Trauma Healing: What is the Inner Child?
This month we’re focusing on stripping the aspects of ourselves that hold us back from attaining and achieving the lifestyle (and mindset) we really want. The last few blog posts have highlighted the several different versions of the “false-self” that block us from living in a place of authenticity and empowerment. We recognized how much our emotions and our ego can take over our better self, and created a simple guide to realizing and healing where we are stuck. We explained how to recognize the parts of us that work unconsciously and take over our better judgment, and we determined how to start consciously choosing what we focus our energy and attention on.
This blog post is dedicated to listing and explaining yet another one of our “false-selves,” in which we shed light on what is called the “inner child.”
It combines the focus of our last two blog posts, our unconscious emotions and the mindset of our ego – and how they become one living force, which is ultimately capable of conducting our unconscious thoughts and behaviours.
So… What is an Inner Child?… This is a topic I was introduced to a while ago, and almost never cared about until recently. It was just a concept I could resonate with, but never take seriously until now… And now that I do understand the importance of grasping such an idea, I am here today, sharing with you one of the most underrated but life-relying transformations – that at some point – we must all undergo. Healing our Inner Child.
I get it… The inner child. It sounds stupid, and it’s really easy to overlook… but if you knew how much of this part of us, determines our overall state of well-being, our routines and actions, or even how much an impact it has on our happiness – you wouldn’t look at it so funny anymore.
Almost all of us, at some point in our lives, have experienced some sort of trauma or bad experience. Trauma is an experience that you may have lived that was severely distressing to you, disturbing, or caused to undergo harmful amounts of stress to your mind and body.
It can range from something as little as having your favorite toy thrown out as a child, to being abandoned by your childhood best friend or parent. It can be an experience of physical or emotional abuse by someone close to you, or anything really, that caused you to suffer or grief in any certain way.
Everyone has their own story. Each of us has a set of good and bad experiences that happened in life, in which some have stayed with us longer and deeper than we expected. Each of these memories were influenced by several different factors, such as the set of people we were around and their mindset at the time, our social and physical environment, as well as the time of age and how receptive our brain was to certain situations.
Up until the age of about six years old, from the womb until further development, our brain works at a relatively slower pace. The rate at which our brainwaves were occurring, meant that we were functioning at a very receptive rate. What that ultimately means is that most of the experiences we lived (or even that our mother lived while we were in the womb), profoundly affected us on a sub-conscious level. Good or bad experiences, nourishment or lack of it, abundance or deficit of emotional availability, how safe or insecure we felt - due to the vulnerability of our mind, these events were profoundly registered by our brains, and have ultimately stayed with us for longer than we’ve been aware of.
The way it works is that after specific events happen, our brain will record it on a subconscious level, and in-turn it will influence us to determine the way we should act, think, speak, and behave – in order to be accepted by our families and social groups - so we could “survive” a little longer.
The child brain doesn’t process it much further than that, something good happens (like a reward for particular behavior), we do more of it. Something bad happens, we learn how to avoid that situation by any means necessary. And ultimately as we grow up, due to a our brain’s lack of in-depth processing of our childhood experiences, we form these unconscious beliefs about how our life “should” be lived, in order to ensure our survival and well-being for as long as possible.
But, how many of us are still living in that place of survival?
Much of us are probably adults now, or growing into adulthood; we can control our own life, make our own decisions, and we have a more stable or independent means of survival…
So why do we continue to live with such detrimental beliefs, that keep us in this state of unease, and ultimately block any potential for achieving higher levels of growth and happiness?
We live in a state of repetition and cyclic existence, repeating certain behaviours and living with a particular mindset, without questioning whether it's constructive or destructive for the life we would actually like to live.
In other words, the beliefs and mindset that we grew up with, as a means of avoiding potential danger or suffering, are still reoccurring beyond our need for them. We live in a world where most of the resources and opportunities we need for a well-sustained life are available. The odds for guaranteeing survival are much higher as we grow up, yet we still life in a place of fear and distrust.
Let’s say for example, you had a hard time fitting in as a child. I don’t you if you, as the reader, can personally relate, but for the sake of explanation, let’s go with that. Say you had a hard time fitting in as a kid. You felt like you didn’t know your place in the world. You doubted your worthiness of a stable friendship or social tribe. You didn’t have a consistent closeness with your family or group of friends. And, in turn, you spent a lot of time in isolation and loneliness.
Some years pass and now you're an adult. Before you knew it, you grew up and now, for some reason, you have a fear of intimacy. This mild (or extreme) trauma you endured as a child, in not feeling accepted by the world, has translated in your low self-confidence, your overall doubt in people, and - worst of all – a raging feeling of unworthiness and fear of love within yourself.
