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What Is Inner Child Work?

Mary-Lauren O’Crowley, NCC, LPC

It does not matter how old we are, we all carry with us an inner child. Now that may sound a bit funny, but simply put, the inner child is the embodiment of the core beliefs we internalized about ourselves in childhood, many of which are negative or untrue. In childhood, we begin to form ideas and perceptions of the world around us based on our interactions with our primary caregivers. For a secure child, these beliefs may sound something like, “I am worthy,” “I am safe,” “I am loved”; however, for a child who experienced neglect, abuse, or instability, these beliefs likely echo, “I am unworthy,” “I am going to be abandoned,” “I will never amount to anything,” or “I am unsafe.” The inner child, while sometimes wounded and fragile, is often filled with love, compassion, patience, and acceptance and desires to engage openly with the world around them.  

Inner Child Work: What Is It and How Might It Help?

What is the Inner Child? 

The inner child is the part of ourselves that comes out when all of the expectations about who we should be disappear and we can be our most authentic selves. Can you remember what it felt like to be a child, before the weight of the world was thrust upon you? Can you remember what it felt like to run and play without a care in the world? Can you remember how it felt to accept and be accepted by almost everyone around you? We all have this inner child, who seeks to love and be loved and to understand and be understood, much like a child.

 Depending on our respective childhood experiences, the inner child can also have the most profound emotional wounds. Many of the beliefs that we are in some way unworthy stem from a wounded inner child. If we internalized negative beliefs about ourselves as children, we are likely to feel similarly in our experiences as adults, which in turn can lead to unhealthy behavioral patterns. The inner child can make you feel abandoned, isolated rejected, and betrayed. Thus, if we want a rich and meaningful life, it is important to work on healing our inner child. Simply put, this means that we need to love ourselves. All we need to do to connect to our inner child is simply to accept our emotions and feelings. Accepting our inner world is one of the bravest things we can do in this life. Our inner child needs to be heard and nurtured. 

Ways in Which You can Heal Your Inner Child:

Inner child work can be conducted in different ways depending on each person’s emotional wounds. You can start healing your inner child simply by turning your attention inward and speaking to yourself. By asking ourselves what we need or reminding ourselves that we are loved, seen, heard, etc., we are reminding that wounded inner child that they are in fact safe. Another way to connect and ultimately heal the inner child is to utilize visualization. Close your eyes and place yourself at a moment during your childhood during which you were scared or overwhelmed and allow yourself to embody those feelings. Notice what your younger self was experiencing and what they needed in that moment, and then in turn offer them support and understanding. 

Inner child work is a powerful practice that allows us to connect to our deepest childhood wounds and process them in a healthier, more adaptive way as an adult. When we can identify negative beliefs that were developed in childhood, challenge those beliefs, and offer ourselves a different perspective- one of hope and understanding- we create space for healing and growth. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with a wounded inner child, please reach out to the intake specialists at Symmetry Counseling today!

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