Healing the Inner Child

February 19, 2024

Written by

Claudia Black Young Adult Center

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By Anna McKenzie

“Healing your inner child” has become a more popular concept in recent years, but what does it really mean? The theory of the inner child comes from the work of the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung. He believed that we all have a subconscious subpersonality of our childhood self within us, a manifestation of our earliest experiences. As adults, we must learn how to positively “parent” our inner child in order to heal our old wounds and experience better mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health.

As adults, we must learn how to positively “parent” our inner child in order to heal our old wounds and experience better mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health.

Healing Your Inner Child: Emotional Healing

Childhood is a valuable, formative time for each of us, and it’s the time in life when we are most vulnerable. This is why the wounds we experience in childhood can fester and affect our development. As children, we’re trying to survive in a world we can’t fully comprehend, so our caregivers’ emotions and actions can have an outsized impact on our understanding of ourselves and our environment. In response, we may learn coping habits that can hinder us later in life. 

Avoidance, acting out, aggression, passive aggression, disassociating, rationalizing, indulgence, dishonesty, and enabling may all have worked for us as children, when we were adapting to our environment and our caregivers. But as adolescents and adults, these behaviors can translate into loss of relationships or work, poor decision-making, abusive situations, process addictions, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.

When we’re able to be honest with ourselves and others, not feeling the need to overprotect our inner child, we can trade those ineffective coping mechanisms for effective ones, such as boundary-setting, mindfulness, meditation, balance, emotional processing, transparent communication, self-care, turning the mind, moderate exercise, and compassion. 

Healing Childhood Trauma

So what are some ways to heal your inner child, especially healing from trauma? Individual or group counseling with a licensed therapist can help you discover and process the wounds that you experienced as a child, and trauma treatment may be necessary to heal those wounds. The pathway to emotional healing is often through processing grief and rebuilding your personal narrative, which means coming to new, positive conclusions about who you are as you fully acknowledge what you have overcome.

When you are dealing with childhood trauma, you’re often unable to access your own feelings. You spend a lot of time focused on the needs of others and neglecting yourself, which can often lead to codependent relationships. Healing your inner child means getting back in touch with your own wants and needs and realizing that you can now take care of yourself

Healing your inner child means getting back in touch with your own wants and needs and realizing that you can now take care of yourself.

According to TIME, “As you begin to understand [your inner child’s] purpose and needs, you can turn your attention to cultivating a sense of security and reassurance.” This is how you “parent” your inner child — you validate and comfort them, which also helps you to resist the impulse to indulge in negative coping behaviors.

Using Psychodrama to Treat Trauma 

One method used for healing from trauma is psychodrama, which is generally done in group settings. Psychodrama involves role-playing to offer new perspectives on a painful experience or relational dynamic. With the guidance of a therapist, you can play the role of yourself or someone else in the “drama” and assign roles to others in the group. When the experience is acted out, people point out what they noticed, and you are put into an observatory role — changing your experience from that as a victim, or someone frozen in a situation, to someone outside of and free from it.

Meadows Senior Fellow and psychodrama expert Dr. Tian Dayton says, “If we can stand in the shoes of the other and feel as they feel, momentarily think as they think, or at least try to, that’s the job of the role player or protagonist. When you reverse roles, you physically change places, but you attempt to enter the psyche of that other person.” 

Dayton uses a mother-child relationship as an example and how having an empty chair or someone embodying your mother in a scenario can help you to experience a situation differently. “You’re experiencing your own feelings and seeing everything you want to say,” explains Dayton. When you put yourself in the mother role instead of your own, she says, “You may find out, Maybe this all wasn’t so personal the way she treated me. She was who she was, and I happened to be there.

Healing your inner child is as much about gaining a fresh perspective on what has happened to you, as it is about learning to be compassionate to yourself and others in your life.

Tackling Youth Mental Health Issues 

Are mental health issues in kids just part of growing up? The answer is yes and no. Yes, kids will grapple with occasional mental health challenges as they grow, but how they cope is important and can greatly impact the later years. Getting help early on is key, especially if coping habits are poor and the issues become severe. 

Today, more young adults are seeking mental health support than ever, and we at the Claudia Black Young Adult Center are here to help. We understand how childhood trauma and grief can significantly impact healthy development well into adulthood. We can help provide you with the tools and resources you need to heal your inner child. Reach out to learn more about our customized treatment plans so you can get started on your personal journey to wellness today.