If you are finding yourself experiencing difficulties in your dating relationships, maybe you are starting to wonder- is this less about the people I’m interacting with and more about my own insecurities and core beliefs? Perhaps you have never stopped to consider the influence of your inner child, and how your childhood wounds could be affecting your relationships even as an adult.
Throughout this article, we will look at what it means to have a wounded inner child and strategies for beginning to move towards healing.
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We All Have an Inner Child
According to experts, each individual has access to our inner child– the part of ourselves that embodies creativity and playfulness. However for some people, their inner child has been wounded by past negative experiences or trauma that may continue to linger until it is brought to the surface and healed.
Signs Your Inner Child is Wounded
If our inner child has been wounded, this unresolved pain is likely to play out in our intimate relationships, even today. Some potential signs that your inner child may be wounded include:
- Constant self-criticism
- Fear of abandonment
- Difficulty trusting others
- Inability to express emotions
- Challenges with setting and maintaining boundaries
- Conflict avoidance
- Being a people pleaser
Particularly in times where childhood wounds are triggered, a person may react in a way that seems unproportionate to the situation. For example, one might lash out at their partner for rescheduling plans. This is because they are still relating to their 8-year-old self that felt dismissed. This will continue to emerge until they are able to bring these pieces of themselves into the light and move towards healing and integration.
5 Ways to Start Healing Your Inner Child
Inner child work involves acknowledging the pain you have experienced and paying attention to the parts of you that require attention and care. Let’s look at how to start nurturing your inner child.
1. Identify what you needed as a child and never got
Spend some time reflecting on your childhood. What was it that you longed for from your primary caregivers but never quite received? Maybe it was acceptance, protection, attention or affirmation.
It is important to note that inner child work is not about placing blame on your parents or caregivers. Even individuals with the most wonderful childhoods still have to do this work. It is not about shaming parents- but instead choosing to look at the truth of your experience and how it has shaped you, and move forward with understanding and compassion.
2. Allow the space to feel your feelings
As you allow yourself the space to process important moments and memories from your childhood, you may experience strong emotions such as anger, sadness, grief, confusion, regret, etc. As uncomfortable as these feelings may be, commit to moving through them. The key to healing the inner child is to allow them to be seen in their suffering (perhaps for the first time), and to allow space for whatever emotions might surface.
3. Give voice to your inner child
Some people may find it helpful to talk to their inner child or connect with their inner child through journaling. You might consider writing a letter to your inner child, or as your inner child to your present self. These exercises give your inner child room to be heard, as well as provide the opportunity for you to show up for your younger self in the ways they desperately needed.
4. Be gentle with yourself
Healing your inner child is often an emotionally exhausting process. Ultimately, inner child work involves learning to meet your own needs as well as advocating for your needs in relationships with others. Be gentle with yourself in this process; healing takes time.
5. Seek the support of a therapist
If you believe that you could benefit from doing inner child work with a trained professional, consider seeking the support of a trained professional. They can help you to process past experiences that have impacted you and lead you in exercises for connecting to and nurturing your inner child.
Many times, the problems we face in our relationships are connected to childhood wounds that we have yet to acknowledge or address. Connecting to our inner child allows us to bring all parts of ourselves into the light, and move towards healthier connections with ourselves and with others.