by Doreen Virtue & Andrew Karpenko, MSW: Working with your inner child is an important step toward recovery and healing from a difficult childhood…
Emotional pain as a result of your father or other males putting you down and not treating you well can affect your subconscious mind. As a child, you couldn’t process an angry adult’s intentions. At that time, you didn’t have the capacity to protect yourself and assert your needs.
If you have felt violated physically, sexually, emotionally, or mentally, it’s likely that a part of you felt rage, terror, powerlessness, and a sense of betrayal and vulnerability. Just as you couldn’t understand adult anger, you could not—and did not know how to—process and deal with your own strong emotions. As a result, they stayed deep within your subconscious mind.
Some people describe the wounded child as a subpersonality or another aspect of yourself. Of course there is not a literal child inside you; however, there is a part of your mind that is still caught up in the drama and chaos and pain of your childhood. Through this powerful work, the inner child or wounded child will no longer run the ship. You will feel more at peace and in control of your emotions and behavior. The child within you most of all wants to know that you are not going to abandon them—that you will be there to protect and nurture them.
Bringing strong emotions such as rage and anger to the surface can be unsettling, because often we’re not accustomed to feeling them. We may have judged these emotions, or been punished for expressing emotions in childhood, and so suppressed them for a lifetime.
If the emotions that this exercise brings up are too intense, then slow the process down and take a break for a few days before resuming accessing or dialoguing with your inner child.
It is a way of receiving the nurturing that your parents were probably unable to give you at the time, because they didn’t know how to or were wounded themselves. If memories of forgotten abuse begin to surface, it’s best to have regular appointments with a counselor or attend a free Emotions Anonymous meeting to get emotional support. Once again, the purpose of this work is not to create or re-create more drama or to relive the trauma.
The intention is to express and release long-held emotions. If you do remember an abuse scenario, you may not know how to handle your changed perspective on this relationship. Avoid the impulse to confront the abuser until you’ve had time to gain strength. Many abusers, when confronted by the person they abused, deny it. The abuser is often so racked with guilt that they cannot face what they did. Of course, after they pass from the earth, they will understand the gravity of their hurtful behavior. Until then, though, many abusers continue to deny that they actually abused anyone. In your fantasy, your abuser will apologize and become the ideal father. This is rarely what occurs, though, unfortunately.
Many abusers committed their actions while in an alcoholic blackout or while out of their minds due to drug use or a psychotic episode, so they actually may not remember the incident. That’s why it’s important to wait and see if confrontation is the best method for you. We recommend focusing upon healing yourself rather than punishing the person who abused you.
Here Are 3 Steps to Healing the Inner Child
Doing these inner child exercises is a great addition or complement to any counseling or therapy that you may already be engaged in.
1. Access your inner child. Start by asking your inner child, How are you feeling right now? What would you like me to know? It may help to have a photograph of yourself as a child beside you.
You can make the space where you do this exercise inviting to your inner child by placing toys, teddy bears, or a children’s blanket or night-light next to you.
2. Gain your inner child’s trust. In truth, that part of you may have felt abandoned, betrayed, neglected, and forgotten by you, the adult self. You may need to take a little time to gain the trust of that part of your child self.
Much like you would in a conversation with a friend who is feeling vulnerable, reassure your child that it’s safe to communicate.
At first your inner child may feel that they cannot trust you because they felt ignored or suppressed for so long. Reassuring the child (yourself) that you are now there for them will help the child feel safe. It’s important that your inner child trusts your willingness to listen to, feel, see, or otherwise sense what they are experiencing.
3. Allow yourself to feel your inner child’s feelings. Allow all of your feelings to rise to the surface. You may be surprised by what comes up when you first decide to say hello to that part of yourself. Expressing with the intention of releasing is so therapeutic.
There will probably be tears of sadness, hurt, shame, and anger. Crying is always a good release, and in a short while, you’ll start feeling more compassionate toward yourself.
You may feel afraid that if you unleash your anger, you’ll lose control. You won’t. In fact, you’ll have more control once you release the built-up energy of suppressed emotions. Without an outlet, those buried feelings always bubble up in ways that aren’t pretty, so it’s important to unearth them. Your unconscious mind won’t give you more than you can handle.
Commit to doing this exercise weekly. Doing so establishes trust with the lost and abandoned aspects of yourself. Your child within begins to trust you. Your inner child begins to feel heard and understood. Make a commitment that you will never abandon yourself. That is a promise that you need to keep with yourself— that is, to take great care of yourself and your inner child. To learn more about healing your inner wounded child and father issues see my book that I wrote with Andrew Karpenko,