The inner child is within all of us and can help or hinder you. By learning to access your inner child you can remove barriers that are holding you back.
The limiting voices in your head, the vague sense you aren’t good enough or are unworthy may be coming from your inner child. Known in psychology, the inner child is considered an aspect of ourselves, a subordinate to the waking conscious mind. Your inner child keeps unresolved childhood experiences under lock and key in your subconscious but when a circumstance or a relationship triggers those experiences, your issues from childhood dysfunction often bubble up to the surface. When this happens, it can take you out of the thriving mode, into self-sabotage and even hurt your relationships.
The inner child is real, and a part of your brain development, the neurological patterns that we have created for survival. Especially during times of stress or upheaval, the inner child can rear up hard because it feels threatened when you grow. According to performance coach Peter Crone, known as the Mind Architect: “The inner child constitutes the majority of that voice in the head that is designed to survive.”
The inner child is often a discounted term, associated with extreme neediness, temper tantrums, hurts, fears and anger. The wounded inner child can show up in low self-esteem, poor body image, emotional imbalances and issues with boundaries (too weak or rigid), among other issues. If you are having problems with handling stress, difficulty in adjusting to a new circumstance or experiencing insomnia, anger issues or other situations, your unacknowledged inner child may be trying to get your attention.
On the other hand, the inner child also represents our child-like capacity for innocence, awe, joy and playfulness, among other positive traits.
Adulting with your inner child
“Adulting” is a trendy term used for responsible, grown-up behavior. But true adulthood often rests on accepting and taking responsibility for loving and parenting your own inner child, says clinical and forensic psychologist Stephen Diamond, Ph.D. in his Psychology Today article entitled “Has your adult self spent time with your inner child today?”
The wounded child within will show itself. “Remaining unconscious is what empowers the dissociated inner child to take possession of the personality at times, to overpower the will of the adult,” Diamond says. We’ve heard the saying “old feelings never die” and this is very true when adults bury or ignore the issues of their inner child.
Getting to know your inner child
Both the so-called positive and negative aspects of the inner child make it important to access your inner child. By integrating your inner child within you—co-existing with the adult aspects of yourself—you can heal and change how you function and present yourself in the world. It begins with awareness.
Even if you are skeptical, act as if your inner child is real by acknowledging their presence. Get to know your inner child by talking to it, suggests noted author and angel therapist Doreen Virtue. Ask your inner child “how are you feeling?” or “what would you like me to know?”
It’s important to provide support, acceptance and to nurture the child within. What does it need from you in the here and now? By opening a dialogue with your inner child, you can learn to create awareness of him or her and have them walk alongside you. Diamond says to relate to your inner child just like a good parent would to a child, providing discipline, limits, boundaries and structure.
A lot of inner child work in psychotherapy and healing circles can involve talking through what happened in your childhood and discovering the thoughts and beliefs that ensured your survival within a family system then aren’t what serve you now. In short, old beliefs can shift and transform. Don’t be afraid to deal with the inner child’s fears the way a child needs to have them dealt with by comforting yourself and talking it through with a trusted friend, loved one or professional. Inner child work can involve therapies like painting or even trying your hand at automatic writing with your non-dominant hand.
As noted author and angel therapist Doreen Virtue says of healing your inner child: “Through this powerful work, the inner child or wounded child will no longer run the ship.”
Once the lines of communication are opened with your inner child, here are some ways to nurture yourself and the inner child within:
Stop “shoulding” all over yourself and accept
Recognize that control is a by-product of fear, Crone suggests. Adopt a mantra of “there is nothing wrong with me.” Fight is resistance. Whereever you feel conflict, it can create resistance with potential to contribute to your “dis-ease” or unease.
Removing judgment of yourself and others is hard work and doesn’t happen every day. Inner child dialogue helps you accept yourself first because you are better armed with knowledge of your own self. You can then get out of your own way by better recognizing and avoiding self-limiting attitudes and behaviors that got you to places you don’t want to be.
A judged child is a hurt child. Removing judgment and replacing it with positive affirmation makes the child happy. A happy inner child helps you to stop hurting yourself in this regard.
Don’t internalize your problems, see opportunity
Internalization is integration of attitudes, values, standards and the opinions of others into one’s own identity or sense of self. When problems or adverse circumstances are swallowed or internalized, “awfulizing” and “woe is me” can completely take over. There is more of the inner child trying to be heard.
Problems don’t exist in Crone’s world. He adopts a mantra as everything you want is coming your way. Look at a difficult time as an opportunity and a growth period, to step up and be the more responsible or accountable adult. Crone sees opportunities in problems to either deal with things for how you got there in the first place, past tense, or in the future tense, to step up to that level of commitment to what you want to work toward.
This seeing of opportunities is the difference between false hope (“everything is great!”) and constructive change. A child never benefits from false hope.
You can cultivate a “no problems” mindset with meditation. Use yoga, walking or other exercise as a way to stop the internalization and get grounded.
Live in the now
One of the hardest parts of staying present in the moment is to stop worrying about future events. Many of us feel we’ll get to our ideal self, happiness, joy or abundance when circumstances are all taken care of. “It’s literally that horizon that you continue to chase,” Crone says in an interview with Kelly Noonan Gores, director of the HEAL Documentary. “They (most people) are trying to avoid a bad future that hasn’t happened yet. And then people wonder why they are tired. But if you really investigate it, you will see there is no evidence for your future not working out.”
And, when you are stuck in the future, you miss all the wonder and good that is in front of you right now. Or worse, you dismiss it, which is like taking candy from your inner child. They will cry, and that hurt adds up. This “crying” is real: you are depriving yourself of dopamine and oxytocin which hurts. Your brain needs the frequent salve of affirmation.
By working through the concerns of your wounded inner child, you are less likely to allow past hurts to inform your future fears.
Your nurtured inner child can help you be like a kid and live more in the moment, with pure imagination, even child-like fantasy, while dealing with day-to-day adult realities. Adopt a monk-like mantra of the most important time of your life is now. Life is unfolding in a series of now moments which hold great potential.
Resources used in this report:
Peter Crone, https://www.petercrone.com/