What Does It Mean To Heal Your Inner Child?
If you’ve spent any time on Instagram and TikTok over the past few years, you’ve probably heard about the importance of healing your inner child. The term might sound therapized or even silly, but healing your inner child can help you become a better person in every aspect of your life.
Healing your inner child can be anything from seeking therapy for past traumas to nurturing your creative side. Whether you have a lot of work to do or just want to be happier, healing your inner child is a great idea.
What Is Your Inner Child? And Why Should We Want To Heal It?
Before we get into talking about why we should want to heal our inner child, we need to define our inner child. Diana Raab, Ph.D., author of Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life, says your inner child is “the part of your personality that both reacts and feels like a child.”
Sounds simple, right? Well, there’s more to it. According to Integrative Psychotherapy, “Our inner child is the one that remembers that sweet smell of grandma when she leaned down to hug us, with a huge look of pride on her face when we showed her how we were able to ride our bike. Our inner child remembers the feeling of our hearts brimming with joy and love when our dad looked at us with a glisten in his eyes when we shared our favorite toy with the neighbor. Our inner child remembers feeling invited to a friend’s birthday party and feeling so happy and confident. Our inner child is also the one who felt the salty tears run down our cheeks when mama left the house in a rush to go say goodbye to her dad when he was dying. Our inner child remembers being ignored and bullied on the bus on the first day of school.” Our early experiences, both the positive and the negative, affect us deeply and shape who we become as adults.
Our early experiences, both the good and the bad, affect us deeply and shape who we become as adults.
All of us have an inner child, whether you have deeply rooted issues from a type of childhood trauma or abuse or have that part of you that acts like a child when old insecurities manifest. These insecurities can be anything from a fear of commitment to an aversive reaction to change due to something that happened in your childhood.
Therapist Dr. Sheri Jacobson expands on this idea. She writes, “Many schools of therapeutic thought acknowledge the childlike side to our personalities that ‘the inner child’ refers to.”
She continues, “The general idea is that we all have a childlike aspect within our unconscious mind ... that can take over when you are faced with a challenge.”
Let’s say you were the only girl in your second-grade class who didn’t get an invite to the most popular girl’s birthday party, leaving you hurt and confused. When you experience rejection as an adult (whether it’s professional or personal), you’ll likely feel the same way you did when you were younger, the pain of rejection sending you back to your younger self.
But why does your inner child impact you as an adult? And how is it different from just being insecure and hurt as an adult? While we all have our insecurities in adulthood, many of us who experienced abuse or trauma in childhood are “stuck” at the age where we experienced the trauma. Clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., says, “When an individual is traumatized, especially early on in life, the memory of the trauma is stored both in the brain and the body. As a result, if healing does not occur, the traumatic incident can impede healthy development.” When, as an adult, they are in situations that trigger a memory of the trauma, their brain resorts to feeling/acting how they felt/acted as a child because it hasn’t been able to process it, incorporate it, and move on. Thus, they are reacting as a child would, not as a grown-up would, with specific regard to the situation they’re in right now. Luckily, this problem can be fixed through therapy and healing your inner child.
Why should we want to heal our inner child? The simple answer is that it will make you a happier and healthier person. If you have deeply rooted issues from your childhood regarding abandonment or other attachment issues, it’s likely to pop up in many areas of your life, from your relationships to how you deal with stressful situations.
How To Heal Your Inner Child
The first step to healing your inner child is learning about what you need to heal. Make a list of things that trigger an inappropriate emotional response that can appear childish (like overreacting or crying intensely) and talk to a therapist who can help you find the cause of the trigger and learn ways to cope with it. A therapist can also help you find out if you have any deep-seated childhood trauma, which is something that will need much more work to fix than a simple trigger.
Other strategies include journaling, meditating, taking your time to acknowledge your emotions, and writing a letter to your younger self. It may sound silly, but writing a letter to your past self to tell her that everything will be okay can be therapeutic. Writing the letter will likely bring up the emotions of self-doubt, fear, confusion, etc. you experienced while you were young. While this can be uncomfortable, it will also help you realize how far you’ve come and remind you that even if you’re not where you thought you’d be at this age, you’re still in a place that your younger self could only dream of. For example, I know my 12-year-old self would love to hear that I’m published online, and my 17-year-old self would love to hear that I overcame an awful depressive episode and ultimately graduated college. Give yourself some grace while writing this letter, and let it remind you of how far you’ve come. Your inner child will thank you.
Writing a letter to your past self to tell her that everything will be okay can be therapeutic.
You can also work on creative ways to heal your inner child. One fun way is to watch a favorite childhood movie after a stressful day. We crave nostalgic movies because of their familiarity, but we also love them because they bring us back to a less stressful time.
Have you ever noticed that you have the urge to watch shows like Friends or The Office when you’re stressed out? It’s because you know how it will end, and that brings a sense of comfort (it also helps that both shows are hilarious). The same principle applies to our favorite childhood movies like Disney Princess movies and other Disney classics, making a Disney-themed movie night a great way to heal your inner child.
Benefits of Healing Your Inner Child
Besides making you a healthier person, there are other benefits to healing your inner child. It can help help you learn how to process your emotions by reminding yourself that it’s okay to feel sad or weak at times, and learn why you feel these emotions. If you know what triggers these emotions, the shame surrounding these emotions will dissipate over time, and you’ll learn healthy ways to cope with them.
Healing your inner child also brings out your creative side. Children are encouraged to be creative, and sometimes we forget how therapeutic imaginative activities can be. It can also make you more productive because many jobs (even the most logical ones) require creativity. This doesn’t mean you have to splurge on the LEGO set that you wanted as a child (but if you can afford it, go ahead); it can be as simple as tapping into old creative hobbies. Whether you liked to draw or write poetry as a kid, taking some time in the day to make room for these hobbies will help you relax, instantly making you happier and healthier. With your creative juices flowing, the possibilities are endless, creating room for you to be your best self in every area of your life.
We all have moments of vulnerability that bring up old insecurities, triggering a response from our inner child. Healing your inner child will not only make these stressful situations easier to navigate but will positively impact other aspects of your life to make you a more creative and happy person.
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