We all have inner children, parts of ourselves that hold the energy and memory of who we were as children and who stay with us as we grow and change. Healthy inner children are parts of our psyche that hold our joy, innocence, our creativity, our enthusiasm and our sense of magic/play. They are the vulnerable and soft parts of the self and the bouncy enthusiastic Tigger inside …
However, most of us did not have perfect childhoods. As such, most of us also have inner children that hold some of our original pain as well as the beliefs and patterns that keep us stuck. In extreme cases, in which serious abuse and trauma were present during childhood, inner children that hold deep pain can become repressed and stuck at the age of the injury. Sometimes the trauma is so severe that these fragmented child parts split off and become separated from the rest of the operational psyche; only to re-emerge when triggered by something that is reminiscent of the original traumatic experience.
Reclaiming, re-parenting and reintegrating the inner children allows for the pain that they carry to release, for the split off parts to begin reintegration and for new beliefs to be formed. Becoming friends with and re-parenting the inner children can shift patterns, but also bring back some of the positive aspects of the inner child that were lost.
When we work with the inner child, we go into an inner journey space together and meet these parts of the self that are young and often tucked away on corners of the psyche, forgotten. We enter into dialogue with these parts, so you may become aware of them. Sometimes just becoming aware of the inner child can be useful in seeing something one had not seen before. Most inner children operate in the unconscious world. Making the inner children conscious and giving them a voice, can be, in itself, healing. Learning to self sooth and to become the good parent to the inner child can also help the inner child feel safe, so it can reintegrate with the rest of the being.
Inner children are not the only aspect of the self that can become repressed. We are multifaceted beings, and we tend to embody some parts of us more than others. That is, we have dominant aspects of the personality and some not so dominant or even hidden. A person that works very hard, for example, will have a dominant part who’s is very responsible and hardworking and a non-dominant carefree and playful self. They will often attract that carefree playful self as a relationship partner and then fight with their significant other who wants them to play more. We tend to fight with what we repress. Or a person may have repressed their spiritual self and have a dominant rational self. Or they may have repressed their rational self and just embody that part of themselves that is boundary-less, but also ungrounded.
Most people do better when they are in balance, with opposite parts that can operate fluidly. If a part of the self is struggling to express or if we find ourselves in conflict with others that are very different to us, it can be useful to explore whats going on with our sub-personalities. This can be easily done, with guided exploration of the inner world.
For understanding more about inner children and sub-personality work, you can read books by Lucia Capacchione. Or become familiar with Hal and Sidra Stone’s work on Voice Dialogue.
PS. This work is not psychotherapy or clinical work. It is a tool for self exploration and awareness, not intended to treat any mental health condition. If you need psychotherapy or support with your mental health, please consult with a licensed psychologist, psychotherapist or other clinician.