As you were growing older, you were told to follow the norms of society and live by it. You have been told to grow up and keep aside your child-like self and its qualities of innocence, joy, and playfulness. But did you like doing so? Have you ever felt a need to reconnect with your inner child; that has been abused or neglected, denied, or abandoned for so long?
There are so many things that are falling apart in your daily life, only because the dysfunctional experiences of childhood have remained as memories in the unconscious. It stopped you from healing and recovering your lost self.
Let’s explore the timeline of your playful childlike self in detail.
What is Inner Child?
The term inner child means the “childlike” aspect of you. It is that part of your psychological makeup that is innocent, fragile, and wants to be loved and cared for.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, An Inner Child Is “the childlike usually hidden part of a person’s personality that is characterized by playfulness, spontaneity, and creativity usually accompanied by anger, hurt, and fear attributable to childhood experiences.”
The concept of the inner child was first identified by psychologist Carl Jung in his studies on ‘Divine Child Archetype’. The theory became popular because it was believed that most of your adult behavioral and adjustment problems have their roots in unresolved childhood.
John Bradshaw was an American educator who popularized the idea of ‘wounded inner child’ and its psychological implications.
The inner child is a part of our childhood that impacts our adult life and behavior patterns. This part of the “self” lives in the unconscious mind, which we are not aware of always.
Your inner child is free-spirited, loving, and creative. It is your authentic self, with all the qualities that you are born with. It is that part of your personality that still thinks, feels, and acts like a child.
How To Find Your Inner Child?
The various ways to find your inner child are:
1. Being open-minded
Your inner child is not a separate entity. It is a part of ‘you’ only. So, feel free and connect with it openly. Your past experiences make the person you are today. Embrace those experiences; accept them as they are.
If they are hurtful, leave them aside, let it go, and move ahead in life. When you do so, you can guide your choices and goals in desired ways. It gives you back the lost confidence and makes you fearless from within. A deep understanding of your childhood issues defines your mental well being later in life.
2. Revisit memories of childhood
Try to explore the recollections of your past happenings. Your photographs and childhood memories are a throwback of your growing up years. When you connect with it, you become a mindful adult who knows to offer love, kindness, compassion to the ‘little being’ in you.
Visualizations of childhood memories, mementos, photo albums, school diaries are all good ways to connect with inner children. If you find your childlike self, suffering in pain, you can heal them through a process called inner child healing.
3. Spend time in childhood activities
You can do some playful activities that brought you joy and you liked doing it; being a child. All of us did plenty of things being a little one. It may be cycling, playing outdoor games, spending hours in art and painting, creative and fun-loving activities, doodling, coloring, and many more.
Doing these activities can bring back latent memories into conscious existence. Your inner child work can facilitate to surface buried emotions and heal them accordingly.
4. Talk to the inner child
The best way to find your inner child is by talking and initiating a personal dialogue. During this connection, you can tap the reasons for adult insecurities, fears, and anxieties. When you accept the deepest secrets of your childhood, you get to know ‘who you are today?”.
Writing a letter to your inner child is a good way to do it. You can write about childhood memories and the array of emotions associated with it. You can even set a question-answer exercise and see how your inner child responds?
Since the child within you is feeling unsafe and insecure, you need to approach it slowly and patiently to understand the inner vulnerabilities that are creating difficult emotions in your adult life.
5. Use of positive affirmations
When you reflect on the timeline of your childhood experiences; you get to know hidden truths about your ‘psyche’. If you find that your inner child is anxious, painful, and depressed; you can use positive affirmations to rebuild the lost self-esteem.
Affirmations are positive ways to develop self-worth. It is a kind of rewiring the unconscious self to feel secure. Repeating such statements can boost self-confidence. It is a way of showing ‘self-love’ and inner care that your vulnerable self may need the most.
6. Inner child meditation
You can spend half an hour everyday in a quiet place with your lonely self. This ‘me’ time is a form of psychological protection that gives your inner child a sense of security and emotional well being. Inner child meditation is a way of inner child work that facilitates resurfacing past hurts and insecurities. You get to know how the past wounds can affect your present relations in adult life.
