We all have had trauma of some shape or form as children. It might seem as "small" as being teased in school. It could be as earth-shattering as the loss of a loved one, or neglect and abuse. If we don't address the pain that this child went through, it will manifest in countless ways. Here are just a few: alcohol/drug abuse, emotionally or physically abusive relationships, an unhealthy relationship with food, low self-esteem, harmful behavior toward others or yourself. Some of us are even stuck at a certain age and haven't moved on from it. Think of those grown adults who react in childish ways - they throw tantrums in line at the store because it's taking too long, yell at others because they didn't get their way, knowingly post offensive things on social media for attention, etc. Chances are, they didn't get the attention or love they needed as children and are now taking it out on themselves and everyone around them.
In addition to seeking professional help, there are emotional exercises you can do to help this inner child. One thing you can do is to write a letter to them. It is beneficial to have a picture of yourself at the specific age in which you were experiencing trauma. If it was throughout your childhood, choose an image of yourself that resonates with you. In the letter you can tell your child-self what they needed to hear during that time. It could be something like "you are loved" or "this isn't your fault." You can state forgiveness to yourself and/or those who hurt you. You can also direct the letter toward those who hurt you. What would you have wanted to say in the moment of trauma? What do you want to tell them now? Addressing those who hurt you (even in a letter they will never read) can be an extremely difficult practice, to which I say, do it whenever you feel ready. If you don't plan on hanging onto what you wrote, I recommend burning it. This can be a beautiful symbol of letting go and starting anew.
If you don't enjoy writing, you can simply look at a picture of yourself or envision yourself as a child in your mind's eye and say "I love you" "I forgive you" "you are safe" and whatever else you want to tell that child. Repeat it over and over, as many times as you feel necessary. Try to do it for at least 5 minutes if you can. Make this a daily practice for 30 days - try first thing in the morning or before you go to sleep - and notice how your self-love, anger, and inner peace changes. As emotions come up (and they will) allow yourself to sit with them. Let the tears flow, move your body, sigh, whatever response you're having is what needs to come through.
If all of this seems daunting, simply start with awareness. As with most things awareness is the first step. Before anything, bring awareness to the behaviors that could be a reflection of your inner child and what they need. What are the things you often tell yourself in times of stress? Do they show a lack of worth, lack of self-love, lack of feeling supported? This could bring insight into what your inner child needs. When you start noticing, you are creating a platform for change.
If you are to take anything away from this, my hope is that this gets you thinking about your patterns and behaviors and how they may been created. As children, we assume that the people who are raising us, the environment we live in, and the events that occur are an accurate reflection of the reality of this world. We inherit beliefs about love, money, trust, relationships, social class, communication, and even our own worth from them. As adults, it is up to us to question what we were taught and either accept it or change it.
DISCLAIMER: In no way is this a replacement for therapy or other professional help. If you need to talk to someone, the Crisis Text Line is available and free to use 24/7. Simply text HOME to 741741 and someone will respond within minutes.
You can also check out the links below (where I gathered some inspiration for this article) to further delve into practices for healing your child-self as well as your mind, body, and spirit as a whole.
I would love to hear how you respond to this blog post and what experiences you've had with these practices. Feel free to comment, or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.