How to (really) speak to your inner child
Inner child work has become a frequently used term and everyone seems to be aware of the idea that there is some sort of child living inside an adult.
However, I am often surprised how few people have actually understood what that really means and how you take care of that seemingly very abstract part of yourself.
Today, I'd like to share - in a nutshell - what my understanding of that subject is.
Your inner child is the part of you that was hurt during your childhood. For example, the 2-year old you who felt rejected by her mother, or your 1-year old you who was abandoned by her father, or your 5 year old you scared not to live up to the expectations of strict parents etc. Whatever the childhood trauma, the version of you who experienced it, is still alive in you. And its reminding you of that pain whenever today's relationships (mostly your intimate ones) are triggering these fears.
Once you identify and distinguish the voice of the child and its fears from you adult-self and adult identity, you can start looking at that child in you and finally use an appropriate language.
When we pass adult age, our parents are no longer responsible for us, neither for our fears, nor for our needs. We have now become parents for ourselves! It's a good moment to stop expecting from them to be perfect and repair all their mistakes from the past (I do encourage a good talk about your feelings though).
And as the loving and responsible parent that you certainly are to any child or person in pain around you, you need to adapt the same attitude, when talking to your inner child - meaning the part of you that is hurt and in pain.
When your inner child is triggered by your partners' behaviour (looking at another women/man; coming home late etc) and you feel overwhelmingly afraid to be abandoned for example - pay attention to how you are talking to yourself.
What is your inner dialogue when fears or anger come up?
"I knew he/she didn't love me"; "I'm not beautiful/young/intelligent enough to be loved"; "I don't deserve love"; "I knew I shouldn't have trusted him/her, its my fault"; "Don't tell him/her how scared you are, he/she will get angry and leave you", and many many other toxic thoughts.
And now imagine you see a child crying of fear because a parent is absent or unloving with her, would you tell her any of the sentences above? Would you accuse her of not being enough? Or of not being lovable and thus deserving of what is happening?
Of course not.
What does any child need regardless the cause of its emotional suffering? Of course: LOVE and understanding. Two open arms and a loving heart.
Don't forget: A child cannot survive without a parent. An absent parent is experienced as life-threatening to a child. An adult however, can survive without a partner. He/she has all the resources to overcome any sort of problem.
So, whenever any of your traumas is triggered, whenever any of your fears are coming up
1/ realise that its your inner child speaking and feeling. Then dis-identify.
2/ Identify its fear/s (being abandoned, rejected, humiliated, excluded etc. - Lise Bourbeau has done great work on that subject)
3/ and then welcome these fears with a wide open heart and an enormous dose of empathy and understanding.
I recommend to put a hand on your heart and a hand on your stomach while you speak to your inner child to create a deeper connection.
Here are a few suggestions for things to say to him/her (always use very simple language from the heart as if you were actually speaking to a child):
"I see you. I hear you. I understand you. It's OK to be scared. I am here for you. I will never let you down. Whatever happens, you will not be alone. I am by your side. I take care of you whatever happens. Your feelings are OK. You can rest now. I take care of this situation. You can trust me, I will not let you down."...
For many of us, our wounds are deep and we have mistreated and overheard the fears of our inner child for many many years. Thus, inner child work can take many years of practice. But it is definitely worth it.
You are more than welcome to get in touch, if you feel any need for help on that journey.
All the very best to you,