5 Exercises To Help You Honor & Heal Your Inner Child
While it’s every child’s right to feel safe and secure, no one has the luxury of a perfect childhood. Parents have the responsibility to create a physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually safe space for their kids. While I do think most parents do a pretty good job at this, others (for one reason or another) don’t.
Consequently, children experience inner pain and aren’t sure how to process that pain. In psychological terms, they start creating a “shadow side” or “wounded inner child”.
The term ‘inner child’ gets thrown around a lot. Maybe you’re not certain what it means. In this post, we’re going to explore what this term means, how it can be accessed, and healed.
What is the Inner Child?
You might intuitively be led to believe that ‘inner child’ refers to the aspect of the brain reserved for childish thoughts.
Well, that’s not what it means.
Rather, the inner child refers to the childlike aspects within your unconscious mind, as well as your memories, joys, hopes, needs, and desires from childhood. In short, it’s an embodiment of the positive and negative emotions from childhood in the subconscious.
Unfortunately, many of the things we experience as children have negative impacts even till adulthood. Here are some common ways kids are left to feel unsafe and insecure.
See how many you can relate to:
- You were punished for being unique, trying to speak your mind, or acting differently.
- Spontaneity was greatly frowned at.
- Your parents consistently shamed you anytime you failed to meet expectations.
- You were physically or emotionally abused by your parents.
- Physical forms of affection – like hugs, cuddles, and kisses – were nonexistent in the relationship you had with those you cared about.
- You were neglected. You felt very alone.
- One or both of your parents struggled with addiction.
- Many more situations.
As adults, many of repressed feeling of neglect, trauma, or abuse show up in several ways.
Some of which include:
- A chronic feeling of inadequacy, stemming from damaged self-esteem.
- Total lack of self-identity, with a strong desire to people-please.
- Distrustful of everyone around you – even yourself.
- A deep-seated fear of abandonment from people you care about.
- Inability to say “no” even when it’s the right thing to do.
Honoring and Healing Your Inner Child
Inner child healing (also called inner child work) is the psycho-therapeutic process of reconnecting with the wounded elements of the inner child. It’s uncovering aspects of your childlike aspects, so you uncover the root of your fears, insecurities, phobias, and self-sabotaging inclinations.
By accessing the very core of your traumas, you can begin to heal the emotional problems that arise from not honoring your inner child.
Here are five exercises to help you with this process:
1. Reflect On The Timeline Of Your Childhood
The goal of this exercise is to recall what and how you felt at different phases of childhood. These phases include infant, toddler, preschool, school-aged, and puberty stages.
After listing these stages on a piece of paper or your computer, contemplate deeply to recall exactly what life felt like at those points in your life. Most likely, your memories will be fragmented but that shouldn’t be a problem. Just write down everything you can remember – from the tone of voices, facial expressions, to the connection you had with your parent.
Furthermore, identify how you felt with everything around you then. What were the things you wish you had or had more of? Write them down also.
2. Face any Emotions that Come Up
While no one has an ideal childhood, some had horrific experiences as kids. As you reflect on your childhood memories, you must have the courage to face even the most harrowing experiences. Whether it was the constant acts of blaming and shaming from your parents or the physical or sexual abuse you experienced.
However, note that this exercise may bring strong emotions like anger, resentment, emptiness, depression, bitterness, regret, and more. That’s why getting support from your mentor, therapist, spiritual guide, will be helpful – but more on that later. Realize that feeling and integrating these emotions is the way towards wholesome healing.
3. Write a Letter to Your Inner Child
There are many variations of this letter-writing exercise. First, you can write an apology to your inner child to acknowledge that the life you’re living as an adult isn’t honoring your inner child.
Another approach is to imagine you’re a fairy godmother that wants to adopt your inner child. Write out sweet things to your inner child, identifying why you love them and your genuine intention to spend more time with them.
To spice things up, you can even write a return letter from your inner child to your current self to create a two-way conversation. When writing from your inner child, make use of your non-dominant hand so you can replicate the clumsiness of a child.
4. Share Your Pain With Someone You Trust
While you can undergo many of the inner child work yourself, having a trusted person listen and validate the pains you went through can be invaluable. We are social creatures and having someone that will listen to you without judging, questioning, or advising you is important.
A well-trusted therapist, counselor, or spiritual leader can be valuable. Similarly, some professionals specialize in inner child work where you can engage in group therapy sessions.
A general rule of thumb is not to share details with family members, especially your parents. More often than not, they’re likely to get defensive and angry because they might feel it’s a direct attack on how they raised you.
5. Pay Attention To Your Feelings
On a day-to-day basis, stay connected to your inner child and pay attention to your child’s sensitivities and vulnerabilities.
However, it’s not uncommon to start feeling foolish when you pay close attention to your inner child. That’s your inner critic, and you have to be mindful of it. This voice also needs to be heard just as your inner child’s voice needs to be heard.
A good way to maintain balance is by saying loving affirmations to yourself throughout this journey. Whenever you feel down, repeat words of reassurance. This positive reinforcement gets wired into the unconscious layer of your programming. Words like “I love you just the way you are”, “You are so special”, “I am here to provide you the support you need”, “It’s okay to be yourself” and more are extremely beneficial.
Although you may have experienced a traumatic childhood, it’s never too late to heal and form a strong positive bond with the childhood aspects of your life. But it begins by being conscientious about doing the work. Inner child healing can help make you feel safe, happy, and wholesome.
The exercises we’ve examined can help get you started on this journey.
For a more in depth article on Inner Child Healing Work, read this article:
Dominica Applegate is an author, writer, and transpersonal spiritual teacher. Her teachings have helped millions of people experience emotional healing, relationship repair, and spiritual awakening. Earning her BA in Psychology and MA in Counseling, she worked 12 years in the mental health field before diving full-time into writing.
She runs Rediscovering Sacredness, an online portal that offers inspiration, essays, resources, and tools to help heal inner pain and experience more peace and joy.
Her books include Recycle Your Pain: It Has a Purpose, Into The Wild Shadow Work Journal, and a collection of poetry entitled, The Pain, It Shapes Her World.