I would roll my eyes any time I heard the term, “Heal your Inner Child,” when I began my healing journey in my 20’s. I couldn’t see past myself into the potential that I was more than my mind. What I didn’t realize, and wouldn’t for years, is that inner child healing is an unavoidable practice of spiritual awakening.
We are more than our minds.
Much more. We are complex beings, body, mind and spirit, and we contain an inner child that remains with us for the duration of our lives. Even though I thought it was silly, and I couldn’t really completely buy into it, I still tried an Inner Child meditation. I had at that point been practicing meditation for some time as a means to ease anxiety and help with a medical issue. The meditation part wasn’t hard for me, but picturing myself as a child and then interacting with her was pretty difficult. Still, I persisted and completed the meditation. And then became distracted by other things and didn’t do it again for a long time.
I was reminded again of the Inner Child meditation sometime a decade later, and tried it again. It was easier this time, and I was able to imagine holding small me, and consoling her over no specific issue. I didn’t feel anything miraculous had taken place, but I was pleased with my progress. The process stepped back into my life again a few years later. I had never made it a regular practice, and still wasn’t really sure why it was helpful.
And then…my therapist blew my mind with an unannounced winding back of my personal clock to my childhood with one question: What is the first memory you have of feeling unsafe?
She walked me backwards through my life, and to the first memory I had of feeling unsafe. I was surprised during the calm, almost hypnosis of wending through my memories that one of my first memories of feeling unsafe was with the person I had in my life felt the most safe with, my grandmother. You have to understand, my grandmother was loving, calm, and took life on with humor and unmatched grace. Even still, on one singular occasion she happened to lose her cool with me, and I recalled this in the therapy session. I was three years old, my parents had just dropped me off at grandma’s, and I was not happy.
I felt abandoned.
During this regression, I remembered how sad and abandoned I felt that long ago day in Los Angeles. I have always been incredibly sensitive. So sensitive that big emotions would almost seem to want to swallow me whole. So, little me threw a gigantic tantrum. I wailed and cried and just didn’t stop. My grandmother, beside herself, sat me in a chair in the dining room to invite me to calm down and stop crying. This was an excellent tactic, or would have been, if it had worked. It didn’t. I sat in the chair and just continued to carry on with all the impressive snotty-faced anguish of a sensitive three year old.
At some point, grandma had enough, and she spanked me. As a sensitive child, I felt this as violence. I didn’t understand what was happening, and I felt all of her frustrations as her hand met my denim-covered bottom, as if each swat brought her frustrations into me and further complicated the fear and alone-ness I was already feeling.
At the time I remembered this, my grandma could not have a conversation with me about it due to a significant illness. If we had the conversation, she would have, I know, been open to it and would have apologized. I wasn’t upset with her; it was one instance over a lifetime of perfect grandma behavior. I didn’t need to forgive her; she had always cared for me, and with such sensitivity, that I didn’t feel I had anything to forgive. Even still, that moment had an impact on my life, and finding that memory helped me understand myself on a deeper level. Just imagining talking about this with my grandma and connecting to her love is, in itself, empowering.
I walked through the memory, mentally, with my therapist and I changed it. Grown me walked into the dining room, scooped little me up, brushed her hair out of her tear-soaked face, hugged her close, and said, “You are safe and I love you.”
This brings me to tears even now because the memory and the healing of it was so powerful for me, and it still makes me feel so loved. Truly loving ourselves requires that we love our child selves too. You see, I didn’t enter therapy to heal my inner child. I went because I needed a mental health check-in after breaking up with a person I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, and I wanted to explore that relationship. And I did, but then was brought to the choices I had made and how my unhealed parts participated in my love life.
People who would never intentionally harm us can absolutely contribute to our future mental health in some way by simply acting poorly in one instant that impacts us until we heal the trauma of it. We inflict trauma on people without intending to or without even knowing we have done so. This is why this work is so important. Trauma has many layers and levels, some minor like a one-time spanking and more significant trauma of abuse patterns or narcissistic parenting. We all have childhood trauma.
If you are feeling inspired to embrace your inner child, here are seven methods to help you heal your inner child and create a more empowered and satisfying life.
