Healing the inner child to regain happiness and balance as an adult
For harmonious development, both physically and psycho-Emotionally, every person needs the right space and loving, protective attachment figures around. Each of us needs to find a sense of “home”, with basic needs provided (food, rest, cleanliness), with a sense of security, love, belonging and acceptance, which fill in what “home” means to each of us.
“Most shadows in our lives arise because we stand in the way of the light ourselves”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the first 7 years of life we internalise feelings of safety, love, acceptance and belonging in different ways, depending on how and how we encountered them in our family and environment. Some of us have felt protected, so that in adult life we have confidence in ourselves and can give confidence to others. For others, the experience of development has been less positive, shaping them as people who find it difficult to trust themselves and others, feel unwanted and inadequate in most situations, lacking a sense of security and support. They are people who seek refuge in their partner and job most of the time, expecting to find fulfilment and security. In even more unfortunate situations, these people seek refuge in alcohol, drugs, gambling and promiscuous sexual behaviour. These positive and less positive childhood experiences, together with our genetic inheritance, lead to the formation of a part of our personality, the “inner child”.
The inner child
The inner child represents all our good and not-so-good experiences that were formed in childhood along with the attachment figures and contexts of the time. These experiences are in the subconscious and represent the fears and difficulties felt in that period of development together with the positive experiences lived then, so that in adult life, when we refer to the inner child we talk about desires and fears.
WHAT DOES THE INNER CHILD ACTUALLY REPRESENT?
To make “inner child” a more understandable concept, I’ll give you an example:
A couple, Maria and Tudor, have been together for 4 years. He frequently gets upset when she is not attentive to his needs and asks her to buy him his favorite ice cream, and Maria happens to forget. In moments like this, Tudor experiences replayed childhood experiences of his parents neglecting/disregarding his needs and blames Maria for not feeling important enough for her. In this context, Maria is replaying the scenario of her childhood, when she was always criticized and rarely succeeded in pleasing her parents. Thus, the inner child of the two is wounded, maintaining a dysfunctional pattern in the relationship.
Signs of an Inner Injured Child
From my experience as a psychotherapist I can conclude that a wounded inner child is characterized by:
- excessive politeness
- lack of assertiveness
- low frustration tolerance
- poor impulse control
- the need to please others
- neglecting one’s own physical and mental health
- the need for fulfilment through others
- feelings of rejection and inadequacy
- persistent fear of “I can’t”
- different types of addictions: alcohol, drugs, sex, work
- inability to get out of unsatisfactory relationships
HEALING THE INNER CHILD
It is very important to heal the inner child that exists in each of us for:
- to have qualitative interpersonal relationships
- to be autonomous
- increase life satisfaction
- have an adequate self-esteem
- to overcome unpleasant, even painful events more easily
- to decrease our anxiety in achieving our desired goals
- take care of our physical and mental health
How do we take care of our inner child?
A healthy inner child needs to have their desires fulfilled and feel protected. Thus, in healing the inner child, we act from two sides:
1. Protection (we as adults choose to talk about our difficulties, thus becoming aware of what we need, we learn to take care of the inner child that has not been protected by our attachment figures from childhood. By protection I mean learning to feel safe, learning to beware of what can be dangerous, learning to behave in a way that keeps us healthy).
2. Fulfilled desires (increased attention to being in touch with one’s own needs, to having the courage to ask for them and to fulfill them as much as possible. Here it is important to learn to say NO to others and YES to ourselves).
Both childhood fears and unfulfilled desires are main approaches in psychotherapy, leading to an improved quality of life and a healthy inner child, in touch with his needs and learning to reveal his capacities in order to feel safe. To begin practicing the development and healing of an inner child, I propose an exercise that I frequently use in my practice.
The exercise consists of doing one of the following behavioural challenges over a period of one month. Four main areas of focus are targeted to establish a balance in healing the inner child: body, job/purchasing, relationships, fantasy.
🀄 learn a foreign language that sounds fun
🀄 learn to play a new game
🀄 recite a poem
🀄 learn/participate in courses/activities not necessarily related to your profession
It is essential to be patient and gentle with ourselves in this process. Healing the inner child is not a race, but rather a long-term journey to self-discovery and healing. Through this journey, we can rediscover the joy, innocence and curiosity we felt as children, bringing them into the present and turning them into a source of strength and wisdom.
By healing our inner child, we give ourselves the chance to live an authentic, self-determined and happy life. So let’s take the time and love we need to connect with this part of our being and bring balance and harmony into our lives.
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