You're a smart, well-rounded, and well-educated person. But did you ever catch yourself making same poor choices over and over again? Maybe wondered why do relationships in your life suffer because of poor communication? Or why do you sometimes feel as though you have no control in your life? Why can't you form intimate loving relationships or your sex love suffers because you can't fully unleash your sexuality and sensuality? It could be because your inner child is in the driver's seat, and if you've ever seen a six-year-old drive, well, that says it all.
Before we dive deeper let me introduce a few important terms that you will hear again and again on your healing journey.
In psychology, the inner child is unconscious sub-personality that consists of you learned and experienced in the earliest years of your life. This inner child personality is subordinate to the conscious mind, yet influences your mind. When children are emotionally and mentally traumatized, neglected, or even abused in childhood, those inner wounds never heal and the Wounded Inner Child forms. The child may act out, including having temper tantrums, facing challenges in making friends, and remaining suspicious of the motives of others.
As these emotionally wounded children get older, they leave some of their childhood behaviors behind, but they still have the wounded inner child deep within their psyche. When these adults are stressed, pressured, or begin to feel overwhelmed, they often drop back to familiar behavior patterns and the behaviors they used as children to get their way.
It is typical for a wounded inner child to crave attention and a sense of belonging they never experienced. In these situations, individuals with this wounded inner child may tolerate behavior in a relationship that is negative, destructive, and abusive just for the sake of having someone. This is a coping mechanism to attempt to gain a sense of belonging in relationships, which is something they desire at a deep emotional level.*
Dr. Donald Winnicott, an incredibly influential pediatrician and psychoanalyst who worked through the 1940’s into the 1970’s, explained his theory about the True Self and the False Self in a paper he wrote in 1960. He used term True Self to describe a sense of self based on spontaneous authentic experience and a feeling of being alive, having a real self. The False Self, by contrast, is as a defensive façade, which in extreme cases could leave its holders lacking spontaneity and feeling dead and empty, behind a mere appearance of being real. Dr. Winnicott proposed the idea that people may develop a False Self to protect their inner, more vulnerable True Self—and that they might even do it at a very young age, without knowing it.
But how do we develop a False Self, especially if we aren’t even aware of doing it?
Winnicott describes babies as ‘spontaneous’, meaning they don’t think about the way they act, they just do whatever they need to—which, if you’ve ever been around a baby, tends to be a lot of needing help and reassurance, which is the essential stuff of our True Selves, which our good-enough mom (or motherlike figure despite of the gender) does her best to make sense of and gratify. No-one is an ideal parent and by good-enough mom we mean a well attuned but still human parent.
Nothing’s perfect, but as long as our parents are trying and are successful most of the time, that response strengthens our belief that if we cry out, then someone will hear us, understand us, and do their best to help us. This strengthens our trust that our most basic and honest needs and desires are normal and accepted—that we are relatable and our feelings are manageable. A person with this kind of reassurance grows up feeling confident enough to put their True Self out there in the real world, living openly, according to their heart.
The last term I want to touch upon is emotional trauma and abuse. We tend to think that trauma is something as dramatic as a car crash and abuse is related to beating of a child or sexual molesting. But psychological, or emotional trauma, is a damage or injury to the psyche after living through an extremely frightening or distressing event and may result in challenges in functioning or coping normally after the event.
Childhood trauma can result from anything that disrupts a child’s sense of safety, including:
An unstable or unsafe environment (including raised voices, smashed doors and verbal abuse)
Separation from a parent (such as a divorce or even kindergarten)
Intrusive medical procedures
Sexual, physical, or verbal abuse
Neglect, including neglecting child's emotional needs
Experiencing trauma in childhood can result in a severe and long-lasting effect. When childhood trauma is not resolved, a sense of fear and helplessness carries over into adulthood, setting the stage for further trauma.
Now, as we understand the basic terms, let's look deeper into the concept of Human Needs: what they are, how they were or weren't met when you were children. Because the inner child in you seeks to receive what he or she was denied in childhood.
Charles Whitfield in his famous book "Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families" put together a following list of human needs. Fulfilling those needs during your childhood help in forming a healthy psyche of emotionally stabile individual. Neglecting the needs lead to confusion, formation of False Self and defensive coping mechanisms in children that are later taken into adulthood.**
When you start the inner child work, I highly recommend to begin with Sacred Lotus Flower Elixir and take it for a month while reviewing the list below. Not overnight, but by sitting with every need and applying them to your past and present. Those were your needs when you were a child and the same needs remain when you are an adult. You simply don't depend on your caretakers to provide for those needs. Now YOU are responsible for fulfilling them.
Survival, safety and security.
Newborn babies require constant attention as they are completely dependent on parents/caretakers for basic survival to receive food, nourishment and protection. Left alone, unattended for too long or even not been fed on time creates a trauma and sense of abandonment for the baby.
Touching, skin contact and attention.
Skin contact, hugs and kisses are important for babies and adults to thrive. It contributes to the sense of safety and security.
Mirroring and echoing.
This need refers to the necessity to be seen, heard and understood and validation of the infant, child and even adult as a feeling and thinking being. Mirroring and echoing are shown by non-verbal facial expressions, body language, posture or sounds to express the notion that another person is understood.
Guidance and Support.
