If you are interested in psychology and personal growth, you’ve probably heard about the ‘inner child’ – a sub-identity that each of us has that includes patterns of thinking and behaviour we associate with our childhood. Inner child work is about connecting to that sub-identity, examining its gifts and wounds and using our findings to guide our current identity into healthier functioning. We can do this proactively, out of curiosity to explore our consciousness and reshape it. We can also do it reactively – as a way to heal when our childhood wounds come to the surface and won’t leave us alone until we ‘figure it out’.
There are two aspects to the inner child – the light and the shadow. The light aspect comprises qualities like joy, wonder, playfulness and curiosity. It carries the warm fuzzy memories of our early years, as well as the recognition of the unique gifts we’ve had ever since we can remember. The shadow aspect is the so-called ‘wounded child’ – a powerless, vulnerable, victimised image of our younger selves. It carries the negative memories of all the ways we were mistreated or limited by parents and social groups, resulting in wounds we’ve carried to our present reality.
In this article, I’d like to share with you 3 strategies for working with the wounded child that have brought amazing shifts in my own journey. I’d like to encourage you to take some quiet time to tune into them through meditation and/or journalling, starting with the following question:
‘What is a childhood wound/painful memory that I am still carrying around and want to bring consciousness to?’
Once you have your answer, you can proceed to examine that wound from 3 perspectives:
1. Connect to the wounded child
Begin with creating a space where you dis-identify with the wounded child, while at the same time fully seeing and welcoming him/her into your being. Close your eyes and imagine yourself at your current age entering your childhood room. As you open the door and walk in, you can see your younger self sitting on the bed. Go sit next to him/her and say ‘hello’. Look at him/her in the eye, see what they are feeling (related to the wound you’ve identified), what they want, where your connection leads you. Maybe you just give some appreciation to your younger self or give them a hug. Maybe you have a discussion or go do something together. Maybe they decide to join you for an activity in your current reality. Allow your intuition to guide you to the best way to connect to that child. What’s important here is to simply see that part of you, acknowledge his/her needs and learn how to connect to it from the perspective of an adult.
2. Find the gem in your wound
When traumatic memories surface in our psyche, we tend to focus on the negative aspects of our wounds and it’s easy to forget the growth they carry. There’s a question that can help bring back that perspective, rewrite the meaning of that memory and anchor a deep connection to your unique gifts. The question is:
‘What’s the gem in this negative experience? What capacity have I grown in order to cope with this situation that’s been serving me up to this day?’
For example, in my own past there was a difficult moment when I was 8 years old where both my parents became very weak and vulnerable. I found myself toughening up and being there for them as they shared their deepest wounds with me. On one hand, this created a ‘superwoman/self-sacrifice’ pattern where I’d look to understand and be there for people no matter what, forgetting myself and my own needs in the process. I carried that wound for a long time and did a lot of inner work to bring back a basic awareness of my own needs and desires in my relationships with others.
On the other hand, however, that same wound taught me how to listen and accept people and be there with them in their world. My coping strategy spilled out of my family into all my relationships and generated the gem in my wound – my ability to connect deeply with others. Compared to someone who hasn’t been through such an experience, I have 23 years of practice of deep listening and support. It’s no wonder a huge part of my alignment has been related to putting that gift in service to others through coaching and other work I do. There’s a deep knowing in me that this capacity is actually what my life and calling is all about. And that this wouldn’t be the case had I not been through those hard times 23 years ago.
3. Look for the exceptions
Our minds are pattern spotting machines. They form theories about how the world works and then start collecting data that supports those theories and ignoring data that doesn’t. This applies also to our childhood memories. If we focus on what hasn’t worked well in our childhoods, our brains will keep serving us with more and more examples that confirm our theories. Thus we dig deeper and deeper neural circuits supporting the victim pattern we have spotted and creating an identity around it. A way to get out of that loop is to ask ourselves:
“Have there been any exceptions to this limiting pattern? Have there been any situations where something different happened instead?”
For example, let’s say you’ve spotted a pattern of ‘scarcity mentality’ in your family which you believe is influencing your relationship with money to this day. You will probably be able to point to many instances where that scarcity mentality has brought you pain and disappointment. Maybe you could not get the things you wanted or maybe you were shamed for overspending. Maybe someone in your family had issues because of money or a parent’s story of ‘money being evil’ made its way to your system. But you can also look for positive memories related to money and direct attention there, thus reinforcing the ‘abundance mentality’ circuit.
An example from my own childhood that I have used to reshape my relationship with money was a ritual I had with my grandfather when I was a little girl. Every afternoon of my summer vacation, at 4pm sharp, I would run to him to get money for ice-cream. The joy I felt and shared with my grandpa around receiving money in this way was an exception to the general rule of shame and guilt around asking for money. It was like converting my joy into joy for someone else too, out of which I received cash I used to get myself even more joy in the form of ice-cream. Integrating this memory in my morning practice has had a huge impact on the way I relate to money and through it – the actual amount I am generating each month with my service.
The strategies above are just a few of the ways you can work with the wounded child. When given proper time and space, however, they have the capacity to generate radical shifts in your psyche. Have fun exploring them and let me know how they worked for you.
About The Paradise Vlog
I believe we already are in paradise, regardless of where we are and what’s going on in our lives. I believe life is a journey towards becoming aware of this and enjoying as much of it as we can in the limited amount of time we have here. The ‘The Paradise Vlog’ youtube channel is the space where I share my process of shedding patterns and beliefs that obstruct our view in order to replace them with presence, joy and wonder. It’s also my invitation to you – an invitation to connect and journey together in creative ways, as we help each other see through to the greatest expression of ourselves. I also love creating spaces for growth-oriented people to connect to their soul power and life purpose. I do that in the form of coaching and workshops. Reach out if you feel curious to explore these topics with me.