By: Emily Brennan, MA, LAC, NCC

As adults with busy schedules and a full slate of responsibilities, it is easy to forget about our inner child. The inner child is beneath our consciousness and holds unmet needs, suppressed emotions, traumas, and pain from our past. Our inner child also holds joy, creativity, curiosity, and the ability to play. When we become adults, we are told to grow up and forgo the inner child within us all. The problem is, our inner child is still very much a part of us because our childhood pains, fears, and anxieties do not leave on their own. 

As children, just as we need to learn reading, math, and science skills, we also 

 need to be taught to process and manage our emotions. Our parents and caregivers do the best they can with the knowledge they have and sometimes that knowledge can fall a little short. This is not about blaming our parents for the skills they did not pass on to us. Rather, this is about becoming aware of your inner child so we can love and nourish a part of us that is hurting. If we do not become conscious of our inner child, we will continue to see the world through the lens of a wounded child.   

What does it look like to see through the lens of a wounded child? As children our core needs are to be seen, heard, loved, protected, and accepted. In adulthood, those needs are not much different, and we try to fulfill them in different ways, including within relationships. Some examples include, when we feel hurt or overwhelmed we may scream, slam doors, or shut down completely. We may self- sabotage and deny our own reality as well as the reality of others. We may become so consumed with receiving love, that we betray ourselves. We may have unrealistic expectations that a partner will save or fix us. Our mind may be consumed by negative thoughts, such as, “I am not good enough.”

Additionally, we also receive a number of messages about ourselves, other people, and the world from our parents, our caregivers, school teachers, peers, and society as a whole. These messages can be hurtful, scary, or confusing and they can become internalized as the truth. For example, “stop crying, it is not that big of a deal,” “you need to be perfect if you want to be successful,” “you do not know anything,” or “this is all your fault.” Those are only a few of the many messages we may receive as children. We begin to abandon our inner child when we accept these messages as truths and bring them into adulthood. We often stop being curious, stop experiencing joy, and abandon our innate desire to play and seek out pleasure. 

Our inner child can be healed, and it starts with reconnecting to the parts of us we lost. This can be done by utilizing reparenting practices. It may sound silly, but we can speak to our inner child as if they are an actual living breathing human. Tell your inner child you are here now with him or her, they are safe now, they are worthy, loved, and accepted, and it is okay to completely be him or herself. Create a relationship with your inner child that consists of boundaries, structure, creativity, joy, and play. Dr. Stephen Diamond calls this, “authentic adulthood”, in which we accept our painful past and the primary responsibility to attend to our inner child’s needs (Diamond, 2008). Make it a daily practice to interact with your inner child and became an authentic and fully conscious adult.

If you would like to talk to a licensed therapist, get in touch with Symmetry Counseling. We offer a range of counseling services to support your menthol health and well-being, including individual therapy, family therapy, couples counseling in Chicago.

References

Diamond, S.A. (2008, June 7). Essential secrets of psychotherapy: The inner child. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evil-deeds/200806/essential-secrets-psychotherapy-the-inner-child