7. Seek professional help
Inner child work can be undertaken by a professional expert. The therapist can help you represent your inner child. It is a transformative and healing journey, where you explore the thoughts and experiences of your childhood days and try to reconnect with it. Acknowledging the inner child means that you have learned to validate your negative emotions and accept the ‘you’ held within.
Who is A Wounded Inner Child?
A wounded inner child is a fearful, angry, jealous or emotionally hurt little boy or girl dwelling in your unconscious realm.
Your wounded inner child lives in your adult ‘psyche’. It clouds your thoughts, feelings, and ability to reason effectively. Thus, at times it takes hasty decisions on your behalf.
Whenever you come across a stressful situation, you are covertly influenced by your inner child. This results in interpersonal conflicts and mental agony in your so-called mature adult life.
It is the inner call of the child living within you. She craves your attention to re-parent her with security and stability. Your wounded inner child has never felt safe as a child. Here, safety means emotional and psychological support.
Your inner child is wounded because of the various sufferings she might have faced as a child. It can be abuse, parental aggression and neglect, failure in studies and low self-esteem.
These painful wounds are repressed and carried forward into your adult life as sufferings beyond healing. It can have a far-reaching impact on your adult behavior and adjustment. Exploring the basics of the inner child can give you insights into solving your adult problems.
20 Signs of A Wounded Inner Child
There are few signs of a wounded inner child that may make you disconnected from reality. You are vulnerable to do things that discourage you from being a responsible adult.
As your inner child is suffering, it may affect your ability to build trustworthy relationships. You may not feel happy and enjoy tiny joys of life, the way you want.
You suffer from anxiety and fear in new situations. There is an inherent hesitancy to adjust to unexpected events. You love a consistent routine and love to be in a comfort zone. This makes learning and adjusting to new things and situations difficult.
2. You are a people pleaser
You always try to please others, avoid conflict, and seek social recognition. This happens because you have never felt worthy of yourself. There is a constant inferiority complex that works in you. You feel others are better than you. This feeling brings shame, guilt, and broken self-esteem.
3. Low self-esteem
People having a wounded inner child have poor self-esteem because they always feel inferior to others. They usually have poor self-confidence. They criticize themselves and may develop poor body image as well. These people are never happy with their accomplishments. They lack a strong personal identity.
4. Frequent anger outbursts
You are rebellious and angry prone. Engaging in frequent verbal and physical fights is hallmark of your personality. You have a tendency to harass people and start an argument without provocation.
5. Guilt prone
Guilt and poor self-regard is a common sign. There is a feeling of regret and you feel responsible for all the bad things happening around you. In one way, you may feel guilty for no reason. This guilt feeling comes because your inner child is wounded due to and you never got a chance to heal and revisit the reasons of this guilt feeling.
6. Never allow things to let go
Tends to hold on to relations at all costs and do not let go of things. You always ruminate over bad things that have happened. It may be an argument with a friend or spouse. There is a self blaming tendency that sabotages your true feelings. You cling to things that are already over and never let go of things smoothly.
You always try to become a perfectionist and never allow yourself to make mistakes. You feel guilty, if you go wrong. A rigid and fixed mindset keeps you in one place all the time. It never allows you to become a responsible adult. As you always try to be perfect, you never appreciate the things that you have already achieved. This brings poor self confidence and a lack of self worth.
8. Lack of trust
You neither trust yourself nor others. It happens because you carry an emotional baggage of deceit and distrust with you from your childhood days. As a child, you have been cheated, humiliated and rebuked by significant adults in your life. As such when you grew up, you were unable to believe others. You also fear getting closer to people because of the fear of being cheated or manipulated. You have trust issues with yourself as well because of poor self-esteem and inadequacy feeling.
9. Emotional dependence
You are a needy of love and affection. Emotional dependency and seeking validation from others is your way of coping with stress. There is a constant fear of abandonment. You fear that people will leave you. It makes you clingy, co-dependent, and insecure. It is one of the worst fears that you possess. Being a wounded inner child, you feel inadequate without others’ appreciation.
