Updated: Dec 9, 2019
We all have one. That little vulnerable voice inside of us, that is the voice of our inner child. The voice of the little "me" deep inside that holds all of our experiences, limiting beliefs and wounds that occurred as a child.
Every child, at some point, experiences some level of trauma. Through my experience in "crisis counselling" I discovered that trauma can be as small as a regularly scheduled TV show being moved to a new time or a friend embarrassing you in public; to more extreme trauma like abuse, neglect, violence, a sudden death of a loved one, job loss, etc. Regardless of your own perception of what is traumatic, and what is not, the brain does not discern between big trauma and little trauma. The brain cannot differentiate so all traumatic experiences, large or small, are processed in the brain in the exact same way.
When one experiences trauma the prefrontal cortex stops processing and the amygdala flips open (aka "flipped his lid"). The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that helps you with rational thought, problem solving and processing. It is the part of the brain that records events, for reflection at a later time. When trauma is in full "action mode" and the prefrontal cortex shuts down, the only thing left is our primal brain - the amygdala. There is no more logical processing, no more rational thought and no more recording.
When the amygdala flips wide open, it is in fright, flight, freeze or fight response also known as chronic stress response mode. When we are in a continual cycle of a chronic stress response, it is extremely hard on our mind and physical body. There is no "chill mode" as we are always in a state of fight, flight, freeze or fright. We don't recharge, reset or regoup.. we just keep going hoping something will break the cycle.
When we don't process the causes of the chronic stress, we enter into a chronic stress response cycle that never ends. We need to break the cycle to have a different outcome.
Identifying the inner child traumas is key. Some of the traumas can include (but not limited to):
Feelings of danger and vulnerability
Traumatic sudden events (sudden death of a loved one)
Criticism from adults, creating low self esteem, doubt and confusion
Negative put downs
Limiting beliefs (for example: children should be seen and not heard)
Identifying and connecting to your inner child, allows you to be able to label, process and release childhood trauma. It helps you to lessen your chronic stress response cycle and even jump off that merry-go-round, because you are starting to process and release built up stresses and traumas.
Even though we think of trauma as "bad", it can actually hold some valuable learning lessons for us. It can teach us about processing and releasing. It can teach us about what is right and wrong; what we want/don't want for our own lives as we grow up.
So what do we do with our inner child trauma and reduce the chronic stress response cycle? How do we identify it, process it and release it? Here are a few steps to help you start the process:
1. Identify With Your Inner Child
The first step to healing your inner child, is to acknowledge that your inner child exists, is hurt and needs healing. This is the hardest part of the whole process.
Acknowledge that you inner child is the part of your adult being. Take a moment and just ponder that thought. The inner child part inside of you, is where you feel vulnerable, unsure and at times, afraid. It is that part of us that wants to retreat to a safe dark corner, being invisible to all, safe and protected from harm.
When we are in situations out of our comfort zone, high stress and completely overwhelmed, we feel vulnerable, unsafe and sometimes afraid of the unknown. Some of that vulnerability we feel deep inside, comes from our inner child experiences. We use the inner child experiences in our lives as a benchmark, comparing our happiness and sadness to internal experiences inside of us, without even consciously realizing we are doing that.
In order to heal your inner child you need to identify with him or her. So find a quiet place, where you won't be disturbed. Take a note pad with you if you like. Then as you sit quietly, take time to reflect back on your childhood experiences, good and bad. Jot down any random feelings, thoughts or experiences that come to mind.
Each inner child experience has formed building blocks of your values, integrity, determination and principles. Each experience has helped to form the amazing person you are right now, today. So whether those experiences are good or bad, don't judge them - just jot the feelings that occurred in those experiences.
Focus on the hurt for a moment. Write down all the upset feelings. Write down the hurt, sadness, grief, loss, rejection, resentment, anger, abandonment, fear, etc. Note any people, circumstances or places that come to mind through this process. As you write down these feelings, experience them. If you need to cry, cry - there is no judgement through the healing process. Releasing through tears is healthy, cleansing and healing. Some may not cry to release any hurt, and that is perfectly fine too. There is no wrong way to heal your inner child, as it is your way; the way that works best for you.
Now shift your experiences of the inner child to the positive. Think about the pockets of time where your inner child experienced laughter, joy, friendship, love, happiness, wonder, excitement, passion and glee. For some, this process might be quite difficult as the inner child hurt might overshadow the good experiences. If this is the case for you, think back on birthdays (yours and friends), think back on sports days in school, recess playing with friends on the playground, think back during summer breaks playing outside. Focus on the joyful experiences you had as a child, even if times were troubled and hard.
As you think of the joyful, happy experiences of your inner child jot those down on your note pad as well. Experience the feelings of joy, playfulness, happiness, carefree wonder, etc. Jot down the feelings and events, people or situations that helped your inner child feel joy and love and happi