Before we take a deep dive into this section, I want to call in your angels, guides, and masters. Close your eyes and accept the presence of your spiritual team. I want them here with you because this topic has the potential to be a little heavy. Take three deep breaths. If some of your memories become overwhelming, or trigger you, simply pause, remind yourself that your spiritual team is present, and follow your breath for a moment.
There is a relationship that most likely needs some serious attention in your life. You haven’t meant to ignore or abandon this person. You actually feel a deep and intense love for this person, it’s just that you were trained to drown them. Even though this person may be barely breathing, and clinging to life, it doesn’t matter. This person goes with you everywhere you go. You can sometimes catch a glimpse, but they were trained to hide, so you comply with the training. Who is this person? It’s your inner child.
When we deny our inner child time and again, our inner child has no choice but to stay silent. However, this same being inside of you remembers what you were like before the trauma happened in your life. Almost every person I’ve encountered has experienced some form of childhood trauma because life happens. Trauma isn’t always abuse. Let’s see if you have childhood trauma. Please place a checkmark beside all of the following that apply.
___ Being hit by any adult.
___ Being punched, kicked, slapped by siblings.
___ Your parents withheld love and affection.
___ Excessive grounding. (The punishment didn’t match the crime.)
___ Being offered cigarettes, alcohol, or pornography from an adult.
___ Sexual molestation or rape.
___ Excessive alone time before the age of 17. (Studies show that 17 is the age most teens can handle, and prefer, alone time.)
___ Being the child of divorce.
___ Being the primary caregiver for a younger sibling, your parent, grandparent, etc.
___ The death of a parent.
___ The death of a sibling.
___ Not being fed or provided primary care.
___ Emotional neglect. No interest in extracurricular activities, homework, grades, friends, personal success.
___ Being called names by an adult.
___ Stonewalling as punishment. Not speaking to you for days or weeks.
___ Excessive control.
___ Public humiliation.
___ Destruction of your personal property.
___ An illness you experienced or a tragic accident that left you physically challenged.
___ Watching a parent suffer with a physical illness that left them debilitated or handicapped.
___ Bullied at school.
___ Mistreatment by siblings, cousins, or other relatives close to your own age.
Trauma sucks. Let’s face it, and I mean that literally. Your inner child is brilliant. She (or he) came up with so many amazing coping skills, but guess what? The same coping skills that saw you through all that trauma no longer work. In fact, they are probably working against you, especially if you are stuck in a victim mentality.
Once I first began therapy at the age of nineteen, I told my therapist that our family was great. Denial was my reality. I knew inside I was lying but I didn’t want anyone else to know the hell I’d endured growing up. While I can place a check beside almost all of the above, it doesn’t take anything away from your trauma if there is only one checkmark. Trauma is trauma. What I witness a lot of my clients do is minimize their story. Minimizing what happened to you as a child is also a coping mechanism. All the coping you have in place are all connected to your pain management system.
In the previous blog, we talked about authenticity. You cannot truly be your whole self without the reconnection to your child within. Without this reconciliation, we are merely fragmented souls with fears, phobias, insecurities, and self-sabotaging behavior wrecking the very dreams our inner child holds deep within. Making this connection is the first step to healing.
It’s a myth that is process is torture. Most likely, you’re going to be over-the-moon elated at the wonder and innocence of your inner child. Instead of medicating your pain with the things you currently do, your inner child can show you the source of your pain, how and where it all began, the story you created around it in order to survive, and the way through it. Think of your inner child as a ninja Buddhist – a wise warrior – who also loves to giggle, play, explore, and create.
When trauma happens, a child uses these same skills to create survival. It’s genius! When we have unhealthy adults and/or other children mistreating us, we have to make up stories for them, too, so that we can cope with being around them. When this doesn’t work, a child will begin to hide which as an adult looks like escaping or avoiding.
The first step to reconciliation with your inner child is awareness. You must become aware of that beautiful child inside of you. To become aware means look at how you are both childish and how you are childlike. Your childish behaviors are a clue to your pain, and your childlike behaviors are clues to your joy. The best way to do this is to journal.
At the top of the page make two columns. On the left side of the page write “Childish” and on the right side “Childlike.” Don’t judge yourself harshly but be honest. What childish acts do you exhibit when you’re angry? Do you slam doors, scream, yell, curse, call names? What childlike wonder exists inside of you? Do you love nature, art, colors, food, music? This list is a treasure chest of information.
After you make this list, you will have identified with your inner child, maybe for the first time in a long time. Next, you’ll want to start a line of communication. I highly recommend you find a picture when you were a child, frame it, and place it on your nightstand. That inner child needs to become your focus over the next few weeks, especially if you’ve never done this work before.
Your inner child is eager to meet with you! Here is an exercise to help you connect.
Stack some pillows on the floor and comfortably position yourself against a wall with pillows all around you. Children love pillows. You may want to place a blanket over you for the weight and comfort. If you have a picture of your younger self, bring it with you and hold it. Look into those eyes. If you don’t have a picture, then close your eyes and bring a memory to your mind. Maybe it’s the ice cream truck on a hot summer’s day or the teacher you loved in school. Feel your heart expand. If tears come, just allow them to fall. Begin a dialogue with your little self.
You are amazing.
I love you.
Your laugh makes me laugh.
I hear you.
You are important.
Thank you for loving me.
I forgive you.
You are strong.
You are capable.
Another way to open this door is by allowing your inner child to communicate to you through writing. Place a crayon or magic marker in your non-dominant hand and ask your inner child questions. Some examples are:
What do you need to heal?
How can I help you be heard?
What do you like to do for fun?
What is your greatest strength?
Have I made you proud?
The next pathway for healing is to build a reality where your inner child resides. Did you love to paint as a child? Go to the art store, walk around, and gather the items you need to paint. Were you an adventure seeker? Go to a wall-climbing class or learn how to drive a racecar. Whatever you need to do to feel your inner child in a healthy way is crucial to your healing journey.
When I work with clients, this experience is one of the most profound and freeing for them. In feeling your inner child in a healthy way, you also begin to see how you are childish when your feelings are hurt. Your responses will become more “adult” and you will notice feeling calmer on the inside. While I do not claim any of my work to cure any mental health or diagnosed physical illness, clients have told me that they feel less anxious, suffer fewer panic attacks, and overall feel physically better, and more in control of their lives, after doing this initial work.
The key to inner child work is to never put it down or lock them away again. I keep little Allyson around. She’s on my desk, she’s in my bedroom, and on my phone. I look at her all the time. She’s a child who was often ignored, so when I look at her, it restores her self-esteem. She knows she matters to me, that I love her, and that I will protect her.
There is another way to heal your inner child, a deeper way, but I only recommend this if you are working with a therapist or a life coach, like myself, who is qualified in inner-child work. The reason is that you will most likely need to talk about your experience with someone who is qualified to help you sort through your experience.
I offer a meditation to my clients where we connect with the inner child in a non-threatening way. You m