What is the inner child, and how does it show up?
The inner child is a concept that refers to the part of the subconscious mind that stores memories and emotions from childhood. It is believed that the inner child plays a significant role in shaping our adult personality and behavior.
Many experts believe that we repress our inner child as we grow up and become more focused on meeting the demands of adulthood. However, the inner child can still have a powerful influence on our lives. For example, someone who experienced emotional or physical trauma in childhood may have difficulty trusting others or struggle with intimacy issues in relationships.
Commonly, the inner child shows up through fear, anxiety, perfectionism, people-pleasing, and difficulty asserting boundaries. It can also show up in positive ways. For example, people who have a strong connection to their inner child may be more creative, spontaneous, and emotionally expressive.
How Inner-child Trauma Can Surface in Tangible and Intangible Situations
Inner-child trauma can be complex to uncover because we must understand the scenarios that can occur and materialize in our lives. Here are a few examples of how it may show up:
A person may...
Find themselves attracted to the same type of partner that their parent or caretaker was, even if that partner is abusive.
Have difficulty setting boundaries with others, or they may have difficulty saying "no" even when they are being taken advantage of.
Struggle with anxiety or depression, or they may have difficulty managing their emotions.
Find themselves repeating the same patterns of behavior that they witnessed in their childhood home, even if those patterns are harmful.
Have difficulty trusting others or forming close relationships.
Find themselves drawn to activities or substances that are harmful to them, even if they are aware of the risks.
As children, we often take on our parent’s beliefs, and those of our culture, as our own. If we have a parent who has a low level of self-worth or believes that they are a failure or not good enough, we will often unknowingly take on these same unconscious beliefs about ourselves. These beliefs can show up in adulthood as a lack of motivation or complacency, or they may even create situations where they feel like a failure.
Until individuals can pinpoint their subconscious beliefs and consciously change them, they will continue to have similar situations show up like this in their reality over and over again — it’s a cycle.
How do we break free from unhealthy programming and heal our wounded inner child?
Working with traumatized children and adults as a mental health professional for over two decades, I have learned that taking a multidimensional approach to our healing journey yields the best results.
If we only focus on the conscious mind, we fail to access the subconscious, or the stuck emotional energy held within the body. These emotions can lead to illness or "dis-ease." To fully shift into a new reality for ourselves and better support the development of our emotional intelligence, we need to heal mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Breathwork is one of the most powerful tools for releasing emotional energy from the body and is one of my favorites. It connects us to our mental, emotional, and physical bodies so that we can uncover and transmute trauma. When we focus on our breath, we ground ourselves in the present moment and the quantum field. This is a place of infinite possibilities where we can become aware of what is going on without judgment. Breathwork also enables access to the subconscious mind, facilitating relaxation and the surfacing of memories. This can lead to new realizations about beliefs and the ability to change them. Lastly, it allows energy to move through the body so we can release stagnant emotions, dissipating past traumas or limiting beliefs.
There are many ways to reprogram the mind and heal our inner child. Here are some other common methods you may want to try:
Breathwork: a practice of intentional breathing exercises taught by a Breathwork Practitioner to positively influence your mental, emotional, and physical well-being and put you in a calm state.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a therapy that helps people identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors.
Exposure Therapy: a therapy that helps people confront their fears in a safe and controlled environment.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a type of therapy that uses eye movements and other forms of stimulation to help people process and heal from trauma.
Hypnosis: a state of relaxation and focus that can be induced by a trained therapist. This state allows people to be more open to suggestions and change.
Meditation: a practice that helps people to focus and quiet the mind. This can help manage anxiety and stress.
Mindfulness: this is a practice that helps people focus on the present moment and be aware of their thoughts and feelings without judgment.
Relaxation Techniques: such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, can help people to reduce stress and anxiety.
Each person is unique and will respond to different types of therapies differently. Finding a method you trust and feel comfortable with is important and may take some trial and error.
Should we approach our inner child healing journey alone?
Processing childhood trauma and working through subconscious issues can be incredibly difficult, and it's important to have support while doing so. I don't recommend going through the journey of healing alone; seeking help from a therapist specializing in childhood trauma is very beneficial. Additionally, utilizing therapies such as breathwork or energy healing can be helpful in the healing process.
Many individuals who approach healing in this way find great transformation in their lives. They're less reactive to their past, aren't as burdened by anxiety or chronic pain, and aren't as easily triggered. They can also live more authentically for themselves, which brings fulfillment and satisfaction.
When we focus on our happiness and healing our childhood trauma, the people around us also benefit. This ripple effect will spread far beyond those we engage with personally. Your choice to take control of your well-being can change the world at large. The results of embracing the work of healing our inner child are better than you can imagine - it's truly amazing!