The concept of the inner child maintains that everyone has an element of their personality associated with their childhood self. If a person has unresolved trauma that occurred in their youth, their inner child is likely wounded which can negatively affect their well-being. By reintegrating with one’s inner child in a healing, therapeutic way, an individual can renew their most positive childlike characteristics. As a result, they can fully embrace their senses of creativity, enthusiasm, and authenticity, enhancing their overall quality of life as an adult.
WHAT IS THE INNER CHILD?
An idea that can be traced back to ancient history, the inner child phenomenon was notably explored by 19th- and 20th-century psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. The inner child refers to the manifestations of a person’s youthful experiences in adulthood. The term describes a person’s childhood selves at various ages and the ways those selves may be continuing to affect their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
WHAT IS A WOUNDED INNER CHILD?
John Bradshaw, a counselor who helped popularize the idea of the inner child, proposed that childhood, in its most natural state, is characterized by specific traits, including:
According to Bradshaw, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), or potentially traumatic events occurring in one’s early years, can emotionally injure the inner child and interfere with these traits. When an individual’s inner child is harmed, the natural traits of youth can be curtailed, affecting psychological development. Bradshaw suggests that a wounded inner child can contribute to:
- Co-dependency: Characterized by a loss of identity and a disconnect with one’s internal cues, a person struggling with codependency may have an inner child traumatized by unmet needs in their developmental years.
- Violent behavior: Often resulting from unresolved abuse, an individual may assert power over others that they did not have as a child.
- Narcissism: Typically occurring in adults who were denied love as a child, those struggling with narcissism generally have an insatiable desire for love.
- Trust difficulties: Possibly stemming from untrustworthy parenting, individuals with difficulties trusting others may feel the need to control as many aspects as possible of their lives.
- Difficulty managing emotions: A person with unresolved childhood trauma may have difficulty regulating their emotions when triggered by something that reminds them of their trauma.
THERAPEUTIC HEALING FOR AN INJURED INNER CHILD
Experts believe that the inner child is one element of an individual’s personality. The therapeutic process can help clients understand different aspects of their personality and discover ways to consciously integrate them in healthy ways. Through therapy, a person can reconnect their inner child and overcome any of its destructive expressions.
This reintegration with one’s inner child can involve reforming damaging thought patterns that originated in one’s youth. In their early years, individuals develop core beliefs about the world around them, often in response to stressors. The ways of thinking become so ingrained that they filter a person’s entire external experience. By analyzing a client’s inner conversation in therapy, the clinician and client can begin to reshape the automatic thoughts which can, in turn, alter how the individual processes their emotions and participates in the world around them.
Additionally, therapy can help a person renew their relationship with their inner child by guiding them in grieving unresolved traumatic experiences. Through therapeutic guidance, an individual can process painful memories from their youth and care for their inner child. In doing so, they can revitalize natural childhood qualities such as imagination, inspiration, and spontaneity as an adult.
NURTURING THE INNER CHILD AT THRIVE WELLNESS
Thrive Wellness clinicians are practiced in therapeutic modalities that guide clients in processing past trauma and healing their inner child, including:
By helping individuals explore the ways childhood experiences manifest in adulthood, our clinicians support clients in tending to their inner child and reconnecting with their youthful traits by encouraging increased curiosity, creativity, and authenticity. Reach out to learn more about our mental and behavioral health services.