And what you’re not aware of is the result of these subconscious beliefs. They have represented themselves in your physical and mental reality. Your social and intimate relationships have all fallen apart because you don’t let yourself get close to people, and in turn push them away. You face a constant inner anger towards the world and doubt the ability to have any form of positive relationships. You continue to isolate yourself from others despite their genuine efforts to be in your life; and you have an extreme distrust in people’s intention with you, even if they really do care.
This hurt and disappointment, your trauma, anger, negativity, and sadness – whatever experiences that happened to you that made you feel less than worthy, anxious, depressed, fearful of intimacy, or imbalanced – they’re all still suppressed inside your mind. And because you live with these unconscious beliefs that you don’t actually see, these parts of your deeply hurt psyche are manifesting themselves back into your reality.
And look – I'm not saying that “your thoughts create your reality” or hinting towards the “law of manifestation”… but what I am trying to inform you of is no matter what experiences happen to you, based on the way you taught yourself to react to these situations, you’re bound to deal with this adversity in a certain manner.
And the moment an experience triggers that part of you that is still hurt, you are unconsciously going to tie meaning to it, and it will be in direct correlation to that part of your subconscious that still believes in what it was taught; regardless of how destructive it may be.
Experiences will continue to trigger and affect your levels of happiness, and will ultimately destroy your inner peace if you don’t know why they’re hurting you so bad (or worse, if you’re not even able to see/become aware of them).
Something so small can affect you so deeply if that part of your psyche is still unresolved. If whatever innocent and vulnerable part of you (which is ultimately called that child part of you) is prone to relationship issues, overwhelming emotions, physical illnesses, or has low self-worth or confidence – if you have any irrational fears or beliefs that are controlling your life, may that be in terms of money, love, weight, happiness, relationships, jobs, whatever… All of those problems are governed by that hurt and unconscious, the old part of your mind.
WHY ARE WE RAISING AWARENESS ON SUCH A TOPIC?
Because, while each of us becomes informed on the hidden parts of our mind, we are able to come closer to recognizing and becoming conscious of our current state, and closer to learning how to heal it altogether.
With each experience you face that you make you feel overwhelmed, fearful, or angry; you are also being faced with an opportunity to learn something about your past and your wounded self. Something that happened to you then, that you are still holding you inside you now, and that is dictating your life in the present.
Whenever you notice an issue that is bringing up painful feelings, or making you feel angry, sad, or numb, or making you do something you don't actually want to do, you’re being faced with the direct opportunity to find what’s keeping you stuck and creating unhelpful patterns, and you can learn how to heal it.
There is nothing more spiritual or deep, or literal to know about your inner child than that you just have to heal and come to peace with those past hurtful experiences. Notice & address the detrimental beliefs that you have, and just overcome that which has affected you so much in your childhood, so that you can move on, and live your life freely in the Now.
BECAUSE I AM FUNDAMENTALLY AWARE OF HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO FIND AND RELEASE THESE SUBLIMINAL IMPACTS OF OUR MIND – I WANT TO COVER A FEW OF THE BASICS, IN UNDERSTANDING THE TYPES OF “TRAUMA” YOU CAN EXPERIENCE, DETERMINING THE EFFECTS IT CAN HAVE IN TERMS OF BELIEFS AND TRIGGERS, AND THEN REVEALING SOME CORE EXERCISES ON HOW YOU CAN BEGIN TO QUESTION YOUR INNER CHILD, AND FINALLY LET GO OF THE PAST.
And let me be painfully clear, as I have in the previous posts. Healing yourself and the worst aspects of your unconscious mind is never a one-and-done exercise. You have to apply and practice this as often as it takes, and always keep an open heart when learning how to heal your inner child.
When you begin to feel tension arise, or if you notice that you’re finding yourself particularly upset if there are critical thoughts playing over in your head that are disturbing or causing you discomfort or pain. This is the time to recognize what parts of you are wounded, and where stems the root of its traumatic experience.
CONNECT AND ASK YOUR CHILD SELF QUESTIONS ABOUT WHY IT IS HURTING. BREATHE INTO WHATEVER PHYSICAL DISCOMFORT THERE IS. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY – TELL YOURSELF (TELL YOUR BABY SELF) WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE RATHER WANTED TO HEAR OR EXPERIENCE IN THE TIME OF YOUR TRAUMA. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT YOU NEED MORE THAN YOURSELF, THIS IS THE PERFECT TIME TO GIVE YOURSELF THE LOVE AND CARE YOU WISH YOU HAD.
So before we get into healing exercises for your hurt, it’s important to first identify the types of trauma that exist. There are many examples of traumatic childhood experiences, but I’ll just provide you with a few to give you an idea of what inner child work deals with. It’s also important to note that those responsible for our trauma are not just family, but extended family, friends, partners, caretakers, acquaintances, teachers or religious teachers - could have also played a part.
Without further ado, examples of childhood trauma could include:
Being hit, smacked, or beat by your parents/family members.
Having an emotionally unavailable parent who withheld affection intentionally or unintentionally.
