A beginner’s guide to inner child healing
You might be a long way from childhood, but did you know that it’s never too late to start healing your inner child? That’s because the longer that some of the challenges, negative behaviours, and traumas that we experienced during our early years go unaddressed, the more crucial it becomes that we actually take the time to resolve them, or they’ll keep popping up throughout our adult lives, as well.
We all could benefit from healing some of our childhood wounds, but how does inner child healing help us do that? What kinds of traumas and experiences can inner child healing help with, and, what are some practices and exercises that can help us connect to our inner child?
Keep reading to find out the answer to this, and much more!
What is inner child therapy?
We all were children once, and we all have an inner child. The inner child, also known as wounded child or the child within, is a subconscious manifestation of any and all difficulties and pain we might have experienced in our early years, turned into unhelpful and often disruptive belief systems.
The idea at the core of inner child therapy is that we all experience some type of dysfunctional behaviour or come into contact with skewed belief systems that can stay with us for decades, if not forever. That’s because as children, we are unable to process negative or traumatic experiences, so we often suppress them and unsuccessfully try to forget them… only this has the opposite effect, as we make it harder to process these difficult emotions later on and inadvertently cement them into our psyche!
Well, inner child healing is simply a therapeutic modality in which a therapist can help us tap into our own self-awareness and look at some of our earliest wounds, instead of suppressing them, so we can finally say goodbye to them.
What can inner child healing help with?
“Inner child healing helps with the examination of the core beliefs we form in our early life that are likely still showing up today in our adult life,” says Tallia Deljou, the most sought after life coach for healing your inner child. Through her work, she helps people who are looking to examine these very core beliefs and wounds establish a connection with their inner child, so they can find deeper and lasting healing in their everyday lives.
“These core beliefs often have roots in moments where our emotional needs weren't met and connection was disrupted, resulting in a wound,” Tallia explains. “By going back and healing these origin wounds, we uproot these core beliefs and make space for newer, truer, and more complex truths to emerge and inform our way of being.
Researchers have found inner child therapy to be effective in a number of different cases, including addressing anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2018 study also found that combining cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is based on making patients focus on a particular type of inner conversation known as automatic thoughts, together with inner child work, could be particularly beneficial.
What are the signs that your inner child might need healing?
“The most obvious sign that you have a wounded inner child,” Tallia says, “is if you have a loud inner critic.” That’s because being critical of ourselves “is actually a defence mechanism,” and “a way we protect ourselves from experiencing the pain of rejection, abandonment, or shame that we likely experienced as a child.”
Another sign that your inner child might need healing is to be found in instances where “you find yourself being triggered often, have a hard time staying present —you're often replaying what happened in the past or worried about what might happen in the future— and tend to blame yourself when things go wrong or others are unhappy.”
Why is it important to heal your inner child, and how does it work
Nobody’s childhood is perfect. No matter how hard our parents might have tried to give us an idyllic upbringing, life just doesn’t work that way. That’s exactly where inner child work comes in, and where we can start a profound healing journey.
Without addressing what might have happened to us as children, “it’s hard to make way for your truest self to be expressed and experienced, revealed and lived,” just like it’s hard to unlock our fullest potential without truly understanding where and when we misplaced it along the way in the first place.
Inner child work is important now more than ever in our fractured and suffering society, but it’s also delicate work. Tallia’s approach, for example, starts with reminding her clients that they are not the problem. “There is nothing to fix, change, or solve about you,” she says. “There are, however, core wounds and beliefs you’re carrying as a result of early life experiences that we get to examine and heal together.
The way it works is pretty simple, and has its roots firmly planted in neuroscience. A 1994 study argued that “the inner child profoundly affects human beings’ overall expressions of themselves in the world,” and a 2016 study found that our inner children are still present in our lives even at ages 70 to 91!
Self-soothing inner child healing practices
The concept of inner child healing does not refer to a single treatment or method, but more often a variety of different practices that can help people come into contact with the emotional pain they’ve been carrying and release it. These approaches typically vary, and the type of inner child therapy that will be right for you might not be the one that someone else gravitates towards.
Tallia offers two simple practices to start with, both perfect for beginners and also incredibly beneficial to anyone approaching inner child healing for the first or hundredth time.
Practise inner child healing journaling
Journaling is the simplest way to begin connecting to our inner child, and building a trusting, safe relationship with them through compassionate dialogue.
Imagine sitting down with your younger self, visualise them in your mind. What do you notice about them? What are they thinking, feeling, or preoccupied with? Writing down your reflections can help clear cognitive delusion by helping you separate yourself from your thoughts and see things with a new perspective.
One way I personally do this is by talking to my inner child every day and asking her how she's feeling without judgement or the need to fix her. In doing so, I'm giving her time, space, and permission to experience and express the full range of her emotions which is often something that is shut down in childhood.
Practise paying attention when your inner child gets triggered
Start noticing moments that take you out of the present moment. Pay attention to any sensations, thoughts, and feelings that arise in your body when you get triggered and stay curious about patterns you notice. Ask yourself, "What is this here to tell me? What does this part of me need me to know? What about this situation feels familiar to me?"
The more you’ll start listening to what your inner child is trying to tell you, and the more you’ll be able to trace negative and unwanted feelings back to specific events in your childhood. The more you’re able to validate your own experiences, the easier it’ll be to release them and find healing.
Where to start if you’re looking to engage your inner child
So, you’re looking to start on a journey and heal your inner child, but where to start? When selecting a potential therapist, it’s always important to vet their qualifications and try to find out if you get a good feeling from your initial conversation, whether it through phone, email, Zoom, or even just an Instagram DM.
If you’re looking for coaches and therapists right here in the UK, you’ll find plenty! Chantal Dempsey of Forward Life Coaching helps people connect with their inner child through regression therapy, whereas Emma Mumford hosts a 6-week program for meeting, healing, and transforming with your inner child. Kathryn Ducey helps women like me and you find themselves through feminine embodiment and inner child healing, Jo Garner hosts healing workshops and women’s circles on the same topic, and the list goes on and on!
Start seeing and talking to your inner child with compassion, and release the emotional pain you’ve been holding on to for so long. Let your inner child teach you the wisdom and truth you need to hear, and learn to embrace your past by releasing the hold it has on you today. Inner child healing is here for you, and you can get started today.