Have you heard of the concept of the “inner child”? The inner child is a concept created by Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, who described your inner child as a part of your subconscious that recalls all of your past experiences and what you felt when the event happened – the good and the traumatizing. When your inner child is wounded, the negative emotions they cause you to feel can seep into present day and impact your daily activities and relationships. Have you been noticing your mental health dragging lately? This could be your inner child trying to tell you they’re wounded, and it’s time to let some of the crap go! So let’s talk about five ways you can begin to care for your wounded inner child.
Be sure to watch until the end for a little disclaimer on this topic!
#1: Learning to Parent the Inner Child
In her YouTube video “How to Heal the Inner Child”, Dr. Nicole LePera (@the.holistic.psychologist) explains how learning to be that strong, wise parent you wish you had can help begin to heal your wounded inner child. Let’s say you’re really anxious about a medical procedure coming up, and you can’t seem to think about anything else. You can feel the anxiety and fear consuming you, but what do you do? This is where you can practice re-parenting that wounded inner child. How? Imagine a younger version of you standing in front of you. You might say something to them like “Hey, kiddo. I know you’re pretty scared about your procedure today. It’s absolutely valid to be afraid since you’re not sure what to expect, but you have to be brave and get this procedure done to help you be healthy!” The Holistic Psychologist suggests acknowledging the emotion being felt rather than dismissing or criticizing it. At first, this might seem weird, but with practice, parenting your inner child will become easier.
#2: Earn the Inner Child’s Trust
As Carl Jung details in his book Healing the Inner Child, the inner child is a piece of our conscious mind. Whether it’s to look both ways before crossing the road or not to speak when Dad is in the room, our conscious mind uses these lessons to help us shape our outlook as adults. When your inner child is wounded, chances are it’s because you’ve been taught bad lessons and told lies throughout your actual childhood. Think about Rapunzel and Mother Gothel. Mother of the year over here basically told her kid she needs to be locked up for life to be safe because she’s so weak and fragile. After all of the negativity, Rapunzel’s inner child probably believed that she was better off locked away. In reality, Rapunzel knows her way around a frying pan and can take care of herself. When you approach the inner child as that wise inner parent, you need to show them it’s okay to trust you by providing healthy advice. For Rapunzel, that might sound like “You are smart, strong, and brave. You have plenty to share with the world.” Sounds better than being locked away in a tower, amiright?
#3: Let Your Inner Child Out
If your inner child is wounded enough to be giving you some mental health grief, you can assume that they’ve been through a lot of trauma. In the book, Recovery of Your Inner Child, Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D. suggests “calling on your inner child” to help uncover all types of memories, even some to help explain your trauma or triggers. One method Capacchione suggests is calling on your inner child. Grab a piece of paper and something to write with; it can even be a crayon. Put it in your non-dominant hand and draw a time your inner child was truly happy or truly upset. This can be a full-blown picture or symbols that remind you of that time and why you may have held on to certain emotions. Another option can be writing a letter of forgiveness to your parent/caregiver for any trauma you’ve experienced. This can help to recover lost memories or create closure in a situation where there may not be any. This step is best done with a mental health professional to help navigate this exercise safely and to help unpack anything that comes up.
#4: Confront Childhood Trauma Lies
There are times that childhood trauma can stem from things that we were told as children or lessons we were taught. They’re not necessarily true, but they were ingrained in you. Licensed Clinical Social Worker and YouTuber Patrick Teahan, breaks down some of these lies in his video “6 Lies From Childhood Trauma 2022”. Some examples are “The real you isn’t acceptable,” or “People don’t want to get to know you.” In adulthood, these lies can cause you to be a people pleaser and to downplay your likes and opinions or feel ashamed of yourself. Anyone remember the movie “Black Swan”? You have a twenty-something young adult, Nina, living with Mom in New York City. With those rent prices, okay, I get it. BUT mother, over here, keeps telling her that she’s basically incapable of doing anything without her. Not cool, and not true. When these lies come up, Patrick tells us it’s best to identify the source of those words. Is this something you say and believe? Or is this something you’ve been conditioned to believe from a caregiver?
#5: Be Mindful
It can be really easy to get wrapped up in old habits, especially when you’re trying to create new ones. Believe me. I have a parent with very narcissistic tendencies, and it’s an uphill battle daily to not act like her when in a parenting or authoritative role. However, it’s a bit easier when I’m being mindful of my actions, thoughts, and words. Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Master and author, explains that the first function of mindfulness is for us to open our awareness enough to recognize those unhealthy thoughts, words, actions and patterns. Through this way of thinking, you can also become more aware of your inner child and what they need to continue healing. How do you do this? Just think before you speak and act. When you make it a point to ask yourself if this is a healthy act, it becomes easier to identify and stop unhealthy behaviors.
This one is kind of tricky, because it can be really discouraging when you realize you’re falling into the same patterns. Be patient and kind with yourself. It’s just like any other skill. You have to work at it to be good at it, and it’s okay to ask for help along the way from loved ones, a trusted teacher, or a mental health professional.
Unfortunately, it’s true what they say. History does repeat itself, and a wounded inner child can be the root cause of this cycle. It’s time to break it! This is something that may never be totally cured, but it will help to heal both your trauma and your wounded inner child. How else can you care for a wounded inner child to promote healing? Let us know down below! As always, keep an eye on Psi for more Psych2Go content. Until next time!
Side Note: This article isn’t meant to diagnose any individual or take the place of professional therapy. Please contact a trusted mental health provider to discuss if inner child work is a good fit.
The references used in and to compose this article are listed below:
Capacchione, L. (1991). Recovery of your inner child. Simon & Schuster.
Goldstein, E. (2022, June 6). What is an inner child: And what does it know – integrative psychotherapy mental health blog. Integrative Psychotherapy & Trauma Treatment. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://integrativepsych.co/new-blog/what-is-an-inner-child#:~:text=Your%20%E2%80%9Cinner%20child%E2%80%9D%20is%20a,and%20dreams%20for%20the%20future.
Hanh, T. N. (2022, January 19). Healing the Child Within. Mindful. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.mindful.org/healing-the-child-within/
LePera, N. (2020). How to Heal the Inner Child. YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Qw5KODVMD8.
Teahan, P. (2021). 6 Lies From Childhood Trauma 2022. YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DUkpWgcR8s&t=945s.