Using your Inner Child to Heal from Trauma & Improve Intimate RelationshipsAug 30, 2021
Every one of us has an inner child.
And if we have an unhealed inner child, that inner child is going to run the show until we learn how to heal her...
Especially in our intimate relationships.
Let me tell you a little bit about what I mean.
Imagine you're eating a nice meal with your partner at the end of a relaxing and fun day. The two of you have spent the evening laughing, being playful, and enjoying one another's company.
You decide to ask your partner if he will attend your mother's sixtieth birthday with you.
You've been looking forward to asking him as you think it will help the two of you grow closer and get the chance to spend time with your family as a couple.
Your partner says, "You know, I'd just rather not. I have a lot of work to do and I should stay home."
Suddenly you experience a jolt of anger.
'How could he say no? I've been wanting to go for weeks! Why wouldn't he come?'
And this thought catapults into...
- "Maybe there's someone else."
- "Maybe he's thinking about leaving me."
- "What if he doesn't actually love me?"
Suddenly, the beautiful day you've spent together is ruined.
You're both left feeling upset and confused about what happened... wondering how such a simple question could have turned into such a huge mess.
This is a perfect example of our inner child in action.
If we don't learn how to tend to our inner child, she is bound to keep running the show... sabotaging our relationships and causing serious pain.
The good news is that when we learn what our inner child wants and needs, we can learn how to navigate our intimate relationships in a different way.
And getting in touch with our inner child can be incredibly transformative in how we live and how we have intimate relationships with others.
But what exactly is an inner child, you ask?
Let's talk about it.
What is an inner child and what does it have to do with past trauma?
We were all once children, and we all have that child still dwelling within us. And being a true adult means acknowledging, accepting, validating, and caring for the child that still lives within us.
But many people, (especially those who suffer from trauma, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and shame) have learned to do the opposite...
We have learned to reject, deny, ignore, or shame our inner child for having needs. We have learned to "put childish things aside" and "grow up."
But banishing our inner child from our conscious mind doesn't make her go away. She is still within us.
And guess what?
Our inner child still runs the show today.
You can think of the inner child as the tender spot that feels an extreme emotional reaction to something that happens with us as adults.
Take the above scenario, for example.
All our partner may have been saying was that he has a lot of work to do and he really needs to stay home and get it done. Yet, that inner child part of us instantly took it personally. We jump to conclusions, we fear abandonment, we believe we're being rejected.
We may recognize her through feelings of intense depression, anxiety, fearfulness, loneliness, and self-isolation.
And this unhealed child within us may cause unhealthy communication issues in relationships with our partners.
And all of these intense emotions most likely stem from the pain we felt as a young child.
Perhaps our parents abandoned or criticized us. And, because of that experience, we start to believe that everyone else that we care about will leave or reject us.
These emotions that still live within us become activated easily, leading to inappropriate responses today.
Here are some steps to get to know and build a relationship with your inner child so that she doesn't interfere with your intimate relationships anymore.
Acknowledge your inner child.
When we ignore the part of ourselves that needs nurturing, we reject the parts of ourselves that couldn't fully grow up and emotionally mature.
What we truly need, therefore, is to acknowledge the pain that we went through as a child.
Understanding and realizing that she is there, living inside of us, is the first step.
When we aren't aware of the child that still lives within us, we continue living life on her terms.
This child is still running the show because she will do anything she can to get her needs met.
But when we acknowledge that she lives within us, we can learn how to respond to her.
And by responding with love and care, we can overcome the emotional reactions that happen in intimate relationships.
Introduce yourself to your inner child.
To get to know your inner child better, you can start by introducing yourself.
Close your eyes, put your hand over your heart, and speak to her.
Let her know that you are here to build a relationship with her and promise that you will take her seriously.
Your introduction may sound something like this:
"Hi, younger (name). I'm the adult version of you. And I want to get to know you a little bit better. I understand that you have a lot of emotions from the past that continue to come up today. And I know that these emotions can be challenging, painful, and confusing. I want to get to know you better. I am here for you and want to help you work through some of this pain."
Do activities that your younger self enjoyed.
Doing activities that we enjoyed when we were children is a great way to get in touch with our inner child.
When we get in touch with our inner child, we create space for her to be a part of our life as adults.
And, more often then not, our inner child gets ignored and rejected as we get older.
Why is that?
Because as we grow up, we get busy. We have jobs, school, responsibilities, duties, pets, and children. We have endless to-do lists.
And once we get wrapped up in this new, busy life, we start to put things that we once enjoyed on the backburner.
Or, even worse, we're told by other adults to "stop acting like a child" and do more "adult" things.
So one of the best ways that we can get to know our inner child better is to get in touch with her by participating in activities that you enjoyed when you were young.
Try getting out those arts and crafts, karaoke machines, or playing a game that allows you to be silly.
Read the books you used to love (hello, Harry Potter!).
