What Is An Inner Child | And What Does It Know — Integrative Psychotherapy Mental Health Blog (2023)

By Esther Goldstein

What is an inner child and what does it know?

Our inner child is a part of ourselves that’s been present ever since we were conceived, through utero and all the developing years after where we were young and developing into tender selves: baby, infant, toddler, young child and middle school year.

The inner child can often recall good experiences as well as childhood fears, traumas, neglect or significant loss. It can be hard to pinpoint the exact event that is tugging at us, but we can start to notice our internal patterns that have left us a subconscious “bread crumb trails” when we start to explore our inner world.

Each one of us has an “inner child” living inside.

You have an inner child. I have an inner child. We all do. Your “inner child” is a part of your subconscious that has been picking up messages way before it was able to fully process what was going on (mentally and emotionally). It holds emotions, memories and beliefs from the past as well as hopes and dreams for the future.

Our clients are always fascinated and excited when we explain inner child work and how we all have a little one (or little ones) inside of us. When we make space for inner child healing, we often see a shift in clients’ healing and overall improvement towards clarity of the self and greater treatment progress.

How can we identify our Inner Child parts?

Our inner child is the one that remembers that sweet smell of grandma when she leaned down to hug us, with a huge look of pride on her face when we showed her how we were able to ride our bike.

Our inner child remembers the feeling of our hearts brimming with joy and love when our dad looked at us with a glisten in his eyes when we shared our favorite toy with the neighbor.

Our inner child remembers feeling invited to a friend’s birthday party and feeling so happy and confident.

Our inner child is also the one who felt the salty tears run down our cheeks when mama left the house in a rush to go say goodbye to her dad when he was dying.

Our inner child remembers being ignored and bullied on the bus on the first day of school.

Our inner child remembers feeling dumb when the teacher scoffed or when we didn’t have the answer to a “seemingly easy” question.

Our inner child is present when we start our first job, proving your boss that you’re responsible and capable, feeling proud.

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Our inner child is present when we are teenagers, wanting so badly to belong.
Our inner child is inside of us when we go on a quest to find love, or to find social groups to belong to.
It's the part that feels understood, calm, warm and fuzzy when we have good times with others.

It's also the part that feels crushed and betrayed when we are hurt, ignored or lied to, when someone hurts or betrays us.


Our inner child is always communicating with us…
we just need to learn to listen.

Now, our inner child can either be calm and content (for the most part), or it can act out and make things a bit rumbly inside, standing in the way of healthy relationships, organization skills and self regulation.

Our inner child can either make it or break it when it comes to being a productive member of society…or steps to finding happiness.

If you’re feeling frustrated or stuck in some aspect of your life, it’s probable that your inner child is needing some attention. Stuck points can look like difficulties at work work, in parenting, finding or keeping love, deepening relationships or setting boundaries.

You may notice that you’re experiencing fear, perfectionism, anxiety or are avoiding certain people, places or experiences. These are all ways that your inner child is attempting to feel safe. When the inner child is running the show, it’ll choose behaviors, choices and and thoughts based on unconscious beliefs or memories from the past, and based on what the inner self would need to feel safe.

Often, the inner child does not have access to the adult “self” reality and may not know about how life is different now, or how things have changed.

Childhood emotional wounds can make you feel like you’re walking around with a ton of bricks on your back.

If your inner child is walking around with 50 lbs of pain, you may feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. If your inner child lived with instability, uncertainty or danger, it may hold you back from making changes. You may notice a fearful part, afraid of you trying new things, however, if you are wanting to move on with life you’ll probably feel torn.

Why we get stuck: when one part seeks safety and consistency and another part seeks possibility, connection and adventure.

You can find a middle ground, and “unstuck” so that you can move past blockages. To cultivate the balance of creativity, flexibility, responsibility, connectivity and consistency, it’ll be important for your adult self and child self to meet and get to know each other. This is the first step to creating a collaborative team- one which your adult need and inner child needs are met.

Two steps are important here:

ONE : Getting in touch with your inner child, beginning a dialogue, and developing a relationship with it.

TWO: Beginning to really listen in, and learn about your inner child’s needs, pains, hopes, and dreams…..and taking steps to making them happen.

Our meditation on Connecting with your Inner Child is made to support you in getting in touch with your inner child. Our goal is for you to tap in to how your inner child is doing, and offer it some tender care and find a way to meet its needs. Often, doing this helps give clarity on what needs to shift in order for you to move forward. As well, this internal process often soften the resistance and “stuckness” you are feeling in your adult life.

For some, “reparenting” the inner child is helpful as well, in this process.)

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Accessing the inner child to relieve the burdens and invite hope and joy.

Begin here….

