Who you are today – your strengths, problems, level of self-esteem, habits – is in large part a product of your development. At each age, from birth to toddler to child to adolescent, you were met with certain typical challenges. If your caregivers raised you in a natural way that allowed you to healthily traverse each stage and master the skills necessary to progress, you most likely ended up a well-balanced, confident individual with a strong sense of yourself. However, at each stage, there are countless traumas, big and small, that can occur and keep you from resolving the issues of that stage.
Unresolved issues stay with us throughout our lives, expressing themselves in our relationships with ourselves and others. If you have a pattern of unhealthy relationships, low self-esteem, addictions or other problems, you may well be experiencing the results of unresolved issues from these childhood and adolescent stages and you might be able to benefit from overcoming trauma.The inner child is the creative, spontaneous, loving, trusting, confident and spiritual part of us that may have gotten lost or learned to hide earlier in life due to feelings of fear and shame stemming from experiences of trauma and betrayal. This may have been due to abuse, mistreatment, misattunement or misunderstanding in childhood. It is a rare child who has adults around him or her all the time who are able to be fully present to his or her aliveness. As adults, we can return to childhood memories and ‘retrieve’ and heal that lost or hidden part of us to bring creativity, spontaneity, love, trust, confidence and deep spirituality fully back into our lives.Inner Child therapy is a deep and profound psychotherapeutic healing experience. It goes to the source of the problem and cuts through much of the intellectual chatter which prevents us from living our dreams.
We connect and heal the inner child in order to become whole and feel joyful and loving. It can be done through a combination of traditional talk therapy, guided meditation, heart-centered hypnotherapy, and breath work. It has roots in Jungian therapy as well as addiction recovery work, but is useful for many problems.I follow a method pioneered by Lucia Capacchione who advocates a dominant/non-dominant writing and drawing process. She states that by using the non-dominant hand, we are accessing right brain functions, those which control among other things, emotional expression and intuition. It also allows the deeper levels of instinct and emotional memory to be tapped. By writing or drawing with the non-dominant hand, we enter a child-like state.
This is exactly the area that has been subdued and locked away from our consciousness as the expectations and obligations of the analytical left brain take over and drives the inner child (the pure, untouched part of us), underground. A further step in the technique after accessing the inner child is to ask questions with the dominant hand and answering with the non-dominant.Now back to those experiences. To access the inner child, I ask clients to imagine a beautiful place, to place their inner child there and then to draw this with the non-dominant hand. When they go on to describe in words, how the inner child is feeling, many feel a burst of emotion, some extreme bursts as they relive more carefree times and they realise how they have cut themselves off from their true self. How they have allowed society, education, upbringing and their own expectations to take them on a destructive path. Read More
Listen to one of Dr Jenner's podcast about Inner Child Therapy: Listen here for more.
Re-parenting Your Inner Child
Reparenting deals with three aspects of an individual. They are: Adult,Inner Child and Parent.The Adult is the individual, the Inner Child is the childhood stage at which the individual was wronged and the Parent is a therapist (or the individual) who gives the right response the child should have received. Thus, reparenting is nothing but going back to the stage in which the adult was wronged and satisfying or making peace with the inner child hidden inside by giving the response and fulfilling the needs that were required at that time by self counseling or therapy.
The feelings and beliefs that the inner child carries have two different causes. One is the inner critic attacks in the adult’s present life and the second is the things that happened in childhood, usually criticism from parents and care-givers. The pain that the critic causes in the present is bad enough but it also aggravates the inner child and makes that pain worse, ultimately strengthening the inner critic. To start the reparenting process, it is important to access and work with the inner child and treat it with empathy and compassion, feel its pain and witness the situations that caused it pain. Your inner child has been hidden for a long time, so you have to bear in mind that your inner child may not know how to express certain feelings. They may believe that they’re not allowed to express their feelings, or that their feelings are unimportant. They believe that they are unimportant and also believe the lies that they were told. All these things you have to keep in mind, and slowly encourage them to express the way they feel/think.
According to John Bradshaw, author of “Home Coming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child,” the process of healing your wounded inner child is one of grief. And it involves these seven steps (in Bradshaw’s words):
Trust: For your wounded inner child to come out of hiding, he must be able to trust that you will be there for him. Your inner child also needs a supportive, non-shaming ally to validate his abandonment, neglect, abuse, and enmeshment. Those are the first essential elements in original pain work.
Validation: If you’re still inclined to minimise and/or rationalise the ways in which you were shamed, ignored, or used to nurture your parents, you need now to accept the fact that these things truly wounded your soul. Your parents weren’t bad, they were just wounded kids themselves.
Shock: If this is all shocking to you, that’s great, because shock is the beginning of grief. After shock comes depression and then denial.
Anger: It’s okay to be angry, even if what was done to you was unintentional. In fact, you HAVE to be angry if you want to heal your wounded inner child. I don’t mean you need to scream and holler (although you might). It’s just okay to be mad about a dirty deal. I know [my parents] did the best that two wounded adult children could do. But I’m also aware that I was deeply wounded spiritually and that it has had life-damaging consequences for me. What that means is that I hold us all responsible to stop what we’re doing to ourselves and to others. I will not tolerate the outright dysfunction and abuse that dominated my family system.
Sadness: After anger comes hurt and sadness. If we were victimised, we must grieve that betrayal. We must also grieve what might have been–our dreams and aspirations. We must grieve our unfulfilled developmental needs.
When we grieve for someone who has died, remorse is sometimes more relevant; for instance, perhaps we wish we had spent more time with the deceased person. But in grieving childhood abandonment, you must help your wounded inner child see that there was nothing he could have done differently. His pain is about what happened to him; it is not about him.
Loneliness: The deepest core feelings of grief are toxic shame and loneliness. We were shamed by [our parents’] abandoning us. We feel we are bad, as if we’re contaminated. And that shame leads to loneliness. Since our inner child feels flawed and defective, he has to cover up his true self with his adapted false self. He then comes to identify himself by his false self. His true self remains alone and isolated. Staying with this last layer of painful feelings is the hardest part of the grief process. “The only way out is through,” we say in therapy. It’s hard to stay at that level of shame and loneliness; but as we embrace these feelings, we come out the other side. We encounter the self that’s been in hiding. You see, because we hid it from others, we hid it from ourselves. In embracing our shame and loneliness, we begin to touch our truest self. Read More
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