Oftentimes, trauma can keep us at the age we experienced it. This may be your inner child telling you that there is something that needs to be healed and nurtured within you. When growing up, our caregivers may not be there in the way that we need them to be. Whether it is making you feel dismissed, unheard, unprotected, burdened, or disappointed. We then create survival tactics for ourselves to make sure we are safe even if it’s not the healthiest. These tactics are put in place to protect us from facing the guilt, shame, disappointment, sadness and fear that we feel. The tactics then stay with us throughout childhood and are built in us when we become adults.
Signs that your inner child is experiencing pain:
- Avoidance and Procrastination
- Putting others first
- Feeling like a burden
- Saying you’re fine when you’re not
- Not asking for help when you need it
- Feelings of shame, guilt and fear
- Trying to perfect everything
- Rumination and negative self-talk
- Addictive behaviours
These are all ways your inner child is letting you know that there is an injury. Note that sometimes it is scary to face your inner child alone and with the help of a therapist they can help you to establish your boundaries around the pace and feelings of nurturing your inner child.
When nurturing your inner child, you can:
Acknowledge them: You can tell them that you hear them and see them. By acknowledging your inner child, you will then create a safe environment for them to come forth and let you know what they need to tell you.
Imagine them: Make yourself comfy and picture your inner child. Pay attention to how old they are, what they are doing and where they are. You can also recreate your inner child by collaging about them or creating art that represents them.
Write your inner child a letter: Sometimes expressing what you would like to say to your inner child will help them feel heard and known. You can express to them what they might be needed to hear when they were a child. Furthermore, if you feel comfortable, you can bring this letter into therapy to read it out loud and explore what it means to you.
Allow them space to play: When you were a child, it could be that you didn’t have time for play. Think of some ideas that will allow you to feel playful like riding your favourite roller coaster or playing one of your favourite games.
It has been shown that having a healthy and happy inner child is associated with feeling more content and peaceful with yourself, others and with your environment.