To do this, we begin by asking your adult self to be a little open and possibly, vulnerable. In order for your inner child to come out of hiding and to share about what is going on or what it’s needing, we need to be open to hearing and seeing its story; curious about its life, its hopes, dreams, fears and worries.

We want your inner child to begin developing a trusting relationship with your adult self so it can share openly. We want to hear about its hopes, dreams, wishes, its words,…. as well as its pain, its sadness, its fears and its worries.

Often, we see that when the inner child has someone (adult you) who truly cares and slows down, and is present with it, it can calm down and feel the feelings that it had to shove away for years. It’s often recommended to do this work with trained therapist who works with inner child work, childhood emotional neglect or emotional pains as the work can be tender and a skilled clinician can help guide you and support the healing.

As you get to know your inner child you may notice that it’s needing some important healing.

There are many different ways to offer support, kindness and healing to the inner child. It may need to tell you a story that it’s kept a secret for years. It may need to show you the loss and grief it experienced years ago but never got to process. It may want to show you its need for love and attention and for you to find ways to get those needs met in life before you move on with the ‘work project’ you’ve been focusing on.

It may ask for you to speak up in your relationships because it doesn’t want to be ignored like it used to be, as a child. Or it may be something else. We don’t know what will come up until we start this process.

Once the inner child knows it has your attention and you are doing your best to offer it love and provide it with its needs it’ll often be more open to you.

It may need more physical or emotional safety, more attention to the way you’re taking care (of your mind, body or soul), healing past pains, setting boundaries in life or shifting who you spend time with. This work will often uncover whatever is truly important.

We’ve seen how many symptoms shift and clients begin working past and through stuck points when we work with the deeper layers of inner child healing. We’ve seen client begin opening their hearts to deepening the love in their life, or for the first time, truly allowing love in. For some, doing the deeper work allows them to finally be present in their parenting as they are able to connect without the agitation that used to be there. For others, they start showing up to work, and relationships with confidence, and more comfortably ask for what they need. For others, the panic and fear they were holding lessens tremendously and they can stand by the boundaries they’ve been trying to set for years.

Successful people have a content inner child

By success I don't mean people who are famous or rich, but people who have love, feel content to be in their skin, have a sense of inner peace and feel fulfilled. A healthy inner child is rich in love, connections, mentally, feeling fulfilled in their sense of meaning and able to tolerate the pains of ups and downs of life. Successful people aren't just those who are smart and “made it”. My definition of successful refers to those who are emotionally regulated, have a good relationship with their emotions and have a calm inner child.

What does a happy inner child look and feel like?

When our inner child (and our “internal family”) is calm, we get the green light to go ahead and try new things. We know we can tolerate failure, or mess ups. We can deal with minor amounts of shame without getting gobbled up with fear. We know we are steady and don't need to act impulsively.We don't get stuck in our pursuit to get approval from others.

If our inner child feels safe and steady, it will allow us to blossom.

It's like an anchor. If the inner child feels wobbly, as adults, we will feel insecure, disoriented and disorganized in life. When our inner child feels steady, its anchor is deeply rooted and we feel, and come across, more clear, confident and comfortable.

Now, how do you know if your inner child has some pains

  • Feelings of shame, guilt and/or pain.

  • Chronic overworking and needing to achieve (to get approval or belonging).

  • Inability to be present in the moment.

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  • Regular anxiety and fear.

  • Rigid and trying to be “perfect” (cannot handle failure).

  • Difficulty noticing and celebrating “wins” in life (no win will ever be enough).

  • Unhealthy relationship patterns and/or avoiding relationships and love.

  • Self sabotage and obsessive/addictive behaviors.

  • Underachieving.

  • Rumination and negative self talk.

Ways to work with healing your inner child

Ready to take a step to connecting with or deepening your relationship with your inner child?

We’ve got you covered! Click on the right for guided mediation video + access the downloadable script that will help you get in touch with your inner child. The meditation is a step by step guide to helping you dig a little deeper and get to connect with that child within.

PLEASE go slow and pause this video as many times as you need.

Our pacing is a bit quick and we want you to slow the pace so you can really get in touch with the parts of self or just go inward, at a rate that feels just right.

One step towards shifting things internally and externally

Click here for access to our wonderful worksheet for you to engage in after you connect with your inner child, so that you can actually come away from the meditation with a tangible takeaway and begin making a small shift.

It’s time to start building those dreams together… you + your inner child


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Until then, stay open and curious to the concept of your inner child and what it may be needing from you as the next few days unfold. One small shift in your mind can help begin being more attuned inward and making a small shift towards self care and healthier living. If you’re ready for one on one work, reach out today so we can get you scheduled with one of our expert therapists!

We are here for you! Offering: EMDR, Somatic Work, IFS/Parts Work, Expressive Arts and Cognitive Therapies.

Xo

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