10. Hold on to past hurts
There is a tendency to hold on to past emotional pains that you might have suffered as a child. You have never been able to let go past emotional baggage and carried it throughout your growing up years. This made you vulnerable to more hurts and pains, beyond healing. You cling to old memories that give only pain and suffering.
You always feel that there is something wrong with the way you think and feel. Being critical always makes you feel inferior to others. Self validation is poor and inadequate, and so there are self blaming tendencies. You have never accepted yourself as you are, rather tried to become the one what others wanted you to be.
12. Lack of happiness
You are never happy with yourself because you are guilt-prone and feel that others are better than you. Your self-regard is poor that keeps you away from being playful and happy at heart. You set rigid boundaries for yourself and cannot express your emotional needs freely.
Being a wounded child, you have feelings of resentment, regrets, and disappointments. You harbor feelings of anguish and anger against others. This never allows you to enjoy peace of mind and happiness. It makes you feel angry and revengeful all the time. Your relationships are broken and distant.
14. No self-love
Your self loving skills are poor and inadequate because you feel guilty all the time for all the bad things that happened with you or around you. As you blame yourself for the mistakes you have not done, you remain critical of yourself. It keeps you away from unconditional love and affection towards ‘self’.
15. Issues with self identity
Being a wounded child, you have internalized negativity within you. You have always denied your true feelings. This led to formation of a weak identity that is prone to anger, anxiety, guilt, and sadness. Your ‘psyche’ is full of overall unhappiness and dislike of the life you are living.
16. Addiction prone
You may abuse yourself with drugs and alcohol. However, other illegal behaviors such as gambling, pornography, excessive smoking, and substance abuse are commonly found. You resort to such things to bring in a feel good factor in your daily life. These are self harming tendencies that ruin your life forever, if not taken care on time.
17. Social anxiety
You find it difficult to maintain healthy social contacts. There is fear and extreme anxiety when you need to deal with people in social circles. You love to live alone and avoid making new friends and acquaintances.
18. Having a competitive mindset
You push yourself hard to be the best in everything you do. If you fail, you become unhappy. You cannot accept mistakes and failures and never respond to it in a healthy way. A strong desire to overachieve things keeps you busy with perfection.
19. Lack of clear cut goals
As you have many unresolved issues from your inner child, it affects your goal setting. You may strive to achieve many things but without any clear cut goals. It happens because of poor self confidence and lack of worthiness.
20. Toxic relationships
Your relationships with people in your life are marked with distrust and lack of love. There is no mutual respect and affection involved in your relations. Your relationships are full of bad mouth, accusations, bitching, complaints, fights, and squabbling. Being a wounded child, you were needy and controlling in your adult relationships. Others may not accept it, thus healthy relationships had fallen apart fast leaving you in loneliness and solitude.
Inner Child Work
Inner child work helps you to reconnect with the wounded self. Your little self is wounded and crying within. It calls for help and support. If you listen to it, you can understand the various reasons for your failures, fears, and incompetence that are bothering your adult life.
Inner child work is all about self exploration; to look back and look within your personality dynamics. It tells you how you became the one you are today. This is a challenging task and needs patience. Only by loving and connecting with your inner child, you begin to love yourself exactly the way you are.
Inner child work empowers you to become a mindful, conscious, secure, loving, and a confident adult. If you have some unhealed wounds from your childhood, you tend to develop behavioral and adjustment problems later in life.
Perhaps the ‘sensitive you’ needs care and support; otherwise the trauma will result in emotional pain for the rest of your life.
The secret wounds of childhood, whether caused by physical or emotional abuse, broken family, toxic relationships can scar your ‘psyche’ forever. A process is needed to heal past wounds and let go of the emotional baggage. This can be achieved through inner child work.
