We could all use a dose of soft, playful energy. Between the busy responsibilities of adulthood and the chaotic state of the world we navigate, it’s easy to dismiss the so-called “childish” virtues of play. But, the inner child inside of you is dying to help you remember how to give in to lighthearted adventure and exploration. In many cases, they also need your help healing past wounds. Inner child work seeks to mend the disconnection between ourselves and the child within each and every one of us.
Who Is Your Inner Child?
There are several psychology frameworks that refer to the concept of an inner child — attachment theory, Internal Family System and body-based somatic therapies, to name a few. But, you don’t need to be in a structured, professional setting to get to know your inner child. The inner child is an amalgamation of the curiosity and creativity we all naturally contain within us. This child can also harbor the hurt, pain and trauma that you’ve left unresolved.
HOW TO CONNECT TO THE CHILD WITHIN
As an adult, we can choose to exile our inner child, never fully healing our past wounds and cutting ourselves off from the lighthearted joys of this life. Alternatively, we can choose to reach out to that little one inside, offer them the love and care they needed growing up and hear what wisdom they have to share.
IF YOU …
• Suffer from poor emotional and mental health
• Repeat negative patterns
• Can’t seem to kick unhealthy coping mechanisms
• Have the same reoccurring issues in your relationships
• Have trouble navigating interpersonal conflicts
• Rely on hyper-independence to get by
… YOU MIGHT NEED TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR INNER CHILD.
So, how does one go about making this connection? First and foremost, acknowledge your inner child and validate the hardships they endured. Give yourself the space to sit with the pain and trauma of your youth. Acknowledge where these wounds might affect you as an adult. Once you open up this connection, there are a number of ways to strengthen the bond.
LET YOUR CURIOSITY GO WILD
Look for bugs on a nature walk. Research a fun topic just for the heck of it. Like a wide-eyed child, never forget how magical this world can be.
Use it as a way to check in with your inner child. See how they’re doing. What’s making them feel fussy that day? What can you do to make them feel more secure?
LEARN YOUR ATTACHMENT STYLE
Attachment theory states that your relationship with your parents as a child will dictate how you present in relationships. Determine if you are secure, anxious or avoidant.
CHECK IN WITH A THERAPIST IF IT’S WITHIN YOUR MEANS
A counselor can give you tailored tools to connect with you as a child and guide you through the pain and trauma this work can expose.
Tapping into your inner world through stillness and breathwork can be an excellent way to get in touch with your inner child.
TRUST THE PROCESS
This work can be challenging. Painful memories you haven’t touched for years could resurface. Trust that this is all part of the process and remind yourself that you deserve to heal. Childhood work helps you to cultivate security and safety you didn’t have as a young one. You can finally address wounds head-on and find ways to heal them. Simultaneously, your inner child can remind you of the true beauty of this existence. They are always within you, patiently waiting to grab your hand and walk with you through the pain towards a more abundant, joy-filled life.
Try this short meditation to connect with your inner child:
Imagine a place you used to love as a child. Sit there and notice your surroundings. How does the setting make you feel?
Now imagine a child-aged version of yourself is walking towards you. They sit next to you and smile. Once you have a moment to take in their presence, ask them how they’re feeling. What message do they have for you?
Once you’re both comfortable, ask them what they fear. What pain is preventing them from being their most authentic, carefree self?
Let them know they are safe with you. You will take care of them. Tell them why you love and value them.
Take a moment to realize that little one is you. Once this exchange is over, give them a hug. Let your inner child fade into you. Remember, they are always within you.
Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2021-22 issue.