The Inner Child
Updated: Mar 6, 2021
Do you ever wonder why your best friend completely implodes every time you bring up the topic of divorce? What about that one friend of yours that always blames themselves when plans fall through? Ever wonder why you just can’t commit to that relationship, even though you really like the person you’ve been seeing for a month now?
You can blame your inner child for that.
The inner child is an analytical psychological concept that dates back to the 1950s. No, it’s not about those inspirational messages on graffitied walls in the street. "Reconnect with your inner child- buy our product now!"
The true concept of the inner child states that we all have undeveloped childish tendencies and ideologies within our subconscious mind. Now, these could include both positive and negative facets. On one hand, we could consider our inner child as the most innocent, playful, creative aspects of ourselves. On the other hand, our muddled behaviour and actions in our current relationships, not even necessarily romantic, are almost always a direct consequence of our old childhood fears and trauma. The inner child can also represent and carry the juvenile trauma and unmet expectations we experienced as children.
The word 'trauma' doesn’t necessarily mean the instances that usually come to mind when you hear it. While those are absolutely valid here; a traumatic event in the eyes of a child could be anything from being bullied or even something as insignificant as having a toy taken away.
Although not necessarily existentially threatening, you may never have fully recovered from that pain.
The inner child is basically a database of everything we learn and experience before puberty. Although you are not physically a child anymore, your subconscious 'inner child' can be thought of as one of many lenses that your mind sees your adult life through.
You may be asking yourself, why does the inner child linger around our subconscious so far past childhood? This is because of the concept of child ego. The ego is essentially our inner child’s protector. Our ‘ego’ is the idea of ourselves that we have formed based on early childhood experiences. Your ego helps protect your inner child by surrounding it with this familiar narrative.
However, when the narratives that our ego tells us simply aren’t true, we can develop those negative aspects of ourselves that we always strive to get rid of. Our negative actions stimulated by the inner child are the result of us reverting back to our child ego. We revert back to the impulses and habits we had as children in an attempt to protect the inner child’s internal narrative.
Today, I'm going to be talking about 3 facets of a Wounded Inner Child.
THE VERBAL VALIDITY EFFECT
There’s a good chance that when you were younger, you were only appreciated and acknowledged for your physical appearance, while your inner child might have been screaming for any sort of intellectual acknowledgement. However the vice versa can be just as psychologically distressing. If you were constantly told that you weren't good looking enough to captivate the world, maybe your inner child just wants to be complimented about their appearance once in a while. It could even be that your parents kept telling you that you had to lose weight; without exactly explaining why. A study conducted in January 1993 by the Illinois School of Professional Psychology concluded that 30% of adult individuals with disordered eating had experienced significant trauma as a child. You might not even be fully aware, but your inner child may still be trying to live up to the expectations thrust upon you when you were younger.
If as a child, you were left by yourself for too long, or weren't put in the company of others your own age, you may have delayed onset abandonment issues as an adult. It's perfectly plausible that you worry that everyone in your life is going to unexpectedly leave you because that's how you felt when you were younger. You didn't know any better!
You may think of yourself as unworthy of love and affection, simply because you weren't given attention as a child. Today, you could be told that it was simply just because both your parents were working. Understandable, right? There could be a perfectly logical and reasonable explanation behind certain traumatic events. However, your inner child can't necessarily connect those dots. Itsimply doesn’t have the ability to. Once wounded, your inner child is somewhat frozen in that mindset, and the misguided perception of reality remains in your now adult life.
Your inner child pushes people in your life away in fear of being hurt again.
Do you feel guilty and blame yourself for things you are not responsible for?
Children from the ages of 2 to 7 years old exist in what is known as 'The Egocentrism Stage.' As the name suggests, in this stage of development, children are unable to accept situations and experiences that occur around them outside of their own personal perspective. For example, say Mom and Dad are always arguing, because they're in the middle of a very painful divorce. They choose to keep this information from their children in the hopes that they aren't psychologically burdened with the weight of separating parents. However, a child in the Egocentric Stage would not be able to decentralise themselves from this situation, and would most likely determine that the constant fighting is because of them.
This child then grows up to blame themselves for driving away romantic partners or even friends. Even the seemingly inconsequential situation of a friend not texting us back. Your inner child could be telling you that you haven't heard from them because they're bored of you, or you even drove them away. The feeling that everything negative that happens around you is your fault and you must accept accountability (guilt) for your actions.
HOW DO I HEAL MY INNER CHILD?
Now look, it may not have been your fault that you experienced trauma as a child. But you must not allow your wounded inner child to continue terrorising your adult life. There are many different ways that you can call out to your inner child and help them heal.
Many people write off their wounded inner child by saying that they didn't experience any extremely detrimental trauma as children. However, that doesn't mean that they didn't experience trauma at all or have unmet, unacknowledged emotional expectations. Once again, it doesn't take an extremely dire trauma to wound your inner child.
It is important to understand that when you look back at childhood memories and experiences, you are looking at them through a lens of grown up emotional and mental maturity, which somewhat changes the context of those experiences.
USE EMOTIONAL REACTIONS AND TRIGGERS AS A GUIDE
If you find yourself having a very extreme emotional reaction to something that you can still recognise doesn't warrant it, you know that this situation is an emotional trigger.
Are you really bothered by that particular situation; or are you affected by the ensuing emotional response? Are these emotions a direct result of this situation, or are they manifested from the narrative that your inner child has created?
Therefore, you can come to the conclusion that these triggers are not what actually affects your emotional wellbeing, but the aftermath of the psychological portrait of the event that has been created.
ASK YOUR INNER CHILD ABOUT THEIR NEEDS
In every emotionally troubling situation, simply by asking your inner child what their needs are, you can help heal your wounded inner child. Remember, your inner child is yourself. Considering yourself and your emotional requirements can help you leave situations feeling much more content.
As an adult, you now have the power to meet your unrealised childhood needs, heal, and move forward.
As I said before, the inner child is basically the personification of all the emotional and psychological trauma experienced over a period of approximately 12 years. Therefore, it is important to remember that your inner child won't be healed right away.
It didn't take a day for all those wounds to pile up; so naturally it won't take a day for them to heal.