Have you ever heard the phrase, “inner child”? This idea of an inner child is becoming more and more popular in psychology, and I’ve even seen mental health posts about it on Instagram. Who is she?! Why do I need to pay attention to her?
Your inner child is essentially your child-like self that lives within you. Yes, perhaps you’re an adult ~legally~ but everyone has an inner child no matter their age. My child self loved to write and sing songs, which then turned into my adult self writing poetry. Cute!
Typically “inner child work” or “healing your inner child” comes up in psychology when dealing with trauma. With inner child work, psychologists believe that our adult reactions to situations are actually our unhealed child-like self acting out. Perhaps when you were a kid you were interrupted and talked over a lot. That could show up as an adult as you interrupting others, yelling or getting the last word in every argument. Inner child work says that if you can go back and connect with your child self, you can heal your trauma, and adjust your reactions.
Trauma is any event that shatters your sense of security and makes you feel helpless. There are varying degrees of trauma, but as a child you are so vulnerable and constantly being shaped that even things that we as adults think are not a big deal could have been traumatic, thus shaping the way we react to things now. MIND BLOWN! Trauma doesn’t have to be a super violent, explosive event. Trauma could be something as commonplace as having a lot of yelling in your home growing up.
When psychologists have people connect to their inner child, it often involves various methods to help that person get back into the mindset of who they were at the age the trauma first occurred. Perhaps you had a specific traumatic event occur when you were 10. To get back into that mindset you could write a letter to your ten year old self, then write a letter back as your ten year old self, starting a dialogue with the inner child. You could think of what you looked like at that age, imagine yourself in your favorite outfit, doing your favorite activity. Psychologists say once we are able to truly connect to that child-like state, we can work to heal the trauma, which then makes us healthier adults.
Outside of trauma work, you can also connect with your inner child for overall mental health benefits. I loved staring at the sky finding pictures in the clouds and often will make time to do that when I’m feeling stressed. It makes me feel carefree and relaxed.
Here is a great video by therapist and Youtuber Kati Morton on inner child work: https://youtu.be/JJGPpKj2pu8
And the Holistic Psychologist (@the.holistic.psychologist) offers great commentary and explanations on inner child work.
Connecting to your inner child is great for your overall well-being, and can be especially helpful when healing trauma. If you do need to heal from a traumatic event, find a therapist you can help you. You can even find someone who specializes in inner child work. Connecting to a simpler version of yourself can be comforting and fun, and in some cases, extremely beneficial for your mental health as an adult.