Written by: Amanda Levison, M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT
As children, typically from infancy to age 9, we are incredibly vulnerable to the world around us. During these formative years, we learn about emotions, safety, who we are, and how we form connections. Our early experiences shape our sense of self, relationships, attachment to others, and world perceptions. Our childhood experiences, both positive and negative, arguably shape the adults we become. However, not all of these experiences are positive, and many of us carry the scars of childhood trauma well into our adult lives. This lingering pain from the negative experiences can manifest in various ways, from anxiety and depression to addiction and dysfunctional relationships.
How do you know if you need to heal your inner child? The goal of healing your inner child is better to identify your needs, behaviors, and triggers. The signs listed below are symptoms that can be connected back to the original wounds.
Feeling highly reactive
Destructive coping behaviors
Poor emotional and mental health
Repeating patterns in relationships
Difficulty trusting others in relationships
Constant attempts to please others.
You have difficulty saying "no"
Extremely low self-esteem
An outburst of frustration
You feel guilty for expressing emotions
You never put your needs first
Fear of being judged
You never feel safe or secure
Healing your inner child can be potent in overcoming childhood trauma and finding inner peace. But it doesn't have to be this way. There are internal child exercises that can help access that younger self and offer them the comfort they needed but didn't have access to at the time. By connecting with your younger self, learning to identify and acknowledge your pain, and developing healthy coping mechanisms, you can break the cycles of trauma and build a life based on self-love and genuine happiness.
How to Heal the Inner Child?
Here are some strategies for healing your inner child that you can start implementing right away:
1. Connect with your younger self through meditation or visualization
One of the most effective ways to start healing your inner child is to connect with them through meditation or visualization. Sit or lie in a quiet space and breathe deeply. Make sure it is a safe space and you feel comfortable, focusing on relaxing your body and quieting your mind. Then, visualize yourself as a child – perhaps playing with your favorite toy, snuggled up with a beloved parent or caregiver, or exploring your surroundings with boundless curiosity. A suggested exercise is "white walls." This is when you sit in silence and take a deep breath. Imagine you are sitting in a room with all white walls, then imagine it turns into your favorite color, then imagine you are in a room with your favorite person, and now your favorite things to do, finally after you are in a relaxed and comforting state allow yourself to lean into an unpleasant memory. You have a safe space to return to when the memory becomes unpleasant.
As you connect with your younger self, ask them what they need from you. What message do they have for you? What pain are they carrying? Listen intently, without judgment, and be present with your inner child as they share their thoughts and feelings.
2. Learn to identify and acknowledge your pain
Dealing with childhood trauma can be incredibly difficult, and it may feel easier to simply push your pain to the side and focus on the present. It is time to take the time to identify and acknowledge your pain – without blaming yourself for the experiences you went through. Especially as we get older and gain emotional intelligence, we begin to form words to explain what we couldn't quite describe as a child. This approach only amplifies the hurt, making it more difficult to heal.
Therapy can be an incredibly valuable tool in this process. A trained professional can help you identify patterns of behavior and thought that might be connected to your childhood trauma. They can provide a non-judgmental listening ear that aids in processing experiences of one's childhood. However, even if you don't have access to therapy, you can still take steps to confront your pain head-on. Write in a journal, talk to a trusted friend or family member, or sit quietly and reflect on your experiences. You can begin to release your hurt and move towards healing by acknowledging it.
3. Develop healthy coping mechanisms.
While it's essential to acknowledge your pain, it's equally important to develop healthy coping mechanisms that can help you process and move past it. The key is to find strategies that resonate with you and to make them a consistent part of your daily routine. Take some time and test things out. What works for one person may not work for another. This can include anything from exercise, drawing, support groups, and meditation to creative expression and therapy.
Some effective coping mechanisms include journaling, practicing mindfulness, engaging in physical activity, or spending time in nature. Positive self-talk, affirmations, art, and boundary-setting can also be incredibly helpful in establishing healthy coping mechanisms. Ultimately, the goal is to cultivate a sense of safety and security within yourself to continue to heal and grow there for your inner child. Without safety, there is no room to be vulnerable because vulnerability and discomfort do not bode well together.
4. Cultivate self-love and compassion
Healing your inner child is ultimately about learning to love and accept yourself – warts and all. This can be incredibly difficult, especially if you've internalized negative messages about yourself from childhood. However, moving past the pain and building a fulfilling life is essential.
One way to cultivate self-love and compassion is to focus on strengths and positive qualities. What are your strengths and positive attributes? How much do you love yourself? What do you excel in? Write down a list of the positives and negatives and read them to yourself. It is very helpful to make it a habit. You might also practice affirmations in your mirror or talk to one of your friends or family members with kindness, compassion, and understanding.
Another way to cultivate self-love is to focus on self-care. This might mean creating a bedtime routine that helps you relax and prepare for sleep, treating yourself to an age or spa day, or simply carving out time each day to do something that brings you joy. Remember that rest and sleep should be options. When you show up for yourself this way, you send a powerful message to your inner child that you are safe, loved, and cared for.
5. Make time to bring back the joys of childhood you may have missed out on.
What did you love to do as a child, or what did you desperately want to do but never had the opportunity to do? Make time for play. This can be a tremendously healthy coping mechanism. Break out the coloring books, watch your favorite cartoons, and maybe even buy some toys. If you were not allowed to watch TV or movies as a child, make a list and work through them. Make time to play the video games you missed out on. Buy that expensive toy at the amusement park you have always dreamed of. Throw a themed birthday party with balloons, banners, streamers, and fun characters. It is up to you. Buy board games and make time to play them frequently. Reclaim these activities and emotions for you. Do all the things you were not permitted to do as a child. This is a great way to overcome those negative emotions associated with play or creativity. Getting in touch with these positive needs can help you heal and regain what you missed in childhood. This will help you feel that happiness that should be associated with youth.
6. Write it out
Getting our thoughts out on paper can feel so good instead of sitting jumbled up in our heads. There are two ways to write it out that will heal your inner child. The first way is to write a letter to your child self. Here are some questions that you can use to get you thinking. "How do you feel"? "How can I support you? and "What do you need from me?" You might see patterns or needs you thought you had met in adulthood but need to improve.
The second option is to journal as if you were a child. This can be helpful when working through challenging or confusing experiences and emotional turmoil. This can also help you see possible patterns in your adult life that you want to change.
If you cannot sit down for a while and write, there are other ways to journal. You can record voice notes on your phone and listen to them later. This way, you get to experience the emotions you were feeling.
7. Educate Yourself
When you need healing, you may have to take the extra step and find the best ways to get it. Many books, blogs, and podcasts are available that can provide other ways to heal and support your inner child. Spend time on the world wide web, check out social media influencers, talk to family or friends, check out books on Audible, or visit your local library. No matter how you go about it, it's important to educate yourself on what's available.
Breaking Free: How Healing Your Inner Child Can Release Emotional Baggage
Healing your inner child is a profound journey towards overcoming childhood trauma and achieving inner peace. This process involves connecting with your younger self, recognizing your pain, fostering healthy coping strategies, rediscovering childhood joys, and nurturing self-love and compassion. Fortunately, places like the Neurofeedback Counseling Center in Pennsylvania provide professional assistance in this endeavor. By offering specialized therapy to help heal your inner child, the Center stands as a supportive ally on this difficult but rewarding journey. It's not an easy path, but with persistence, dedication, and the right support, you can shatter the cycle of trauma and construct a life rich in happiness and fulfillment. The peace and joy you truly deserve are within reach – and your inner child depends on you to start the work!