Inner child work gives voice to your pain and thus you heal from within. It reflects your child-like joy, the innocence that remained ignored and unattended from conscious existence. When you learn to explore past experiences, you ignore the associated emotional pain and forge ahead in life with a positive mindset.
Inner Child Healing
Inner child healing is a treatment procedure to heal past wounds and emotional pains that are bothering your present life.
Inner child healing is an introspective process of contacting, listening, and communicating with those childlike aspects of your personality that are disturbing you every now and then.
By this healing process, you gain access to the root causes of many issues you might be suffering in your adulthood.
Inner child healing focuses on unleashing childhood traumas and emotional wounds that are posing a threat to healthy social adjustment. This self nourishment makes you feel safe and secure; being an adult.
How To Heal Your Inner Child? (Self-help Tips)
We all possess an inner child that feels safe, if adequate love, care, and support is given to it in stressful times. Being in touch with it can help in dealing with challenging adult life situations. If you are the one who is not associated with childhood playfulness and joy, then you might need Inner child healing.
Several forms of neglect, trauma, and emotional pain can call for an inner child healing. Let‘s look into a few self-help tips to heal the inner child.
1. Admit your inner child
The first step in healing your inner child is by loving and accepting its presence; somewhere deep in the subconscious. Remain open to this relationship and never be resistant to the idea of exploring your childlike aspects.
In doing so, you will come across myriad emotional turmoil lying deep within. Some childhood memories may make you laugh; while others can make you cry, yell or react in awkward ways. But whatever it is, you will have to accept all emotions that start surfacing when you meet your inner child.
2. Your inner child is saying something
After you have started connecting with your vulnerable self, listen to what it has to say to you. It is important to delve deep into the feelings that are going within. You may find feelings of rejection, insecurity, fear, jealousy, anger, and guilt.
There may be disgust and resentment over unmet needs. It can be residues of toxic parental relationships that led to distrust in adulthood. When you trace these feelings, you will find that many adult issues are caused due to the hidden pain from your childhood days. These are stopping you from becoming a mature adult. At times, you are still vulnerable and react like a child.
3. Writing a letter to your inner child
The relationship with your inner child requires connection to your insecure and inadequate ‘self’. When you write a letter to your inner child, you become aware of your innermost anxieties and deepest fears. A letter is a message of reassurance and comfort that helps to develop coping mechanisms to solve adult issues. This is a healing process where the trauma ridden ‘self’ do not feel the pain anymore.
4. Inner child Journaling
In journaling, you re-parent your inner child with kind and loving words. In this exercise, you can write down memories of your childhood in a lucid way. You can express emotions associated with the experienced trauma. The deepest parts get a voice to heal and the recovery of the inner child can take place.
5. Be mindful
You need to be mindful of your internal critique. You should stop criticizing yourself. When you do so, your inner child feels safe and happy. To heal childhood wounds, develop effective strategies of positive self-talk. The words of encouragement from you help to develop a trusting connection with your inner child.
6. Be attentive to your feelings
This is the best way to heal the wounded child. As this little one is fragile, weak, and sensitive; it suffers from suppressed emotions. You need to pay attention to how you feel and react in various situations. The fears and insecurities of your inner child may surface from time to time. It needs adequate support to undo dysfunctional wounds and undergo deep healing.
7. Shadow work
Our childhood guilt, shame, and anxieties act as demons that self sabotage our feelings. It makes the inner child hurt and wounded. The repressed emotions that surfaced out of the dysfunctional family, abusive parents, and sexual abuse have left scars beyond recovery.
Thus, during the healing process you need to do shadow work. ‘Shadow work’ is a form of therapy by which you encounter and face the denied and hidden parts of yourself. In most cases, it includes painful experiences laden with grief and anguish. Shadow work helps to accept ‘who you are’. It transforms denial into acceptance.
Inner child healing looks into the deepest core of the self. So, it is evident that the process is emotionally overwhelming. It may surface feelings that are disturbing and stressful for you to handle. Thus, this process is not for the faint-hearted. If uncomfortable, then it is advisable to undergo this introspective process under the guidance of a psychotherapist.
