We’ve all been told to take care of ourselves, our physical and mental health, our wellbeing and everything in between. But, one important thing we need to care about is something that few of us recognise to be there. We all have an inner child. In psychology, the inner child refers to the childlike aspect of our personalities. Semi-independent to our conscious mind, we all still have our child-like self within us. Freud believed that any mental or emotional issues we might face in our life is related to this unconscious side of ourselves, which he strongly linked to childhood.
In other words, our behavioural, emotional and relationship difficulties likely stem from this inner child. Its primal needs of love, acceptance, protections, understating and nurturing, are what we still need as adults. Though how many amongst us actually would admit as much?
The feeling, I suppose, you get when you have an awful day and just want your mum’s help. A hug from your gran when you’re ill or calling your dad when you have any problems. Because all of us, from time to time, need someone to come help us and love us.
However, these feelings are avoided by lots of people. Who want to seem childish? Clinging to that part of themselves that was pushed aside as we grew up, ignored for phone bills and olives.
“The most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children.” – Jim Henson
The theory in psychology is that the inner child is a repository for all the hurt, betrayal or trauma from our childhoods. These affect us as adults, and that healing these past hurts is essential for psychological growth.
The inner child “is a part of an adult character that behaves like a child and is in contrast to how a logical adult would behave or react or even feel.” We hold onto our emotions and memories, good and bad, and develop defence mechanisms to deal with trauma that still exists for us. “The power of the inner child is often underestimated, and the consequences can at times cost bonding and intimate relationships.”
Working through these memories and hurt gives the child a chance to understand and analyse what happened. If you think you have a wounded inner child, never be scared to ask for help. From therapy to free resources, it’s not hard to show your inner child some love.
“Some people think ignoring their inner child makes them seem grown-up. When I see someone ignoring a crying child, I think they’re an asshole” – Jay Bell
Why is healing the inner child important?
Well firstly, on psychological levels. A wounded inner child can be the underlying cause behind depression, low self-esteem, anger, abandonment or relationship issues, or self-sabotage. Working with your inner child and ‘reparenting’ that part of you, is key to healing emotional traumas of your past and improve your present and future wellbeing.
But our inner child, as well as being tuned to our emotional needs, is beneficial to us in other ways.
Writer Julia Cameron tells us: “The part of us that creates is childlike. It is filled with awe, alert to new experiences, and mesmerized by the sensory wonders of our environment”, encouraging us to return to this childhood wonder.
Stopping and staring at stars, lights at a fairground, standing barefoot in the grass with nothing more important to do. This part of us inspires and nurtures creativity and impulse, unhindered by social regulations or expectations. Children are full of inspiration and creativity, so unlocking into this part of you, this curiosity, can improve your own creativity as an adult.
The inner child doesn’t care if looks silly, its going to dance or paint, going to cuddle that stuffed animal or drink that milkshake and revel in the happiness that those things bring.
Turning the trauma or sadness into joy, curiosity, and having that childish young heart can do so much good for you as an individual and for your relationships with others.
“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” – C.S. Lewis