Being “punished” through kicking, shaking, biting, burning, hair pulling, pinching, scratching or “washing out the mouth” with soap, or any cruel or unusual punishment.
Being the victim of molestation, shown pornography, or any other type of non-consensual sexual contact from a parent, relative or friend.
Being the child of divorce, separation, polygamy, lack of intimacy, lack of emotional involvement, infidelity, change of sexual orientation, or abandonment.
Being given inappropriate or burdensome responsibilities (such as caring for your parents, or being the caretaker for your siblings)
Not being provided a safe environment to live with your parents, both physically, environmentally or emotionally. This includes not being fed appropriately, not having a clean and working home/shelter, not having your basic survival needs met, being the child of parents with addiction or severe mental health issues.
Abandonment (your caretakers leaving you alone for long periods of time without surveillance), or being left altogether without explanation or reasoning.
Emotional neglect, i.e. not being nurtured, encouraged or supported adequately. This can range from neutral lack of engagement, lack of support during achievements, to severe emotional abuse.
Being deliberately called names or verbally insulted – which can include being a victim of bullying or, worse, parent-induced psychological abuse.
Denigration of your personality, meaning any form of belittlement of your qualities, personality traits, habits, values, and beliefs.
Destruction of personal belongings; which can be anything from throwing your favorite toy out of anger, to intentionally destroying your valuables and personal belongings.
Life-threatening Physical or Mental Illnesses, where life as you know it is immediately jeopardized.
Excessive demands from peers, family, parents, or spouse. Having to be a primary caregiver for your parents or siblings, taking on responsibilities that are not yours to take, helping others cope with issues that do not concern you.
Humiliation, public, private or psychological. Can range from someone intentionally exposing your vulnerabilities, using tactics to shame or mortify you. Disgrace your work, values, beliefs, or physical ailments.
Car accidents, or other spontaneous traumatic events which may or may not have resulted in death.
Now, it’s not necessarily an extensive list – explaining or breaking down the cause, effects, and repercussions of any type of trauma. And for all I know, there are other and worse types of trauma that people have undergone, that I can’t even imagine.
But to heal any form of trauma is simply to look to the other side of your wounds. It doesn’t mean to belittle, undermine, un-acknowledged, or diminish the severity of your hurt – on the contrary, actually. It means to serve yourself, and give yourself the love and nurturing, that in any case of trauma, you have lacked in times of need.
Examples of this form of conscious healing are:
If you were physically hurt, give yourself the physical tenderness you would have rather received, in turn.
If you were emotionally neglected, be present, loving, and open with yourself now – and provide yourself with the support and kindness you needed.
If you’re the child of a divorced family, play in your head the happy marriage and life you want now; understand that a happy and lasting love do exist, but that it starts with loving yourself.
If you were verbally insulted, recite kind and loving affirmations to yourself on a continuous and genuine basis.
If you were a victim of non-consensual sexual contact, give yourself the nurturing touch you would have rather received instead. Allow yourself the love, respect and physical tenderness you would have wanted.
If you were belittled for who you are and what you believe(d) in, stand up for what you value and remind yourself of your worthiness of love and acceptance no matter what you are.
If your parents or peers demanded too much of you, accept only what profoundly aligns with your wants, needs, and passions – and learn to stand up, speak up for yourself, and say yes or no when it needs to be said.
If you, or a loved one, were the victim of a life-taking accident, or any other spontaneous traumatic event, open yourself to a higher divine power, which is always watching over you and protecting you, and keeping your loved ones safe (even if they were taken away from you too soon).
If you experienced a life-threatening illness, or if physical, mental, spiritual health is a challenge for you; give yourself the balance and good health you are looking for, by beginning with your moment-to-moment actions.
Now, look, I don’t know what you went through. And the lord only knows how little I can even fathom of what some of you have endured.
But what I know, from the deepest parts of my heart and soul, is that for every wrong there is a right, with every imbalance comes to a balance, any confusion can lead to clarity, a lack of love can turn into an abundance of nurture and support. With your darkness comes an infinite light.
And while this all sounds cheesy, you have to understand that if you want to change, you have to look for it. You have to realize, deep within, that there is a part of you that is deeply wounded. That being hurt is not a disability and suffering is not an illness. But there is another side to your suffering; that which is peaceful, and loving, and compassionate, and caring; and you have to go for it no matter what limits your hurt self is currently facing.
Begin by watching yourself and your reactions. Because supremely aware of what happens when a part of your wounded self is triggered. Notice the physical sensations that your suffering brings to your body. Learn to dig deep within yourself to question (contemplate and find) the root of your trauma. And from every moment on, when you begin to realize a part of your wounded inner child is asking to be healed, do not ignore yourself and simply give yourself what you want (and need) in return.
While I do understand how terrifying and painful it is to look within and face the hurt and fears we’ve come to live with, I also know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that with enough courage, love, and energy, we can become our light and start living our most ideal life.