Connecting With and Healing your Inner Child

childhood messages cycle breaker generational trauma inner child healing
small inner child holding hand of adult self

Your inner child stores the emotional memory of your earlier life experiences. Everything you experience as an adult is filtered through those stored emotional memories.

Imagine for a moment that you are with a group of friends at a restaurant. As you are busy chatting away with your friends, you accidentally spill your glass of red wine all over your friend’s white shirt.

She jumps up from the table and quickly starts blotting her shirt.

As you try to clean up the mess on the table, hot tears sting your cheeks.

You mumble to yourself, “I’m so clumsy. I ruin everything. I am so sorry.”

Your friend stops blotting her shirt and places a hand on your hand and gently says, “It was an accident. Nothing is ruined – except maybe the shirt. But it’s a shirt. Everyone is OK.”

Still you cling to this message I ruin everything, and find that later that night, you’re stuck replaying the situation over and over again.

You worry that your friend is upset with you and that maybe your friendship is over.

Days later, your friend sends you a text. Before you open it, you feel a tingly sensation on your skin. Your heart is racing, and your palms are slightly sweaty. You are certain the text is going to be the end – the text that tells you how you ruined her favorite shirt, and that everything is your fault, and that she no longer wants to be friends.

Instead, it says, “Hey – I’m going to be in your neighborhood tomorrow morning. Wanna grab coffee and a run?”

Why did you suspect the end when it is clear your friend was not upset? Why the catastrophic thinking over something so insignificant?

The answer lies in your inner child.

What is the inner child?

The inner child is the part of you that formed between the ages of birth and seven. The inner child stores the emotional memory of your earlier life experiences. As a child, your experiences were laying the foundation for your understanding of the world.

Any emotion or experience that was too big, too overwhelming, or that you didn't have a trusted adult to help you move through was left unprocessed in your body. The unprocessed emotions and experiences are stored in the part of yourself that is referred to as your inner child.

Throughout your life, every experience you encounter is processed through this part of you – the inner child. The experience will be colored by your previous life experiences, and you’ll see it through the perspective of the wounded inner child.

In the spilled wine scenario, it is possible that as a child, you accidentally spilled on something important, and your caregiver reacted explosively. Whether the incident happened one time or multiple times, the emotional memory stayed with you, and when you spilled the wine on your friend, you triggered the same emotions you experienced as a child when you were chided for being clumsy.

What is inner child wounding?

Your child self was incredibly vulnerable. You relied on the adults around you to care for you and to teach you about the world. Unfortunately, if you were surrounded by adults who were still carrying their own unhealed child wounding, they inadvertently passed that wounding on to you by teaching you to relate to the world through the lens of their wounding.

Home to your authentic self, your inner child is also where you carry your childhood messaging. The inner child is where you store the messages you received as children - messages such as what it means to be successful, what relationships look like, what acceptable careers look like, or what it means to be a certain gender.

These messages combined to form your self-image, how you think about yourself, and ultimately, determine how you relate to others and the world around you. If you come from a childhood of negative messaging, these messages undoubtedly impact who you are as an adult.

How do you heal the inner child?

The inner child does not have the capability to process the wounding that you experienced. As an adult it is important to access the inner child to heal those wounds and rewrite the messages you received so that you can live a more authentic and intentional life, rather than one based on the learned behaviors and thought patterns you picked up as a child.

Michelle Chalfant, licensed therapist and life coach, describes the human experience using three chairs: the child chair, the adolescent chair, and the adult chair. The child chair is essentially your inner child, and the adolescent chair is your ego.

The adolescent chair is where you learn to protect the vulnerability of the inner child, and form patterns and behaviors that hide your authentic self from the world. Only when you are “sitting in your adult chair” are you able to heal the childhood wounds and live authentically.

How do I access my inner child?

Getting to know your inner child can be uncomfortable and challenging. The easiest way to access it is through meditation or journaling. I found that having a picture of myself as a toddler taped to the inside of my journal grants me greater access.

Your inner child appears most often when you are hurt or upset. These emotions tend to come from that vulnerable place within you– the part of you that carries your childhood wounding. When you lash out, you are acting from the ego, who is trying to protect you from feeling the vulnerability felt as a child.

To get to know your inner child better, pay close attention during the times when you feel hurt. What bothers you about the situation? What messages are surfacing when someone upsets you? What feelings come up for you?

Keep track of these situations and feelings in a journal or in the Notes app on your phone. Later, when you have more time to process your thoughts and emotions surrounding those situations, begin to ask yourself how the current situation relates to your childhood.

Do you remember a time when that same feeling first arose? Was there a message you heard often as a child that was triggered within you during this current situation?

Tips for connecting with your inner child

I find that it is helpful to think about my daughter when I am trying to access my inner self. As a parent, we tend to be able to pour into our children and protect them on instinct. You want to begin to develop that same instinct for your own inner child so that you can begin to reparent her in the way that she needed when you were younger.

By reparenting yourself, you can begin the healing process, and allow your ego to relax, letting go of the protective mechanisms put in place to avoid vulnerability and further hurt.

Inner child work is difficult, and many times, needs the support of a licensed therapist, particularly if you experienced major trauma as a child. However, there are exercises that you can do to identifying your childhood wounding and to begin the healing and growth process on your own.

Want to know common signs that your inner child needs healing? Download a {FREE} inner child healing guide 10 Signs Your Inner Child Needs Healing.


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