Anxiety, healing, and the child that is inside us all
Many people who seek therapy have experienced traumatic and troubling experiences in their childhoods. Such experiences may include severe physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse committed by adults who are supposed to care for them. Such experiences may also include the fragmentation that comes with fleeing from a war zone and having to re-settle and re-build a new life within a new country, culture, and environment. Childhood traumas can also include being bullied by other children, or feeling unrecognised by, and isolated from, our peers.
Within each of us is an inner child who can still feel terrified, frightened, angry, frustrated, humiliated, guilty and/or ashamed. As adults we may try to avoid thinking about those times when we were children, when we felt these difficult emotions and when we had challenging experiences. Avoidance only works temporarily, however, because certain situations or people may still create the same overwhelming emotions we experienced as children, and we may have unpleasant flashbacks or memories. Unresolved childhood traumas can create a distance between ourselves and other people, making it extremely challenging to have fulfilling relationships.
It is important for us to build a relationship with our inner child. As an adult it is important to reach out to the child that has been traumatised, to tell that child that things are okay now, that what happened is in the past, that they are no longer alone. Therapy might help clients to explore whether they might like to write a letter to their inner child, or whether they might like to imagine comforting their inner child, or carrying out a fun activity with them. Therapy may also involve asking a client to go back in time to when they were children, to when they felt afraid or alone, and what they might like to say to that child now, as an adult. In this way clients are encouraged to engage with, rather than avoid, the child that is inside them, who still craves for love and acceptance.
I do believe that in building a relationship with our inner child we can heal the hurt and pain that is inside. We can become more self-compassionate through caring for our inner child. This can also heighten our awareness of the vulnerability of others, that perhaps everyone has an inner child that needs comforting in one way or another. In this way our inner child can help us to connect with other people and to create a more compassionate world.
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