Is your wounded inner child crying out for help?
You may have heard people talk about the ‘inner child’, but how does this work and how can it be worked with to help you?
The idea is that your inner child is the younger version of yourself which exists within you. As we develop, we learn certain lessons about ourselves beginning with the relationship with our caregivers. If we have our needs met and feel accepted, then we grow to trust the world and develop healthy relationships with the self and others. However, if we struggle to get needs met or learn unhealthy coping strategies then these can stick with us throughout our life. We fall back into the same behaviours and responses over and over again. It may be that we carry our childhood traumas around with us without ever really grieving them.
The accepted/shameful child
As a baby we are born with the idea that we are special and that the world revolves around us. If we grow believing that our caregiver loves us for everything that we are then we become secure in our uniqueness. However, if we feel that we are not wanted or accepted fully then we may develop ‘toxic shame’. Shame is a reaction that we all feel if we sense that we have done something wrong. However, toxic shame is when we feel that our entire being is ‘wrong’. You might feel like everything you do, believe in, or are is unacceptable. You could create a false self that seems more loveable, or try and gain validation from others.
The trusting/mistrusting child
When we are a baby, we gain a sense of the world through our caregivers and our home. They are our whole world. If we know that when we need something then it will be provided, we learn to trust. We also pick up on the way our parents view their environment. If it starts to feel as though we cannot depend on our caregiver or our world around us, then we may grow to feel that we cannot trust anybody. Because of this, as adults, we may develop unhealthy relationships with other things like drugs, alcohol or material objects, developing addiction.
The pleasing child
We may not be aware of our caregivers needs as children, but we will often pick up if they are happy. If parents seem secure in getting their own needs met then the child can get on with being a child. However, if the child senses that a parent is not then they may feel responsible. A child can also feel that they are not wanted and set about making things easier. They may do everything they can to please the parents and so learn that they must please everyone in life, or they may become ‘invisible’ blending in to save the caregiver any distress.
This is not to say that parents intentionally hurt their children, it may be that they are dealing with their own human emotions and difficulties, after all, they have gone through their own development. They might be doing everything for the right reasons or be trying their best despite tough situations. There are so many more ways that our inner child can learn. Counselling can help you explore how your past may have affected your adult life, and to rebuild on your childhood lessons. By reconnecting and working through any traumas, you can look to move on from them and grow. Letting your inner child know that they are loved just for who they are.
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Katie Evans
Katie Evans is a qualified integrative counsellor with a full-time private practice in Central London. Originally working with loss and bereavement she then specialised in addiction and LGBT issues. She is published and has spoken at events about sex, drugs and risk taking behaviour. She also runs training workshops about chemsex and therapy.