What is the inner child?
Maybe you’ve heard of this concept before and maybe you haven’t.
But the inner child is actually sort of just a metaphor for your inner self.
Some call this aspect of yourself your core self.
Some call it your emotional self.
In truth these are all terms that are referring to the same thing.
The Inner Child as a Metaphor
The inner child is actually quite a helpful metaphor to give a visual reference for your emotional, or core self.
After all, this aspect of yourself is invisible to the naked eye and would be difficult to find if we were to slice you open and look for this inner child.
However, Dr. Stephen A. Diamond assures us in an article in Psychology Today that although invisible to the naked eye, the inner child is very real and is a critical aspect of our being.
For many of us we are naturally connected to our inner or core selves and so in truth we are one with our inner child.
So it is sort of strange to ask, “where is your inner child?”, when really the child is all grown up and it’s, well, you.
For one who has had a relatively safe and healthy upbringing, he or she generally has a fairly easy time knowing intuitively what his or her inner emotional needs are, how to get them met, as well as how to communicate what those needs are in order to get them met.
There is never any doubt as to what someone with a healthy connection to their inner emotional self is feeling in any given moment or in what their inner emotional needs are.
This would be considered a healthy individual as far as emotions are concerned.
However, for those who have had troubled childhoods and a painful, abusive past, they may have experienced a bit of a dissociation from their inner self or inner child.
To put it simply, when one is under a great deal of stress as a child and is under attack or threat of attack, the child tends to hide in order to stay safe.
When a child is unable to hide or to be safe, a certain degree of dissociation usually occurs.
This is when the child inwardly separates from their inner self and the pain it feels and suppresses it in some way or shoves their feelings down.
So when a person grows up like this, their emotional self does not have the ability to grow and flourish properly.
It’s in times like these where the metaphor of the inner child comes in nicely, because it allows the person who is now trying to heal in some way shape or form to get back in touch with their core inner selves.
After all, it was when they were children that this trauma or dissociation likely took place.
And there is a good chance that if there was trauma and abuse going on when they were a child, that the individual is still kind of like a child on an emotional level.
The pain of the past as well as the present embarrassment and shame of not having developed properly emotionally is also pushed down so as to not have to re-experience the past pain and the present embarrassment of being an adult who is also kind of like a child emotionally.
Getting in Touch with the Inner Child for Healing
So now when the individual who has experienced a certain degree of trauma or abuse in their lives is looking to heal emotionally and to reconnect with themselves at the core level, using the imagery of an inner child is particularly powerful and helpful.
One question that might be asked when starting this work from an outside source such as a therapist or other professional might be, “where is your inner child now?”.
This starts the process of seeking to look within to reconnect with how you are truly feeling and what your needs are.
When the inner child is able to reconnect psychologically and emotionally with the adult self and then learn to get its needs met in a healthy way, someone can heal remarkably fast from any kind of trauma or abuse that they’ve endured in their lives.
The other nice thing about using the metaphor of an inner child to connect with one’s inner emotional self is that this is a way to get one’s inner needs met at anytime, anywhere, no matter what’s going on.
By learning to speak to oneself the way a loving mother or father would to a child, and of soothing the child when something scary or traumatic happens, one learns how to get their own emotional needs met and to love themselves in any and all situations.
In this way your inner self is not only getting its needs met, but is actually learning to trust you more so that you can regain your ability to be fully self expressive as time moves on.
Inner child work as it’s called is a remarkably effective and powerful way to get in touch with, heal, and continually make sure one’s emotional needs are being met on a regular basis.
How to Get in Touch with Your Inner Child
If you’ve been in therapy for any period of time and have seen a number of therapists and mental health professionals, you might have noticed that inner child work is not so common.
This is unfortunate seeing how effective and simple it is for emotional healing.
But like many of us are aware, the mental health field as a whole is geared toward focusing on mental health issues as chemical phenomena alone to a large degree, and so do not focus on the emotional self as much or at all.
Not to mention the fact that the pharmaceutical companies are here to make money, and being able to heal others or even heal oneself WITHOUT the use of medication is not exactly in their best interest.
Luckily, inner child work is simple enough to practice on one’s own.
You can do inner child work with yourself either through speaking to yourself or writing to your inner child.
However, a combination of both of these methods usually works best.
So the idea is really quite simple: you are starting to speak to yourself as if you were a frightened small child lost somewhere and looking for safety, comfort, and love.
The truth is as we’ve briefly touched on earlier, is that there is a good chance that your inner emotional self really IS in dire need of emotional safety comfort and love.
It’s entirely possible that you’ve been walking around and living your life feeling completely insecure, unloved, and unsafe for the majority of your life and may not even be conscious of it.
So you can start by writing a letter to your inner child and trying to establish a relationship with him or her.
They may be scared in general or scared of you because you did not protect them or pay any attention to them for all these years.
But over time and consistent checking in with your inner child, you will find that you will start to feel more at ease, more connected to yourself, and perhaps a certain degree of expanding joy or love within yourself.
It really is an amazing experience once you start to connect with your inner child and take care of him or her on a daily basis.
After you are finished writing a letter to your inner child and letting them know how sorry you are for abandoning them and everything they’ve gone through over the years, try reassuring them that they are safe now and that you are here to take care of them.
Then don’t neglect your promise to your inner self by continuing to ignore your inner feelings and needs.
Try to treat tending to your inner child every day with the same level of importance as brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
I assure you it is just as important as brushing your teeth, and in my opinion even more so.
Continuing to Develop Your Relationship with Your Inner Child
After you’ve experimented with this for a little bit and have spent some time writing to your inner child or speaking to them as if you were speaking kindly and compassionately to a child in front of you, you will indeed begin to develop a relationship with your inner child.
From here there are no hard and fast rules accept to treat your inner child as if they were an actual child that you were caring for in your life on a regular basis.
Pay attention to him or her every day and night as well as throughout the day.
Check in with yourself to see how you are feeling and to see if there’s anything you need.
And be sure to take time to do things that the inner child might enjoy as well such as buying yourself some fun or taking yourself some place fun.
It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of life and to forget and neglect our inner selves or inner children.
When something traumatic happens take a few moments to breathe deep and reassure your inner child that everything is ok and that everything will be ok.
Speak to your inner child with kindness, patience, compassion, and love.
You might be surprised how much better you feel in a short period of time and how you generally feel more loving within yourself and in turn more at ease with others.
Just be kind and loving to yourself and be sure to tend to your inner self daily, even if it’s just for a little bit.
Wrapping it Up
So to bring it all together, the inner child is really a visual metaphor for your inner self.
This is also called your core self or emotional self.
And getting in touch with, listening to, and taking care of your inner child on a regular basis will allow you to heal emotionally from any past pain or trauma you may have been through remarkably fast.
It will also allow you to get your emotional needs met on a regular basis and in a healthy way without any outside assistance from anyone else.
Have you ever had a guy or girl tell you that you were ‘too needy?’.
Well, we all have needs.
And if you aren’t tending to your inner child or emotional self on a regular basis, then yes, you will be needy.
By getting in touch with and taking care of your own inner child on a regular basis, you will be getting your emotional needs met so that you will have a healthy and happy relationship with yourself first, and in turn the ability to have healthy relationships with others.
So go ahead.
Give it a try.
Even if you only have yourself to work with at the moment, that’s perfectly ok.
Start saying hi to your inner child daily and experience the joy and fulfillment that you’ve always been seeking, yet never realized was within you all along.