Healing Inner Child Wounds
Are there any unmet needs, emotions, or wounds that you have carried with you since childhood and never fully addressed? For Mental Health Awareness Month, we want to encourage turning inward and exploring a part of yourself that has always been present, holds significant memories, and reveals patterns that helped you survive growing up: the inner child. By reconnecting with your inner child, you can heal past wounds and build more fulfilling relationships – not only with others but also with yourself.
Inner Child Wound Types
Inner child wounds can present in a multitude of ways, stem from a variety of childhood experiences, and can continue showing up well into adulthood. These wounds are often associated with attachment and relationships to caregivers; therefore, they tend to manifest the most strongly in relationships, especially more intense and vulnerable relationships such as romantic partnerships. Even if you do not feel as if you experienced trauma growing up, your inner child is still an important part of you and may still have unexpressed needs that desire nurturing. As you reflect on core memories, experiences, or feelings around your childhood, what do you notice? The most prominent forms of inner child wounds are abandonment, guilt, neglect, and trust.
● Abandonment Wound
For those that have an abandonment wound, they may tend to feel left out in group environments, struggle to be alone and therefore attach easily and quickly to others, threaten to leave when activated, let boundaries be crossed in order to prevent being left, and of course fear further abandonment in relationships. Many of these individuals with abandonment wounds may feel drawn to people who are emotionally unavailable or distant in a subconscious attempt to overcome or heal from their past pain.
● Guilt Wound
Having a guilt wound is characterized by feeling guilt and sometimes shame when others feel upset or express difficult, unpleasant emotions. Those with a guilt wound may find themselves anticipating the needs of others and feeling responsible for managing others’ feelings. Therefore, those with this wound may attract people who make them feel guilty, struggle to set boundaries or ask for their own needs to be met, and may also resort to using guilt to manipulate in relationships as well.
● Neglect Wound
Neglect wounds might look like having low self-worth, struggling to let things go, not being able to say no, getting angry easily, and fearing vulnerability. People with this wound may feel drawn to or attract relationships with others who continue to not make them feel seen or appreciated. These individuals may also experience a state of emotional regression when feeling triggered; emotional regression is characterized by reacting in ways that are overly sensitive or do not fit the situation, which illustrates ties to past wounds and trauma.
● Trust Wound
With a trust wound, this individual may fear getting hurt; therefore, they may prevent putting themselves in situations that could result in getting hurt. This may manifest in surface-level relationships in which they don’t ever develop trust or feel safe. While this person may feel insecure and require a plethora of external validation, they also tend to attract relationships with people who don’t feel safe – thus, perpetuating the belief and cycle that others are not trustworthy.
Ways to Reparent Inner Child
Regardless of how your inner child may be hurting, there is always a wiser version of you that can provide healing and reparenting to the younger self. The first step is to shift from blame and shame to self-compassion. It can be easier when we think of our younger self in the image of an actual child. When we think of children, we want to protect them and we know they are never to blame for the ways they have been treated or wounded. Practice cultivating this same empathy and understanding for that part within you, even if there are maladaptive behavior patterns from that time continuously showing up in adulthood that you associate with shame. Know these behaviors are coming from that wounded place. We can hold ourselves accountable while still building a culture of compassion. Building a culture of compassion requires sustainable effort. Consider how you can reconnect with that younger version of you by using play to re-engage with childhood interests. This can allow you to learn more about your core values, your sense of self, and how to develop a better overall relationship with yourself. As you move deeper into this process, identify what self-care or community care you can partake in to honor your needs, including needs that were unmet in childhood. For an abandonment wound, you might honor needs by surrounding yourself in relationships that feel safe and soothing to your nervous system. You might practice a safe place visualization and affirm that you are safe and that you yourself will always be there. For a guilt wound, practice setting healthy boundaries and maintaining them using consequences. A neglect wound may require allowing space for you to acknowledge, express, and validate any emotions that may have been repressed or dismissed in the past. As for a trust wound, you can work on building inner trust by holding yourself accountable and following through with any promises or commitments you make to yourself. No matter what wounds you sustained throughout childhood, healing is possible through your inner child. If you are looking for support or guidance as you process the way you show up in relationships and paths toward reconnecting with your inner child, reach out to Embrace Therapy today. We are here to help.