Each of us is born exquisite, creative, and so very alive. Like a nesting doll, this essential inner nature eventually finds itself encased in layers of time, age, growth, experiences, identity, and, ultimately, adulthood.
The inner child is a now-famous phrase describing that timeless, tender, loving, and vulnerable being we were in childhood. It is also the dynamic and true inner self who always seeks expression, connection, play, authenticity, and freedom. Sigmund Freud placed great importance on this presence within the psyche. It is one that survives within us into adulthood and throughout life.
Yet what if this inner self has suffered and not fully healed? The inner child will go to great lengths be expressed, remembered, or acted out in our adult lives and can compel us to weave patterns of dysfunction and pain into our adult relationships.
The Wounded Inner Child Wreaks Havoc on our Relationships
As we morph into this supposedly mature adult person, the inner child prevails, not as a literal child, but as an archetypal aspect or character underlying our complex personalities. While we have many different facets contributing to our self-expression, we could say the inner child is the core, the heart, of who we are.
He or she is the aspect of the self who feels vividly, seeks validation, attention, and love. They are the one who wants what he or she wants right now. They are the one who wants to create, play, explore, and be accepted.
We are all impacted by how our parents treated us as children. Unfortunately, many children do not receive the parenting they need and deserve, experiencing abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction. The attitudes and institutions of our culture at large also wield considerable influence over our inner-children. Often the messages from our culture tell us to 'be strong' 'don't cry' 'man up,' and so on. Our natural creative expression is often under siege by criticism, lack of support, and the increasing demands of the outer world as we grow up.
When our child self fails to find the nurture, support, and freedom it needs, we can, as adults, act out of this place of emotional deficit. If we are living from this of pain or incompleteness, it will naturally make healthy and satisfying adult relationships impossible.
Signs your Inner Child Needs some Reparenting from you:
To name just a few. We have all undoubtedly seen or done these types of behaviors to some extent. When negative cycles of interaction and behavior begin to plague a relationship, it can become dysfunctional. It is clear to see the inner child aspect coming to life in dysfunctional relationship dynamics. Children behave out of their feelings and will go to almost any length to get the attention, love, and validation they require.
As adults, it is solely our responsibility to recognize when our emotional responses and behavior are off track and to heal the child within so that we can move forward.
The Inner Child Holds to Key to Healthy Relationships
To live within our world can be, at times, harsh and isolating. Whether or not you experienced a difficult childhood, your inner child likely went underground at some point to survive. Even the most competent parents are not perfect. It is the most challenging job on earth. It would be a rare child to escape childhood without a deep hurt or disappointment. Now that you are an adult, it's time to re-integrate the inner child. If necessary, it's time to reparent that inner child from your adult self.
What kind of gold might you find at the end of your inner child's rainbow? You may find a side of you who knows how to express what you genuinely feel and need. You may uncover the ability to get lost from time doing something creative, beautiful, and fun. You may rediscover your energy and vitality.
When the child is calm, safe, and well cared for, it can integrate into the balanced and whole adult self. This adult self can then behave like an adult. The integrated adult expresses maturely and calmy what they need and want, unafraid to reveal their authentic self and unafraid to embrace the authenticity and vulnerability of others. Does this sound like the kind of person you'd like to embody, the type of person with whom you could share a loving and healthy relationship? When we heal the inner child, healthy relationships become possible.
How to Heal Your Inner Child
Reconnecting with your inner child is a crucial healing practice. To show up fully in a healthy and conscious love relationship, you have to be ready to be who you are and to be able to accept another person's authentic nature. Healing and inviting the inner child back into wholeness is a gateway to real intimacy and enjoyment.
These techniques will help you connect with and heal your inner child:
1) Meet your Inner Child: Start by initiating a dialogue with your inner child.
Recovery of Your Inner Child by Lucia Capacchione, PH.D., is an excellent resource for this work. Children often function primarily from the right brain. The right hemisphere is associated with feelings, creativity, expression, play, connection, and intuition. You can access the right region of the brain by using your non-dominant hand (left hand for most people).
Capacchione recommends drawing self-portraits of your child self using only your non-dominant hand. By doing so, you can invite expression from your inner child. She also suggests writing dialogues between your adult self and your child-self. To do so, your inner child writes with the non-dominant hand, and your adult self responds with the dominant hand.
When conversing with your inner child, give him or her the reassurance they are seeking and create a safe and accepting internal atmosphere. Using internal dialogue, you can discover what your child needs and wants.
2) Reparent Your Inner Child: Just as we all possess the inner-child, we also possess the inner-parent.
Our inner parenting voice exists whether or not we have literal children. This internal parent has a supportive and loving aspect and also a critical element. When connecting with your inner child through drawing, written dialogues, or meditation, you will see the nature of your inner parent revealed. Take notice of how the parent self relates to the child. Is the tone critical, belittling, impatient? Or is it welcoming, kind, and encouraging?
You may be surprised to find how much more kindness your inner child needs. You have a golden opportunity to improve how you are treating the inner-child.
3)Set Your Creativity Free: All children are naturally creative. Look for ways to engage your creativity.
Without being told or asked, children everywhere and since time immemorial express creativity. Art and pictures develop before written and spoken language. Drawing, painting, working with clay, and other media are incredibly fun and versatile ways to express oneself. When you recognize the inner critic, bring in the supportive inner parent and allow your creative self to be free.
Connecting to your creative nature is like bringing water to a very thirsty part of yourself. Allowing yourself to create opens the pathways between the right and left brain and between the child and adult self, allowing for integration.
4) Get Centered in Your Heart: The inner child embodies heart energy. Whatever is good for the heart is right for the inner child.
Louise Hay suggests, "Place your hand over your heart, ask your heart what it wants you to know today," and then, listen. As adults, we often inadvertently live in our heads and thoughts, becoming numb to our feelings and emotions. By cultivating our ability to remain in the awareness of the heart, we can keep the channel open to the inner child.
We must re-learn how to honor our gut instincts and intuition as well. Little children have an uncanny ability to read people and circumstances, feeling out what is safe, enjoyable, and proper for themselves. We can honor the inner child by doing the same.
5) Maintain Awareness- Integrating the inner child into the adult self takes time. When emotions rise, maintain awareness.
Though you may be in the process of healing your inner child, you may still find yourself triggered or hurt. Rather than reacting to your loved ones or partner out of hurt feelings or frustration, cultivate awareness of the inner child. Allow yourself to notice the sensations of your body, any tension, and what is going on inside. Very often, you will find that the inner child is active. Now that you are aware of its presence, needs, and desires, you can bring in the parenting voice within and bring yourself internal balance before resuming your adult interaction.
Attract Better Relationships with a Healed Inner-Child
When we are chronically distressed, depleted, and in need of healing, we attract the same. It is the law of the universe that 'like attracts like.' If you have found that you wind up in the same relationships ruts over and over again, it's time to face the inner child. At the core of our personality structure, the vulnerable child is waiting for an acknowledgment. If we can bring peace and harmony to the inner child, harmonious relationships are right around the corner.
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