How To Heal And Re-parent Your Inner Child
Your Inner Child is the echo of the child you once were. We each have our own history and we have all been influenced by our environment, events and the significant people around us. Our inner child has stored those memories, and their impact upon us.
You may have heard the term 'inner child' and thought it was just another bit of ‘psycho-babble’ - even though the term has been around for many years now.
Your Inner Child is the echo of the child you once were.
We each have our own history and we have all been influenced by our environment, events and the significant people around us. Our inner child has stored those memories, and their impact upon us.
Up to the age of six years, our brain was functioning at a relatively slow pace —the Theta brainwave frequency of 4-7 cycles per second—which is a very ‘receptive’ brainwave state, and we would have been profoundly affected by our experiences.
We will have made ‘decisions’ at a sub-conscious level, about how we ‘should’ be and what we ‘should’ do in order to be seen as OK, and to be allowed to stay around and to ‘survive’ in our families.
Our later experiences will have reinforced these beliefs and formed our own ‘Script’ for how our life ‘should’ be. We carry these immature scripts and decisions with us into adulthood — when they run our lives more than 90% of the time.
It therefore makes sense that we should revisit the experiences of the child we once were, and to find out what our own script says about our life and the unfolding drama we have been re-creating and repeating.
Not doing so will result in our playing out of the same unexamined script and drama over and over again.
We cannot change the script by talking about it, or by conscious effort alone. It was designed to keep us safe—albeit in ways that now hinder us—and so it isn’t given up that easily!
Most of the time we are living life like a child inside a grown-up's body - and the child within us yearns for attention, understanding, care and support.
We may try to silence these deeper longings with alcohol or drugs, by promiscuity, gambling, over-spending, over-eating, work-a-holism, self-harming and other ways of avoiding the real and deeper needs we have. Needs which we haven’t allowed ourselves to become fully aware of, or to find a way to have sufficiently met.
Where does it begin?
We have all been influenced by our environments since the time we were in our mother's womb.
The sounds around us, our mother's stress levels, the abundance or deficit of the ‘feel-good’ hormones and neuro-peptides, our nourishment or lack of it, complications, twin pregnancies, drugs, alcohol, and infections will all have played their part in how safe we felt even before we were born.
Then the actual birth experience, and our early infant care, and the ‘emotional availability’ of our mother will have either reinforced or soothed the impact of those first pre-natal influences.
As small children we will have been absorbing a great deal from our extended families, our caregiver(s), friends, pre-school and early school years, and religious institutions.
We may not have had words for these experiences but they will have been ‘logged’ in our sub-conscious minds and bodies.
This all creates the pool in which we float, or sink. Inevitably, the water will be a bit dirty - or it may even be like thick mud.
In this pool resides our self-esteem, body-image, family trauma, shame and secrets (even if not spoken about—as they all affect the quality of the care our caregivers are able to show to us).
We will sink down into this pool, or mud, whenever we are overwhelmed by our negative thoughts, emotions, self-doubt or self-loathing.
In therapy the aim should be to sensitively lift out this dirt and mud, bit by bit, until we are left with just a stain of what was once there.
We must also learn how not to ‘top-it-up’ with more mud—either by doing that ourselves, or by being around other people who want to dump some of their own mud onto us, instead of dealing with it, and cleaning it up, for themselves.
Signs that your Inner Child is wounded
These will be shown in low self-esteem, poor body-image, mood and emotional imbalances, problems with boundaries being too rigid or too weak, problems with eating, harming yourself, psycho-sexual difficulties, being ‘false’ and wearing ‘masks’, identity problems, being a rebel/ a hoarder/ a bully/ a perennial victim or a super-achiever, intimacy problems, commitment problems, a general lack of trust in yourself and others, criminal behaviour, excessive lying, being ‘overly-responsible’ for others, being fiercely competitive and a poor loser, dependencies and addictions, a lack of genuine friends, obsessive and needy behaviour, fear of authority figures, being manipulative, being passive, or being aggressive.
That’s a long—and sadly not exhaustive—list. It is the stuff that brings people into psychotherapy. To repair and heal the wounds caused by parents, and others, who didn’t know any better. It is always about the unmet needs of the Inner Child - the place of both our early wounding and the most profound healing!
What can we do to help our wounded Inner Child?
We can learn how to meet, rescue and ‘adopt’ this wounded child who still lives deep inside us. After all, you are the only person who you can guarantee never to leave you!
We can then emotionally contain and soothe our Inner Child, and allow the Competent Adult inside us to ‘attend to business’ out in the world.
However, we must regularly keep in touch with what our Inner Child still needs from us—which is, to be truly cared for by someone who wants the very best for them—that's you!
If you have a photograph of yourself as a small child, this will help you to empathically reconnect with him/her— the aim of which is to now understand their plight and to show them/yourself the compassion which has been missing.
It is often easier to feel compassion for other people than it is for yourself and you may have been rejecting and ignoring the yearning of your Inner Child - who has been calling out to you, over many years, for your interest, attention, compassion and love.
It may mean you now allowing yourself to have ‘treats’ and rewards that you would never have allowed yourself, or have been allowed by your parents, in the past.
