Andrei Miguel Hermosa
We all have an inner child.
Our inner child is the hidden and often forgotten part of our personality that reflects our childhood experiences. They’re basically our younger selves who still act, react, and feel like children. They retain all the thoughts, emotions, and memories we’ve had during childhood, including both positive and negative ones.
If your childhood was fraught with unpleasant experiences, your inner child wouldn’t be full of joy and playfulness. Instead, they’d be bottled up with sorrow, fear, anger, shame, guilt, and other negative emotions. Certain events or incidents that remind your inner child of past experiences could easily trigger these negative emotions. In turn, this could cause you to develop self-sabotaging behaviors.
From time to time, you may find yourself suddenly acting out of character and encountering emotional outbursts. For instance, you may have thrown a sudden tantrum when your mother raised her voice at you. Or worse, you got into a fist fight with your classmate after they made a snarky comment about your appearance that you could’ve just ignored. These behaviors are often clear signs that your inner child is wounded. Such behaviors stem from the traumatizing situations that your inner child has been exposed to, including abuse, abandonment, child neglect, dysfunction in families, bullying, and more.
But can we still heal our wounded inner child? How do we stop it from hurting us and controlling our behaviors?
Acknowledging your inner child
In order to heal our inner child, we must first acknowledge their presence.
Normally, we tend to ignore our inner child to avoid the pain they give us. But contrary to popular belief, suppressing our emotions only makes our suffering worse. By leaving our emotions unresolved, we only prolong the pain rather than ending it. Hence, it’s really important that we accept the fact that there is an inner child living inside us. It’s the beginning of the fruitful process of healing.
To do this, you have to imagine seeing your inner child as if they were right beside you. Once you see them, listen to them. Pay attention to what they’re trying to tell you, and allow them to freely express their emotions in front of you. Let them cry, shout, get angry, or anything else they feel like doing. And if they’re still not ready to open up to you, give them space first.
In the process of acknowledging your inner child, you’ll be able to recognize all the traumas you’ve repressed and how they manifest themselves. Additionally, you’ll also understand how they affect your behaviors. For example, if you frequently lose your temper whenever someone raises their voice at you, you’ll find out that it may be because you’ve experienced verbal abuse at least once as a child, and hearing people yell or raise their voice reminds you of that experience.
Understanding your inner child’s traumas paves the way to forming a deeper connection with them. Rather than thinking that your inner child makes you weak, you get to realize that they simply need your help. And since you’re the only one who knows about what they’ve been going through, no one else but you can help them heal.
Writing to your inner child
After acknowledging and understanding our inner child, we must then comfort them and tell them all the words they need to hear. A good way to do this is by writing letters to them.
Writing a letter to your inner child can be effective in exploring and addressing unresolved emotions from the past. This is because letter-writing helps you gain clarity about your thoughts and enables you to express them exactly how you intend to express them. Thus, this method will allow you to say everything you want to your inner child without getting interrupted and without feeling ashamed or anxious.
You may start your letter by first apologizing to your inner child for all the times you’ve neglected them. Gently express your wish to mend your relationship with them and assure them of the unconditional love and support that you wish to give them. You may have shunned them in the past, but from now on, you will be the shoulder they can lean on. Then, think about what your younger self needed to hear back then. Think about how they wanted to be spoken to. Keep in mind that your inner child wants to be loved, pampered, and protected. Hence, it’s important to use soothing words and a positive tone to combat their negative thoughts and make them feel more safe and secure.
If your inner child was neglected by their parents, tell them: “I love you, and I’ll always be here for you.” If they were abandoned or betrayed by a loved one, assure them that you’ll stay by their side no matter what. If they’ve been bullied or abused, tell them that their feelings of anger and resentment are completely valid. If they’ve been ostracized by their peers, let them know that you accept them and that there is nothing they need to change about themselves.
However, as you bring up their past traumas, make sure to remind them that it’s not their fault for ending up in such tormenting situations. The pain they went through, the environment they got thrusted into, and the needs they couldn’t meet were all beyond their control. And at the end of the letter, don’t forget to thank your inner child for their courage and resilience. Tell them that you’re proud of them and you’ll always be. They may perceive themselves as weak due to their experiences — but they’ve held on for so long and endured so much when life was being too unkind to them.
You certainly can’t change the past and erase the traumas your inner child experienced. But through the power of words, you can give them the strength and affirmation that they need in order to move forward and get over the pains they’re still suffering from.
Making your inner child proud
Furthermore, apart from revisiting the past, the healing process should also include acknowledging your current growth as a person. In other words: make your inner child proud.
Remember that your younger self used to be in a place of uncertainty and despair. With all the hardships they’ve faced, they’d be too despondent to look forward to a brighter future. They probably had dreams and aspirations too, but due to unpleasant experiences, it got hard for them to be hopeful. Hence, it’s important that you let them know how far you’ve come and how far you may still reach. Give them something to look forward to — whether that be achieving your dreams, conquering your fears, overcoming difficult situations, or simply becoming a better version of yourself. If there’s anyone who would understand the worth of such accomplishments, it’s them.
By having something to look forward to, your inner child may feel more confident and reassured, knowing that positive things happened in your life and that you were able to survive and thrive even in the presence of traumas and challenges. As they lack positive experiences to look back on, seeing you succeed is enough to help them feel delighted and hopeful again. They’d be glad that you’re attaining the growth and stability that they’ve always wished to have.
In my case, I’m making my inner child proud by following my dreams. Currently, I’m studying at a prestigious university and majoring in literature, the degree that younger me always wanted to pursue. In addition to that, I’ve also joined clubs that give me opportunities to hone my skills in writing, one of my favorite hobbies since childhood. My inner child, who had a hard time believing in himself and was fearful of people’s judgements, has been absolutely proud of me. He’s extremely relieved that I never gave up on my dreams despite the countless obstacles that keep obstructing my path.
Moreover, if you think you have nothing yet to make your inner child proud of, try to find beauty in small things — especially those that show your positive qualities as a person. For instance, think about how you’re able to survive the immense pressure of school — too many deadlines to meet, too many readings to wade through, and too little time to breathe. Or better yet, think about how you’re able to save a lot of money and make good financial decisions despite the temptations that come your way. These small things are already huge achievements that your inner child would be genuinely proud of.
Healing, not Healed
The healing process can be a long and tough journey. But as long as we’re keeping in touch with our inner child, we’re gonna get there. If you think you’re not making good progress yet, just take it slowly. It may really take months, years, or even decades before you can fully mend the wounds of your past, especially if the extent of trauma you’ve faced in childhood was severe.
I myself still have a long way to go. I’ve made a good relationship with my inner child and I’m pretty sure I made him proud, but there are still times when past wounds would suddenly haunt him and cause him to lose his momentum.
Let’s be patient with our younger selves; they’re already trying and enduring as much as they can. For now, let’s just acknowledge our current progress and double down on our efforts. Let’s fortify the connection we’ve made with our inner child by continuing to listen to them, always being there for them, and never giving up on them.