INNER CHILD WORK
An aspect of personality in which a part of the self reacts and feels as though you are a child is what is referred to as “Inner Child.” This reaction is an unconscious defence known as fragmentation. Triggered when an individual is faced with an overwhelming emotion or anxiety, fragmentation can be minimised through therapeutic interventions to facilitate Inner Child healing. When we are experiencing fragmentation, our thoughts and feelings are split apart and our actions are not in alignment with our true self.
In order to work on the inner child, it is vital to cultivate our inner observer. This is the part of ourselves who can be real and who can notice the discrepancy between the false self and the true self. Sigmund Freud, the “father of psychology” called this (the inner observer) our Consciousness.
How we become fragmented and react begins in early childhood experiences. Our parents or our caregiver(s) were our first teachers and provided our first understanding of love and how to view the world. Until brain development occurs allowing critical thinking and reasoning abilities, a child is highly dependent upon those who care for her or him. A child needs healthy mirroring, or validation of his being, in order to feel seen, heard and loved. In some family dynamics, there is a lack of this healthy mirroring which may due to a parent’s own lack of healthy mirroring when growing up, physical or mental illness, abuse, or addiction.
As a result, a child will begin to learn to hide parts of the self (the true self) and a false self emerges in order to receive validation through behaving in response, to please the caretaker or, depending on the home, at least stay under the radar.
As the false self arises, we lack an anchor, or connection, to our body and thus to our feelings.
This distance from our own somatic (or bodily) experience and emotions results in abandonment of the self and a false self is created to respond to others needs.This develops over time into a pattern becoming more firmly entrenched the earlier in life it began. As we move through the lifespan, this pattern of acting in agency can contribute to immune system stress and undermine our sense of constancy resulting in physical and emotional suffering and relationship difficulties.
A skilled therapist can use techniques such as guided visualisation in order to access the Inner Child and actively work to heal childhood wounding through dialogue with the younger self. Other therapeutic interventions include letter writing to express the feelings that emerge, non-judgmental support and processing through talk therapy, identification of negative childhood messages which have been internalised, learning mantras to overturn erroneous beliefs and mindfulness skills to anchor into your body and increase your ability to pay attention to somatic cues, which are connected to emotions.
While psychological scars can never be removed, we can learn how to change how we act out our defences, notice when we are not grounded in our body and in this way, heal the Inner Child.