Guidance is needed to help infant to develop his/her individuality and grow. Caretakers provide guidance in form of advice, assistance, help - supporting child'd natural ways rather than insisting on their way or methods of doing things. Support includes actively doing whatever is possible to allow the Real Self of the child and his individuality to reach its highest potential.
Listening, Participating and Acceptance. Freedom to be the Real You.
This is a very important subject - the motion that you are always listened to and accepted EVEN if you are not understood and agreed with. Acceptance is demonstrated by respecting, validating and being tolerant to the feelings of the other's True Self. If this need is not met, a child begin to think that he/she doesn't matter, not his feelings. Also, lack of such role model in our parents doesn't teach us to treat our romantic partners, friends or colleagues with respect and acceptance towards their feelings.
Loyalty and Trust.
It is extremely important for the child to be able to trust others, feel safe and accepted as his/her True Self and to be fully trusted in turn.
Accomplishment and Validation.
This is a very important and complex one. It is important to have a belief of being able to accomplish a task and have our caretakers have a belief in us and to have their support, assistance and acknowledgement of the completed tasks. Accomplishment enhances self-esteem and brings empowerment and sense of being in control. It is highly important to form an awareness that the task is complete and acknowledge your achievement. In dysfunctional families the tendencies are towards either having hard time focusing on and completing the task or, on the contrary, become a super achiever with a lost sense of validation of own accomplishments. This unmet need creates a foundation for the syndromes of workaholism or inability to complete professional training and grow the skills.
Altering one’s state of consciousness, transcending the ordinary, enjoyment and fun.
We have a biological need to periodically alter our conscious state and not necessarily by drugs or alcohol, but by daydreaming, laughing, concentrating on the project, playing sports, or sleeping.
Sexuality is not limited to a sexual intercourse, but it is your range of potentials - from feeling good about being a man or a woman, feeling comfortable in your body, enjoying various aspects of being sexual, but also discovering the man (animus) inside woman's psyche or the woman (anima) inside the man.
Privacy and personal space.
This is an extended need for healthy boundaries and a deep respect towards personal belongings and personal space. There is also a need for the time alone to connect deeply with your feelings and emotions and reflect on the events of the outside world without intrusions, interuptions and distractions. Having privacy and we'll established boundaries around the personal space contributes to the
Another important need is a freedom to risk, explore, be spontaneous, try things and learn from mistakes. It is mega important for the healthy psyche to know that you are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them which forms life experience, but doesn't make you a looser.
This is a high level need that appears as we progress through self-growth and individuation. Nurturing is a need to provide all of the above needs to another person or to yourself. This process require two sides - a nurturer and a person that is nurtured, who has to be able to surrender and let go in order to receive and be nurtured. It is not as easy as it sounds, especially to allow yourself to be nurtured.
Unconditional love (including connection with a Higher Power)**
This is a high level need that is based on unconditional acceptance of ourselves and others, and th foundation principle of practicing Maitri. The main goal for Maitri Verde is to open your heart to give and receive unconditional love towards yourself and towards others, and set you free from limiting belief and the emotional trauma that blocks this ability.
If you you think you have the Wounded Inner Child issues, there are many ways you can receive help and get better. Inner Child work is a foundation of self-realization and fulfilling your full potential.
First steps in working with inner child.
Research and read to understand deeper. Most of us think that we had an OK childhood and go into the resistance of accusing their parents. The healing of the wounded inner child is NOT about blaming your parents. The key is in the process called breaking the victim/martyr mentality and "re-parenting" of your inner child. YOU become an ideal parent and a responsible adult that meets and attends to the needs of YOUR OWN INNER CHILD. Here are some great and an easy reading on the subject with helpful exercises: Whitfield, Charles. Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families and the companion workbook and guide "A Gift To Myself".
Miller, Alice. The Drama of the Gifted Child
Bradshaw, John. Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing Your Inner Child
Connect with and understand your needs. My true belief is that until you feel it, you won't believe it, and all information that I share will remain words on screen or paper but not reach your heart. You need to feel your need in your heart and feel a rightful anger if your need is not met. As an adult you are in power of changing your life circumstances and build your life around your needs.
Use the help of the natural remedies. Flower essences and essential oils are exceptional helpers in emotional healing. Each plant and flower has a specific frequency and holds information within that can help us realize our true nature and help us shift out of self-limiting, self-destructive patterns and behaviors, supporting our emotional attitudes and perceptions. Various researches prove that physical manifestations of symptoms have their roots in emotions and attitudes. Flower essences can help us recognize our attitudes and effectively change them, providing a release of the cause of certain physical ailments. Healing is about recovering and integrating parts of ourselves that were ignored or lost from our awareness. It is about letting go of the past, so we can change our narrow perspective and step in into broader consciousness. Check out the remedies in my Self-Love, Confidence & Worthiness Collection.
Find a trained professional and build your support team.
Not all psychologists are able to skillfully address the wounded inner child. Do you research and ask if your chosen professional is known for Wounded Inner Child healing. Your support can come from self-help groups, a therapy group, a counselor/therapist, sponsor or a trusted friend.
I highly recommend Elicia and Doug Miller, PhD and their Core Emotional Healing Process, that includes self-study program, classes, support group programs, and an online support group.
**The hierarchy of needs were adapted from original work of Whitfield, Charles. Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families (Recovery Classics Edition) (p. 17). Compiled in part from Maslow, 1962; Miller, 1981; Weil, 1973; Glasser, 1985.