inner child. However, not because we lose touch with our inner child does that mean it does not have an influence on us.  Most of us still act in childish ways every now and then. Examples of these moments may look like when you have a temper tantrum over someone drinking the last soda in the fridge, a panicky sense of being a bother, or feeling as if you don't matter when friends are not responding to your texts or phone calls right away.

Some of us, who had a judgmental and loveless childhood, remain children most of the time - temper tantrums and all.  It may be difficult for others to understand because we look like an adult on the outside, but we are very much a child on the inside.

The inner child is a “part” of us that lives in the unconscious. In many ways, the inner child represents the child we once were.  This child may hold many positive and negative beliefs about itself. Some examples of negative self-beliefs are “I don’t matter,” “I'm not good enough,” “I’m not lovable,” “I’m damaged,” “I should have known better,” “I’m powerless,” “I’m stupid.”  On the other hand, some positive self-beliefs are “I matter,” “My needs matter,” “I deserve good things,” “'I’m lovable,” “I can learn from a mistake,” “I’m smart,” and “I’m wanted.”

Thinking back to your childhood, what are some positive and negative beliefs you learned about yourself?  Do you find yourself still holding these beliefs, or at least some?

Sometimes our inner child is stuck in the past, alone, scared, worried, sad, angry, neglected, and hurt.  It is up to us to show up for our inner child to nurture, love, offer compassion, and kindness. But most of all to bring the inner child to the present moment, nurture, protect, and ultimately heal them.  You more than anyone has the power to do that. A way of doing this is to bring awareness to the presence of the inner child. You can start by focusing on your body, emotions, and thoughts. Creating this awareness is a skill, and as with any skills, it will take practice and work. Cultivating this practice may result in a positive shift and a deeper connection to this inner child.  

I suggest to start connecting with your inner child slowly, gently, non-judgmentally, and compassionately.  Many times when we attempt to connect with our inner child, we may find big scary wounds that need to be healed.  If this is the case for you, there is nothing to feel ashamed of. Honor the needs of your inner child non-judgmentally, and seek the help and support that can assist you. One suggested avenue of support may look like engaging in services with a licensed trauma therapist.  Contact your local community to find a trauma therapist that fits your needs for this healing journey.


How ?

Firstly, there is no right or wrong way of seeking out your inner child. The best way to connect with your inner child is to practice visualizing what your inner child looks like, how they feel, what they need and so on.  Secondly, we suggest that you try different ideas and pick a few that you noticed help you connect with your inner child the most. Below is one suggested way of practicing.



Exercise to ground with inner child:

  • Returning to your window of tolerance

***Warning: The following exercise is not designed to address serious issues for which one might need the help of a local trauma-informed trained therapist.

  1. Find a comfortable position.  A position that would allow your body to feel relaxed and supported.  Try sitting or lying down.

  2. Start by taking several deep breaths.

  • In through the nose for...1… 2… 3… 4… hold your breath in for… 1… 2… 3… 4… and out through the mouth for… 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6…  Try exhaling a little longer than inhaling. By doing this you facilitate a natural pause in your brain and relaxation will follow.  

3. Gently and with kind intention place your hand on the part of your body where you feel your inner child residing at this moment.  Try your best to non-judgmentally notice your body, soul, and mind without getting “hooked.” Step back, and as openly as you can, kindly and compassionately notice your inner child.  It is as if you are noticing the passing clouds in the sky, but you are not flying away on them. 

4. Continue to breathe naturally and calmly.  If you notice that you are getting overwhelmed, please honor the feeling and non-judgmentally stop this practice.  Gently open your eyes, and while breathing in and out gently notice 3 things you see, 2 things you hear, 1 thing you smell, 1 thing you taste, and 3 things that are touching your body.  If you desire to explore and connect with your inner child again, it is advised to do so with the guidance and expertise of a trauma-informed therapist.

5. With your hand touching the part of your body where your inner child is residing, kindly ask “what do you need from me right now?”

6. Step back and wait for the answer.  Our inner child may answer in different ways.  Sometimes through body sensations, feelings, thoughts, images, memories, words, etc.

  • Notice the answer with compassion and non-judgment.  Avoid telling the child what it needs. Instead, listen as openly as you can.  Honor your inner child as is, at this moment. Notice the impermanence of what you are noticing.  How it washes in and out...

7. Still with your hand touching your body, kindly offer loving-kindness.  You may create and repeat a mantra that fits best your inner child and you.  For example, say to your child in a compassionate and non-judgmental manner;

  • May you feel loved,

May you feel safe,

May you feel peace,

May you feel heard,

May you feel protected.


8. Repeat this mantra as many times as you feel necessary for you and your inner child.  Mindfully, listen to yourself repeating this mantra either out loud or internally. Allowing your inner child to feel the mantra through your body, heart, and mind.  Bring non-judgmental awareness to any shifts in your body, emotions, and mind. Allowing any positive shift to sink in - in your body, emotions, mind, and inner child.  Notice them with curiosity, openness, and kindness.  

9. Notice negative shifts in your inner child washing in and out, like passing clouds in the sky - not “flying away on them.”  Mindfully bring awareness to the impermanence of the negative shifts, and allow yourself and your inner child to “soak” your body, emotions, and mind in the positive shifts.

  • If the shift feels stuck in negative and it is increasing, then stop this practice.  Gently open your eyes, and while breathing in and out gently notice 3 things you see, 2 things you hear, 1 thing you smell, 1 thing you taste, and 3 things that are touching your body.  If you desire to explore and connect with your inner child again, it is advised to do so with the guidance and expertise of a trauma-informed therapist.

 10. And now, show gratitude and appreciation to your inner child for allowing you to connect, and for giving you the opportunity to honor and nurture it.  Feel your eyes, muscles, and natural breathing softening.  

11. Lastly, let’s take 3 deep breaths.

In through the nose for...1… 2… 3… 4… hold your breath in for… 1… 2… 3… 4… and out through the mouth for… 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6…  Try exhaling a little longer than inhaling. By doing this you facilitate a natural pause in your brain and relaxation will follow.  

Through the trust of our inner child in the balance of the self-lead spirit, may we find our path to self-liberation.
— Martha Mendes, CSW, ASUDC

Resources

Schwartz, R. C.  (2001).  Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model.  Oak Park, IL: Trailheads Publications.

Holmes, T., & Holmes, L. (2007).  Parts work: An illustrated guide to your inner life.  Kalamazoo, MI: Winged Heart Press.

Lees, D. J., & Lees, A.  (2017). The inner child explained: How to love, guide & heal your inner child.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM0lmfBlE2E

Folts, K.  (2018). Give your inner child permission to heal.  Retrieved from

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKHkq6S3kaU