Various types of therapy suggest the metaphor that we have an inner child inside us. This inner child is representation of each of us during our childhood. We clearly don’t actually have a child inside us (unless we are pregnant), but we can still connect to imagery associated with us as a child, or feelings in our body, or our emotional needs and wants. I am a therapist who believes in this theory and approach and it is something I find myself working with a lot, in a variety of different ways.
The idea of an inner child doesn’t sit right with everyone though. You might be reading this and think I’m bonkers, or I don’t know what I’m talking about, or you don’t have one or something else that shows you don’t believe in this. That’s ok. If this doesn’t sit right for you, then it’s still worth a read, but it would just be that you, at this point, wouldn’t find work like this useful.
I tend to allow people to introduce this idea to themselves. Someone may say ‘it’s like I have a child inside me’ or ‘I feel like a little girl/boy’ or ‘some part of me really wants to be looked after’ or ‘I’m just acting like a child’ or ‘I feel like I did when I was 9’, or something similar that shows that person connects to something inside them. From there, we would explore what the client is experiencing, the same way we would when exploring something else. That way, if the idea of an inner child doesn’t work for someone, then it won’t be something that would come into therapy anyway. Equally, if someone comes and asks for inner child work, then I can and do do that too.
It can be helpful for us to get to know our inner child because when she is confident, secure and thriving, so will we be, as she is fundamental to us; after all, she was us. I tend to use the term ‘Little X’ (with X being someone’s name), but each person sees their inner child in a unique way, because each person and therefore, each inner child, are different. Some will have names all of their own (rather than being ‘Little X’), some feel the child within them, some feel the child is an ‘add on’, some are very separate and have his/her own identity, some people have more than one (be it different ages, or genders, or created by different experiences in childhood). All of these differences, and any others, are ok. You will discover your child for yourself, and just go with whatever feels right for you.
To connect to your inner child, you might need to do a bit of logical thinking, and also some feeling and work out what behaviours or emotions you have that may be seen as childlike, what feelings you have that relate to when you were young, maybe try to notice different body sensations in you at different times, maybe try to pay attention to any time you give a response that you wouldn’t normally give, think about any times when you felt really like a child in a particular situation, try to notice any time you act differently from the you that you know you are as an adult. This won’t be a quick process and can take days, weeks, months, years of exploration and discovery, and that’s ok. Try not to be frustrated and try not to rush yourself. Some people connect quickly, others take some time.
When you do start to connect and then communicate, it can feel odd, but it’s perfectly normal and ok. We all have a level of internal dialogue, internal imagery and internal chatter and all of these can be ways to communicate with your inner child.
Some adults have a secure, insightful, playful, curious inner child. Other people may have an insecure, scared, anxious, sad inner child. Some people may connect to both.
For those of you who believe in this idea of an inner child, which of those do you connect with the most?
How much do you think your inner child impacts on your daily life?
How did you identify what sensations, behaviours, emotions, body feelings and responses may be your inner child?
Can you feel him/her in your body?
What feelings, behaviours, responses and body feelings do you associate with him/her?
You might even have a sense of the age of your inner child, if you do, what is this?
Do you have an image of your child? What is s/he wearing? Does s/he look like you? Do you feel it is you?
Does s/he have a voice? What would s/he say to you?
What are your feelings about your inner child? Do you feel positively or less positively towards him/her?
If you connect with the secure, insightful, playful, curious inner child, are you as in touch with him/her as much as you could be? Do you allow him/her to play, to be curious, to explore when it’s ok for him/her to do so? Is there anything else you could do to get more in touch with him/her?
If you connect more to the child who is insecure, scared, anxious or sad, what do you think s/he needs? What can you do to meet that need (in whatever way is safe to do so)? How in touch with him/her are you? Does s/he come out more at specific times? When are these?
Give yourself some time, and if this interests you, then continue to explore it. If you are finding that you or your inner child are becoming distressed or it’s bringing up pain or trauma from the past, then it would be sensible for you to seek the help of a properly qualified therapist to help you work through this.
Inner child work can be done using hypnosis to good effect, but it can also be done as a part of counselling or psychotherapy too because there is a lot of flexibility and a lot of ways to work.
It’s not uncommon for someone who is suffering depression, or anxiety, or low self esteem, or low self worth, or a phobia, or issues in relationships (as well as many other challenges) to find the roots of it are in childhood and that inner child work can bring around deep healing.