Do I sound like a broken record? Yeah. I will always put therapy at the beginning of the list when it comes to healing and personal development. Retrieving and healing a memory from one spanking is something I did with a therapist, but could have done by myself without negatively impacting my mental health. I was in a solid mental space. I had no animosity toward my grandmother, and it was one incident. If there is trauma in your childhood that supersedes your feeling of safety in walking through it alone, please seek a trained professional to help you process and heal. I have plenty of that, too. I’ve been there, and seeking a professional can make the process so much more palatable.
A trained professional will be able to more adeptly help you identify what experiences may impact your current life, and will be able to help you process them in a way that helps you feel safe as well as offer tools for coping when processing trauma if it leaves you feeling open and raw.
Inner Child Meditation
This is, in my mind, the most beautiful of the practices. The love I felt for my little self when I walked through my memories was an experience that now feels so real to me, as if I am actually going back in time to heal the entire situation as I am healing myself. The love I have for myself increases exponentially after using this practice. This may take some time to get the hang of, so don’t give up on it if you struggle to connect immediately.
To practice the Inner Child meditation, make yourself comfortable, and begin a meditation as you normally would. Imagine yourself as you are now, and then slowly walk yourself backwards through your lifetime. See yourself as you were a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, and then regress through to find events in your life that have made you feel unsafe. When I practice these types of visualizations, I will often speak out loud about what I am experiencing. I find this to be helpful in processing and remembering the experience.
During a particularly difficult spiritual awakening, I was referred to a massage therapist that practices lymphatic drainage, and Reiki as well as other modalities. One particularly intense session, as I lay on the table, tears began streaming down both sides of my face. I was unaware what I was releasing, but in my mind I could hear a small child frantically crying over and over, “I’m not bad!”
The small child repeated the phrase in urgency and panic, in my mind. After a few minutes it dawned on me that I was hearing myself as a small child. It was my tiny scared voice I was hearing. I have no idea to this day what memory I was releasing. Obviously some early punishment of some type where I was made to feel like I was bad. I recalled the inner child work I’d previously done, and I imagined picking up little me, calming her, loving her, and telling her she was safe, while we cried together.
Body work is miraculous because unhealed emotions and trauma remain in our bodies.
Dress like your inner child
Inner child work doesn’t have to be stressful. Do the thing younger you would have loved; but the silly socks, roll your pant legs up; wear the colorful shoes, color your hair or pierce your nose, wear the fraggle rock or the sky dancers t-shirt. Any action that brings out the child in you through healthy expression.
Invite your childhood joy and innocence back with play. Go for a nature walk, play in the river, dance around your living room, build a blanket fort, finger paint, play with your children or children you are close with at a playground and actually play, swing at your local park; buy the video game you wanted when you were a kid and didn’t have, or the toy, join a fun-fitness class that focuses on playfulness as much as fitness.
Make a day of it! Have cake for breakfast, paint pottery or go roller skating; have the lunch 7 year old you would have wanted, sit under a tree and read a book, have waffles for dinner, stay up extra late and watch your favorite childhood movies. It’s your play day, do what your inner child would be excited about.
One snowy night, when neither of my children were home, I got home from work and had to shovel the drive. When I entered the backyard, as I was finishing up, the dog got the zoomies. I stayed outside in the dark, throwing snowballs for the dog to chase and making a snowman. I’m certain this made 7 year old me so very happy. Play can be very healing, especially if as children we carried a lot of responsibility or were particularly serious
Favorite Childhood Media
Watch a television show you loved when you were a kid or listen to a song you loved. Explore how it makes you feel now and why it makes you feel that way. This is an excellent practice to repeat over time and journal about.
Talk to Your Inner Child
Ask your inner child questions as journal prompts and then answer them, either immediately or after meditation.
Say I Love You as a Practice
Place your favorite picture of little you on the bathroom mirror and regularly tell them (you) that you love them (yourself).
Healing our inner child is some of the most healing and impactful work we can do, clearing blockages, easing pain, making sense of patterns, empowering us, transforming our lives. This kind of work sends a vibrant thread of healing that stretches through the fabric of time, healing our lives. This healing thread goes beyond the thread of our own lives; healing ripples into the lives of others in our lives.
It’s the closest thing to time travel.