The sensible competent Adult part of you should be able to set fair and sensible boundaries around this, so that you do not over-indulge yourself, or use any rewards as either a distraction or as a cover up for your deeper pain.
[If you have difficulties accessing this Adult part of your inner psyche then psychotherapy will be of help to you, providing that it includes this aspect of integrating the hidden or lost aspects of your character and personality, to help you on your path to becoming a more well-rounded and complete person.]
Rescuing and re-parenting your Inner Child will allow you to ‘fill in the gaps’ and enable you to live a more positive and rewarding life—with fun, laughter, spontaneity, authenticity, and most importantly, with love.
I want to heartily encourage you to re-parent yourself and your inner child by lovingly caring for her and by doing these things as often as you can (these apply to both boys and girls)...
Remind yourself how special and wonderful you were as a child
Have a safe place that you can bring to mind where you and your inner child can meet and play together
When you speak kindly to your inner child each day, have a loving and soothing inner voice – one that is supportive, soft, nurturing, patient and comforting
Tell her/him she is now loved, valued, and appreciated by you
Be sure to tell your inner little girl that shedoesn't have to prove herself to anyone
She has nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. None of what happened to her was ever her fault. She didn't deserve to be treated badly.
She was just in the wrong place and had no means of escape – but she is now free at last!
There is nothing wrong with her/him.Tell them how proud you are of them
She needs to feel respected. Don't tolerate disrespect ever again
Tell her that you will be her guardian, champion and protector from now on. Things will be OK and you will never let her come to any more harm
She need never again fear being alone because you are always there for her now
Apologise for not being aware of her pain and needs in the past, and of pushing her too hard sometimes to try and impress others
Assure her that you will only allow safe, trustworthy and respectful people into your/her world now. Notice loving mothers who are caring for their babies and absorb that loving energy between a mother and child
Reassure her that you will be alongside her either to speak up on her behalf, or to support her when she speaks up
Agree upon a symbol of her freedom...something for her to summon up whenever she feels the need to escape and be alone with her thoughts. This might be (as some of my own clients have imagined) a ladder, a floating bubble, a sci-fi teleporter, a hot air balloon...anything that comes to mind that you/she can associate with release and freedom
Regularly ask her how she's feeling and what she wants. Imagine sitting alongside that little girl, putting your arm around her shoulders and gently pulling her close to your heart.
She has a home in your heart that she will never have to leave. She is safe with you now
If she wants to cry let her cry, and be there as her new mother to wipe her tears and soothe her pain or fear. Accept all her feelings and don't react negatively to what comes up. Be patient with her
Remember that healing happens in different ways and time-frames. Promise to do your best to bring her the joy that has been missing from her life – and this will be profoundly healing for you both.
Show respect to your body - the home of your inner child. Keep it clean and toxin free. Keep it safe and happy... like a good caring home should be
Think of her emotional healing as being like the physical healing of a wound – one step at a time. Keep the wound free of further contamination. Avoid toxic people and environments. Don't ever let her swallow any more poison – particularly if you still keep in touch with toxic/unhealed family members
Get back those things that brought you joy as a child – no matter how fleeting. Be sure to make a big thing of her birthdays and Christmas, holidays and achievements
Set up creative activities for your playful inner child to enjoy! Bouncing, dancing, crafts, finger painting and anything else that takes her fancy. Drawing – from the right brain – is a great way to express your inner child's feelings. Allow doodling and unstructured drawing and see what emerges when you're in the 'zone' of childlike creativity. Don't judge her efforts... just as you wouldn't judge a child bringing her art work home from school to show you. Be proud and show it!
Sing songs from childhood (whether you could sing well back then or not). Release any shame dumped on you for your singing ability - and instead enjoy stretching your vocal chords and making your own sounds that come from your heart and reach out into the world
Encourage her to loosen up and allow physical and emotional intimacy (this will enhance your own sexual intimacy too). She must feel safe and unconditionally accepted to be able to do this. Show her that she can trust her own instincts and be guided by her own 'antennae' as to who is safe. She may doubt her ability based upon her mistakes in the past. You are healing now and as you grow in love for yourself and your life you won't want or allow anyone close to your inner child if they don't align with that self love and a conscious caring relationship
Whenever you have to leave your deliberate connection with her, always imagine placing her back inside the warmth and safety of your loving heart.
Please remember that your inner child is a real part of your sub-conscious mind – a wounded child who needs your love, care and compassion...because no-one else can heal her pain and help her to make peace with the past.
Maxine Harley (MSc Integrative Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR
www.maxineharley.com – for lots of FREE resources to inform and support your inner child's healing and recovery, including How To S.H.I.E.L.D. Yourself From A Toxic Parent, and How To Detox From A Toxic Parent, and the childhood recovery programmes called 'RECOVER FROM YOUR MOTHER', and 'CAST OFF YOUR FATHER'S SHADOW'
www.maxineharleymentoring.com – helping women who want to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours – and to FEEL better, so they can BE, DO and HAVE better!
www.the-ripple-effect.co.uk – a series of 10 online self-help workshops covering a wide range of emotional and life difficulties – helping you to help yourself to a calmer happier life
www.qpp.uk.com - changing the sub-conscious belief system and S.C.R.I.P.T. (c) - Sub-Conscious-Rules-Infuencing-Present-Time