Healing Your Inner Child

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Healing Your Inner Child

Mikayla Williams, MA, LPC, NCC

“Store consciousness is a kind of chamber where the films of the past are always being projected. It is there that we keep our memories of trauma and suffering. We know in principle that the past is already gone. But the images of the past are still there, and from time to time - whether in our dreams or when we're awake - we go back and experience the suffering of the past. We have the tendency to get imprisoned in the past. In principle, we know that the past is no longer there, that our memories are only a film, pictures of the past. But the films continue to be projected, and every time the film is projected, we suffer again... It's very important to realize that the inner child is still there, caught in the past. We have to rescue him.” Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child by Hanh, p.8

Our memories link in neural networks with other like memories - maladaptive networks don't link with adaptive networks, meaning that our brain creates patterns and files experiences away in filing cabinets accordingly. When we have emotional memories, our brain develops patterned beliefs about ourselves and the world around us organized through these nice and orderly filing systems. The titles on our filing cabinets in our brain directly shape our automatic thinking - the thoughts that pop into our heads immediately in any given moment. Our brains have created a system to filter the way we perceive new experiences and information based on the files it has gathered from our past. This is necessary and helpful, however, can also feel hurtful. We sometimes have to go in a rename a filing cabinet, or reorganize its contents. 

Store consciousness, inner critic, self-limiting beliefs, automatic thoughts, negative cognitions - it’s in every facet of the mental health world, simply called different things. Whatever you identify it as, it affects you. No matter who you are, an inner voice tells you things about yourself or the world around you. These intrusive beliefs are different than our true, genuine thoughts. Separate yourself from your inner critic - what would its name be? Name your inner critic and allow it to feel as something different than your true self. This voice has good intentions - it learned rules and ways to survive socially throughout all of your experiences. It perceives a threat, and demands that you act accordingly. It will shame you before someone else can; knock you down before you even take your first step in fear of falling. This voice begins as our little invisible “friend” in childhood. Maybe it was helpful and protective at some point, but younger versions of ourselves are hurting from its words and knocking at our door to find relief that you can give them now. Let in your inner critic and the versions of yourself that are begging to be addressed, and have a vulnerable conversation.

Imagine the hurt, younger version(s) of yourself in your mind. Questions to ask yourself:

  • What unhealthy or negative beliefs has your younger self developed? 
    • Whose words were those? What experiences did those beliefs come from?
    • Do you still believe those things today?
      • Our inner critic is often a reflection of messages we received from important people or experiences in our lives in childhood. It’s these moments in time that we can go back to and extend love to our younger self, telling them what they need to hear and allowing them to be heard. We can get rid of this old narrative.
  • What past memories pop up in your head during difficult times in the present?
    • This may take some work to be aware of - we often have key experiences that drastically shape and influence the way we view or handle things into adulthood. 
      • What emotions do you feel during difficult times? When was the first time you can remember feeling that way, even if it seems completely unrelated?
        • This root memory may hold more weight than your adult self realizes. Your younger self may still be hurting, even if present-day you has reconciled with it.
  • As the name “self-limiting” beliefs implies, these thoughts limit us and hold us back - in what ways have you been held back by the thoughts you developed when you were younger?
    • What do you know to be true about yourself and others now?
      • This is where we rewrite the narrative into what we know to be true now, or what we want to be true. We can develop goals for ourselves here regarding who we want to be and what we want to believe about ourselves, even if we don’t quite believe it to be true just yet.
        • For example, I may know on a logical level that I’m worthy of a good life - but do I feel worthy? Maybe not, but now I know where I can give my attention - allowing myself to feel what I know to be true.
  • What emotions do you remember feeling as a child?
    • Were you shamed for feeling a certain way?
      • How do you experience those emotions now? Is there anything you’ve learned to suppress that you can reconnect with in adulthood?
        • Imagine going back in time and allowing your inner child to feel things that they weren’t allowed to experience before.
    • What do you remember enjoying or wishing for as a child?
      • How can you honor those things for your younger self?

Example: Play Date With Inner Child (read more: https://www.creativecounseling101.com/find-your-inner-child.html)

“Make and keep a play date with your inner child. This should be based on what your inner child wants to do, or used to want to do. Do not allow the adult within to take control. Your inner child needs to make the plans for the date. The adult inside you needs to plan the date. Perhaps your inner child used to like to go roller skating, swimming, or to the playground. One of my students took her inner child and bought a coloring book. Now she and her inner child color something every day. I have taken my inner child on many play dates. Recently, we went horseback riding. I had a horse when I was a child, and my inner child sometimes misses having a horse to ride.”

The Time Portal Meditation

Exploration of memories:

Take a moment to explore what self-talk comes up for you. What does that voice inside of your head say about you? What messages do you receive about yourself?

Now as far as you feel comfortable, let your mind wander to past memories - times you may have felt unwanted, unlovable, broken, incapable, worthless, unsafe; memories that may feel stuck - moments that stand out

Identify a key memory to focus on.

Take a deep breath in, and a slow exhale out

If you’re comfortable closing your eyes, feel free to do so

Settle into your chair, keeping your focus on your breathing

Now bring your attention to what you can feel - your back on the chair, your feet on the floor

Notice how you’re feeling emotionally within this moment. 

You are in control here. Notice that you are physically here, safe - can always bring yourself back here.

Take a moment to recall that key memory. I want you to think of what might be the worst part, the snapshot of this memory - what may be on the movie poster.

Imagine opening a time portal into that moment - nobody else can see you, only your younger self. Everything else freezes.

Now within this moment, notice what’s around you - what you can see, what you can smell, if there’s anything you can taste, what you can hear - what  younger you can feel, and how you feel now. 

Sit with that for a moment if you feel okay doing so, remembering you can bring yourself back to the present any time you wish

What is that younger version of yourself feeling? What are they needing? Afraid of? What do they need to hear from you? What do they say in response to you? What do you need to hear from them?

Bring your focus back to your breathing - ground yourself in this moment, open your eyes.

Write a letter to this version of yourself

  • What words would you use to describe this version of yourself from a place of love? 
    • Is there anything holding you back from allowing your inner child to heal?
  • What areas in your past did you feel resistant to acknowledge?
    • How can we honor certain pieces of these memories to unlock the hurt in order to heal?

Read more about the counselors we have on our team at Mindful Movements Counseling Center here.