We have this belief in society that when people grow up so does their mental state. They get adult jobs and deal with adult problems, meaning their brains must think like adults. Right? That’s not always the case. Many people are unknowingly stuck in their past because they have not dealt with their childhood problems, which is where the term inner child comes into play.
What is an inner child?
Stephen A. Diamond Ph.D. breaks down this phenomenon in Psychology Today when he writes “It is–like complexes in general–a psychological or phenomenological reality…We were all once children, and still have that child dwelling within us.” He goes on to explain that our inner child not only holds our childlike wonder, sensitivity, playfulness, joy, but it also holds our past traumas and fears. All too frequently we believe that growing up means the things of our childhood don’t matter, but in reality, our same struggles, fears, and joy follow us into adulthood.
For those that are unaware of their inner child they end up neglecting themselves. Pretending they have grown out of their childhood ways, yet their wounds from their youth are still open. Diamond claims these people are not governing their own lives, but are being governed by an “emotionally wounded inner child inhabiting an adult body.”
How can we heal?
This concept of the inner child is important because it can help us heal in a variety of different ways. It can help release emotions that hold us back, cause us to identify unmet needs, allow us to end the pattern of unhelpful behaviors, and ultimately be a gateway to self-care and self-respect.
Diamond believes people can break out of that lifestyle in a few ways. The first step is becoming aware of one’s inner child. Second, we need to communicate with them and take them seriously. Through this, we can begin to process and accept the traumas of our youth.
But how exactly can we begin to do that? How are we supposed to communicate with our inner child?
How to communicate and grow
Kristin Folts gave a TEDx Talk back in 2018 about healing your inner child. Her work with children and families to heal from their traumas gives her an understanding of how trauma stays with people. She went on to explain that even if they don’t remember the moment their trauma occurred, their body and subconscious mind remembers every wound, every feeling of shame, helplessness, rejection, fear, abandonment.
Then, we lock away a part of our authentic self for protection, but there is a chance to heal. She gives her audience five things to tell your inner child: “I give you permission to heal. I give you permission to forgive yourself and others. I honor our journey together. I love you. Thank you”
However, communication is just one step of healing. Others may find it beneficial to get educated more on the inner child to help them fully grasp their experiences. There are many books out there that can help heal different aspects of trauma. Rising Woman, a blog offering guidance into healing, has a list of 7 books to help heal. But if you want to get professional help, many therapists work with the concept of an inner child.
With only a few months left of 2020, I’m taking the time to heal my inner child.