Inner Child Meditation
Inner child meditation is a healing process. It helps to revisit old days of growing up. The emotions and vulnerabilities of your past may stop you from living a poised life, that you deserve. Thus, this healing meditation connects you to the pain and emotional blockages and removes them completely.
You can restore the love and validation that you may need to become a secure and mature adult. A deep state of soulful connection with the ‘little one ‘ for a sense of protection and safety. To know more on this topic, read here.
Questions To Ask Your Inner Child
We all have felt the need to tap into the ‘self’ that splashes in the puddles; and when we do so, we are hesitant to ask questions that remain ignored for long. Why? Are we afraid to face the truth? Our trauma ridden inner child feels helpless and insecure and the adult appears to be hesitant in every respect. So, what questions can you ask your inner child?
- How are you feeling today?
- I am here to listen to your deepest secrets. Are you comfortable to connect with me?
- Do you embrace growing up the way it happened?
- What are your regrets in life?
- What are the things that bother you till date?
- Have you harbored a grudge and anger against anyone?
- Is there anything that is making you fearful till date? Why is it so?
- What do you like to do today?
- Can you share the 3 best happy memories of your childhood with me now?
- Do you feel chaotic from the inside? Why?
The above questions are a way to open a conversation with your inner child. In the process, the adult part of your personality has to accept the inner child by comforting and supporting it.
Inner Child Books
Here is a list of books on inner children by renowned psychologists, mental health professionals, and life coach trainers. By reading these books, you will find a connection with your neglected self.
- Recovery of your inner child: The highly acclaimed method of liberating your inner self
This book is written by Lucia Capacchione; and the book is a good read to know ways of connecting to the inner child.
- Home Coming – Reclaiming and healing your inner child
This book is written by John Bradshaw. It is a New York Times Best seller.
- Reconciliation: Healing the inner child
By Thich Nhat Hanh. This book is a compilation of the participant reviews in retreat homes for inner child healing
- Inner Bonding by Margaret Paul.
It is about healing the wounded child and freeing it from inner conflicts.
10 Inner Child Quotes
1.“I’m happy to report that my inner child is still ageless.”— James Broughton
2. “My inner child is not wounded.”— Shannon Doherty
3. “Hold the hand of the child that lives in your soul. For this child, nothing is impossible.”— Paulo Coelho
4. “Life is meant to be fun! Hang out with your inner child…..splash in some puddles now and then.”— Emma Mildon
5. “The cry we hear from deep in our hearts comes from the wounded child within. Healing this inner child’s pain is the key to transforming anger, sadness, and fear.”— Thich Nhat Hanh
6. “Don’t forget to love her. The little girl you used to be. Perhaps she lies within you. Untucked. Sleeping peacefully.”— Kiana Llanos
7. “Hello, inner child. I’m the inner babysitter!”— Terry Pratchett
8. “Imagination is your inner child and creativity its playground.”— Jaeda Dewalt
9. “Honor your inner child by losing yourself in simple pleasures.”— Kim del Valle Walker
10. “Within us, all is a radiant inner child bathed in joy.”— Amy Leigh Mercree
The link given below will help you to understand the three simple steps to heal your inner child.
Your inner child is a space to reflect, ponder, and contemplate past thoughts and feelings. Let the child in you speak on its behalf and uncover the truths that lay behind.
We have the power to feel safe, secure, and heal our wounds the way we want. Revisiting the childhood timeline means to reconnect with the authentic self that defines our existence of ‘Who we are today?’
A Psychologist with a master's degree in Psychology, a former school psychologist, and a teacher by profession Chandrani loves to live life simply and happily. She is an avid reader and a keen observer. Writing has always been a passion for her, since her school days. It helps to de-stress and keeps her mentally agile. Pursuing a career in writing was a chance occurrence when she started to pen down her thoughts and experiences for a few childcare and parenting websites. Her lovable niche includes mental health, parenting, childcare, and self-improvement. She is here to share her thoughts and experiences and enrich the lives of few if not many.