by Kris Drumm
Creating a relationship with our inner child is a powerful way to heal psychological wounds that affect our adult lives. Relationships, careers, spiritual connection and physical wellbeing are all impacted by our experiences as children. In fact, most of our beliefs about who we are, how we must act and what the world is like were formed when we were children. The unmet needs of our inner children drive us. We may not be aware that it is the inner child in the driver’s seat, but those unmet childhood needs must be attended to before the wise adult within can take charge.
When we find ourselves “over-reacting,” with feelings of rage or sadness or rejection disproportionate to the circumstance, it is the inner child that is screaming for attention. An example of this is someone who has experienced abandonment as a child and internalized a belief that they do not matter and that there is something wrong with them because they were left behind. In relationships this person feels extremely upset, angry and threatened by their partner spending any time away from them. A breakup can send this person into devastation as the inner child grieves anew the original instance of being left.
The inner child is that part of us within that holds fear and mistrust, hurt, abandonment and betrayal, anger and pain. It is also the part of us that holds joy and innocence, creativity, mirth, imagination and wonder. For many of us, the innocent, joyful creative self is buried under layers of suffering from injuries sustained from living in dysfunctional homes. We may have experienced or witnessed emotional, physical, mental and/or sexual abuse. Abuse survivors internalize shame as their inner child believes what happened is their fault and would not have happened if there wasn’t something wrong with them. Life is subsequently shaped by hiding the core self; the belief is, “I can’t show who I really am; I am defective.” Abuse survivors will often internalize the abuser and continue to abuse themselves emotionally and physically long after the abuse was perpetrated on them. Learning to love the inner child can stop this painful self-punishment.
Because traumatic memories are encapsulated in our brain in a way that they have no time stamp, the inner child needs to be taught that she or he is safe now and that what happened is in the past; now there is an adult present to protect them and keep them safe and to tend to their needs and feelings.
When we take the time to go within and listen to our inner child, get to know them and begin to address feelings of neglect, shame, fear, sadness, anger, hurt and pain, a great shift happens in our lives. We begin to relate to the world with a new level of freedom and confidence. Our little selves become soothed, knowing that they are safe, that their feelings matter, that there is a compassionate wise adult in charge that will protect, love and respect them.
Fostering and cultivating the inner “wise adult” that can address and nurture the inner child is a key component of inner child healing. We always want to address the inner child from a place of compassion and non-judgment to create internal safety for them to feel and express whatever they need to feel and express.
When we first start connecting to our inner child, we might find that they are hiding or angry with us for neglecting them or abusing them. They may be mistrustful of us. Eventually, as we keep inviting the inner child to express itself, that part of us reveals itself more and more. We may find that there is a playful side, a joyful side, aching to be indulged and expressed.
Indulging our inner children by doing things they enjoy enhances our lives with new dimensions of pleasure. Maybe our inner child prompts us to dance or go to the beach more or to be out in nature more. Maybe our inner child inspires us to let ourselves draw, color or make music without judging ourselves. When this occurs, the left and right brain activities become more balanced and we feel an increased sense of wholeness.
Inner child healing work provides a healing process that allows us to tend to the hurts of the past and correct faulty belief systems that have limited our lives. It is richly rewarding to finally recover and attend to this vital part of Self and live in the present feeling whole, safe and loved.
Kris Drumm, LCSW, ACHT is in private practice at A Healing Space, in Wilton Manors, and utilizes inner child healing in her work with individuals and groups. She is offering a four-hour Inner Child Healing Workshop, 1 to 5pm, March 18. For more information, call 954-540-0263 or email [email protected]