Why do we talk about the Inner Child as though there's only one living inside of us?
If you think of your authentic self as the soul you turned up with when you began this life, you can consider all of your emotional traumas as those things that have chipped away at it throughout your lifetime, stunting your growth at those points.
Or can you honestly tell me that you've only suffered one emotional trauma?
The National Institute of Mental Health defines childhood trauma as, "The experience of an event that is emotionally painful or distressful, which often results in lasting mental and physical events." Notice the use of the word experience. An adult looking in or looking back would probably never consider some of these events trauma-inducing, but that's part of the shame that the adult you carries; you can rationalise things all you want, but getting beaten up by a girl is emasculating. Or a dog barking in your face when you're an infant is terrifying. Or Daddy letting go of your bike when he promised he wouldn't is trust-breaking. Sure, you can look back at all of it now and understand why you don't trust strong women (or their dogs), but until you heal your wounded inner children, you will likely never overcome it.
OK, so those're some pretty innocuous consequences, I agree, but oftentimes the traumas are infinitely more, uh, traumatic, or they layer one upon the other, colouring and solidifying an individual's view of him/herself and the world. Take, for example, the four year-old son of a single mom. Dad is in the picture but off raising another family. He is unpredictable and frequently cancels plans with the boy who concludes:
Then there's the latchkey kid who has to look after his younger siblings because his mom works until six. When she gets home , she berates the boy for not yet having dinner on the table.
What about the artistic teenager, the only son, whose father was a football star back in his day? Dad feels that he can tease and bully his son into being the boy he wanted. Dad doesn't hold back, even gets his buddies in on the action. The son thinks:
Now imagine that that is the same boy at different ages. In the example, his first wounded child is a preschooler. The wound may show up as rage, the rage his four year-old self felt, but could not express, toward his father. The second of the boy's wounded children was school-aged. The wounds might present in adulthood as social awkwardness, procrastination, and black-and-white thinking. The wounded adolescent often presents as conflict with authority figures, a sense of superiority, or a reluctance to take action.
Same man, three inner children.
Inner child work is fascinating and rewarding, but it can also be complex. I like to start with limiting beliefs and work backwards. Here's the list of limiting beliefs that I work from. Take a look and see which ones strike a chord with you. Please let me know if there are any others I need to add to the list.
You will recognise your own inner children by the negative thoughts in your head. You may even find that the voices sound like someone you know - your mother or father, a teacher, sibling, or bully from your childhood. Six years ago, I named mine, called them S**thead and A**hole. I thought that made them easier to tell off. More recently, however, I've learned that that's counter-productive; I had to acknowledge them as a part of me, so I've started instead saying, "Thank you for your input."
Full disclosure, these days when I'm doing my own inner child work, I call all of mine L'il Wooz. *breathes* When I was born my older brother, Mike, couldn't say Christie. I was Tizzy. Yep, Tizzy turned into Tizzy Wizzy Woozle. Side note: My father used to frequent a restaurant at which I worked. In front of my full section, staff, and management, he would cry out, "Wooz!" to get my attention. But I digress...
After a fair bit of work, L'il Wooz and I now have a wonderful relationship. She still pops up from time to time, in the form of anger or frustration, just to let me know where some attention is needed. We go and hang out in our hammock to chat and heal. It's really peaceful.
So is my life these days, I'm blessed and happy to say. :)
What do you want your legacy to be?
John Bradshaw, Inner Child Therapy pioneer and author of six books including Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing your Inner Child, used the mnemonic CONTAMINATE to define his model of how your wounded inner child can turn up in your adult life.
Acting out/acting in behaviours
Emptiness (apathy, depression)
Bradshaw also brought the terms "inner child', 'toxic shame'. and 'dysfunctional family' into common usage.
Shatter the pattern of dysfunction for your family.
Christie Morden is Calgary's premier emotional legacy coach. Her unique and revolutionary blend of guided meditation and coaching techniques helps her clients achieve results fast and get the healing that they and their families need to shatter the pattern of generational emotional trauma.
Leave the world better.
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Mental Health Coach