Get in touch with your inner child's imagination, creativity, spontaneity, joy, and silliness.
Better yet, ask your partner to join you in the silliness! It can be incredibly healing.
Write a letter to your inner child from your adult self.
This exercise can be incredibly eye-opening and therapeutic for getting in touch with your inner child.
And, more importantly, this exercise can teach us about some of our biggest triggers in our intimate relationships.
To do this exercise, think about a painful experience you had with an adult when you were young. For example, you might imagine a time when your feelings were hurt and you were told to stop crying or that it "wasn't a big deal". Or maybe this was an even more painful experience, such as being physically abused by a parent, or watching your father drive away and never return.
Reflect on those past experiences and make connections to how those emotions still arise today.
What kind of messages did you receive about how you were allowed to feel?
Which emotions were you not allowed to feel?
You may notice that your inner child is feeling:
- Angry for unmet needs
- Unloved and unworthy
- Scared or frightened
Identifying the emotions you felt in painful moments in childhood is key to understanding the emotions that still live within us today.
Journal prompts to express your inner child's emotions
The best way that we can heal our inner child is to let her express her emotions that she was unable to express in the past.
As children, many of us weren't allowed to speak our minds.
Many of us were told to stop crying, be quiet, or hold back our anger.
But this can be incredibly harmful to our emotional body, and it can cause a lot of distress in our intimate relationships as we get older.
Because without expressing those painful emotions, those emotions remain stuck inside of us. When emotions aren't expressed, they don't go away.
And our inner child has had to carry all of those emotions around... sometimes for years.
For this exercise, imagine yourself as a child. Reflect on a memory that makes you feel upset and write down your answers to the following questions:
- Write about an experience that happened when you were young. Was anyone there? Were you alone?
- What are some of the things you wish you could have said or done?
- Were you allowed to do those things?
- How did you feel in that moment and were you allowed to express those emotions?
- If you weren't allowed to express those emotions, express them now. Write about how you feel and what's happening for you while you think about this memory.
Journal about building a relationship with your inner child.
This exercise will help you give your inner child the things she needed, but did not receive, when she as younger.
Get out your journal and close your eyes.
Imagine that your adult self is standing next to your younger self during this painful memory that you just wrote about.
What does your inner child need?
Does she need someone to validate her feelings? Reassurance? A hug?
What would you say to her if you were there with her then?
Write a letter to her and tell her what she needs to hear.
Maybe she needs to know what happened to her wasn't her fault.
Maybe she needs to hear that she is loved exactly as she is.
Perhaps she needs to know that she is safe and that you'll protect her.
Build an ongoing relationship with your inner child
By building an ongoing relationship with our inner child, we can become more attuned to her needs throughout the day. And when we are more attuned to her needs, we are more likely to have better intimate relationships with others.
Why, you ask?
Because when we feel painful emotions bubble up, the child within us is most likely re-experiencing a painful past experience.
Pay attention to your emotions regularly:
- How does your inner child feel in moments when she is emotionally triggered?
- What does she need to hear in those moments?
- How can you validate her feelings on the spot?
- In what ways does she try to build up shields of emotional protection?
Maybe you notice an intense emotion come up. You might try saying to yourself, "It's okay. I'm here. You're safe." Even when we don't always understand where these emotions come from, giving ourselves validation and love can be incredibly helpful.
Knowing how to attune to our own needs is one of the best things we can do in our relationships. It helps us not only show up better for ourselves, but also for our partners.
Try using guided meditations
Guided meditations are a safe, gentle, and powerful way to be introduced to the wounded child that still lives within us.
In meditation, we can discover what emotions are there and learn how to comfort this child's needs.
In my eBook, The Ultimate Self-Care Guide for Healing through Emotional Trauma, I created an entire section on using meditation to connect with your inner child.
Some of my most transformative healing practices happened during these meditations. I still carry many of those memories and healing moments with me today.
In the book, I included all of my favorite inner child guided meditations, journal prompts, and activities that helped me heal through trauma.
If you're interested in downloading the book, you can purchase it here.
Get trusted, trauma-informed support
Inner child healing can be really, really emotional and heavy.
If you know that you're ready for that next step...
Or feeling like you're riiiight on the edge of getting the healing you need...
I would love to support you on your journey.
If you feel like your past trauma is interfering with your life and your ability to find healthy, fulfilling love, I'm here for you.
Shifting Love is my coaching program that helps women with past trauma create space for healthy, loving, & safe intimate relationships.
I am currently taking 6 clients for 1:1 trauma-informed coaching to enhance your love and dating life!
And I would loveeee love love to work with you.
Working with me in the program, you will have the opportunity to:
- Explore how your inner child may be running the show in your love life
- Learn ways to heal the inner child
- Get professional and trained guidance
- Create a safe, healthy, & confidential space for healing.
Want to create healthy, safe, & loving intimate relationships after trauma?
Take this Trauma-Informed Relationship Assessment!
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