I have always held a keen interest in Inner Child Therapy and incorporate it into my work with clients as much as possible. I truly believe that it can touch the root of client’s issues in a way that other methods find difficult. Just recently, I have experienced with clients, some fantastic experiences. I thought it might be good to look at inner child therapy and the advantage that can be gained by accessing and communicating with our young selves.
Who you are today – your strengths, problems, level of self-esteem, habits – is in large part a product of your development. At each age, from birth to toddler to child to adolescent, you were met with certain typical challenges. If your caregivers raised you in a natural way that allowed you to healthily traverse each stage and master the skills necessary to progress, you most likely ended up a well-balanced, confident individual with a strong sense of yourself. However, at each stage, there are countless traumas, big and small, that can occur and keep you from resolving the issues of that stage. For example: If as an adult, you experience:
- An inexplicable need for attention, affection, company, reassurance and involvement.
- A need for security and acceptance either from a partner, best friend, group of friends.
- Being unable to form lasting relationships.
- Feelings or belief of not being lovable or worthy of being loved.
This could stem from:
- Lack of attention, affection, encouragement and support.
- Another sibling seeming to be favoured over you.
- Parents arguing.
- Parents divorcing.
- Finding out you were adopted.
- Being brought up in foster care.
Unresolved issues stay with us throughout our lives, expressing themselves in our relationships with ourselves and others. If you have a pattern of unhealthy relationships, low self-esteem, addictions or other problems, you may well be experiencing the results of unresolved issues from these childhood and adolescent stages and you might be able to benefit from overcoming trauma.
The inner child is the creative, spontaneous, loving, trusting, confident and spiritual part of us that may have gotten lost or learned to hide earlier in life due to feelings of fear and shame stemming from experiences of trauma and betrayal. This may have been due to abuse, mistreatment, misattunement or misunderstanding in childhood. It is a rare child who has adults around him or her all the time who are able to be fully present to his or her aliveness. As adults, we can return to childhood memories and ‘retrieve’ and heal that lost or hidden part of us to bring creativity, spontaneity, love, trust, confidence and deep spirituality fully back into our lives.
Inner Child therapy is a deep and profound psychotherapeutic healing experience. It goes to the source of the problem and cuts through much of the intellectual chatter which prevents us from living our dreams. We connect and heal the inner child in order to become whole and feel joyful and loving. It can be done through a combination of traditional talk therapy, guided meditation, heart-centered hypnotherapy, and breath work. It has roots in Jungian therapy as well as addiction recovery work, but is useful for many problems.
I follow a method pioneered by Lucia Capacchione who advocates a dominant/non-dominant writing and drawing process. She states that by using the non-dominant hand, we are accessing right brain functions, those which control among other things, emotional expression and intuition. It also allows the deeper levels of instinct and emotional memory to be tapped. By writing or drawing with the non-dominant hand, we enter a child-like state. This is exactly the area that has been subdued and locked away from our consciousness as the expectations and obligations of the analytical left brain take over and drives the inner child (the pure, untouched part of us), underground. A further step in the technique after accessing the inner child is to ask questions with the dominant hand and answering with the non-dominant.
Now back to those experiences. To access the inner child, I ask clients to imagine a beautiful place, to place their inner child there and then to draw this with the non-dominant hand. When they go on to describe in words, how the inner child is feeling, many feel a burst of emotion, some extreme bursts as they relive more carefree times and they realise how they have cut themselves off from their true self. How they have allowed society, education, upbringing and their own expectations to take them on a destructive path. One such case involves David (name changed), going through a difficult period in his life following a divorce and looking for his new path. His beautiful place was his parental home, with his inner child lying in a grass meadow looking at the clouds floating past. When I asked him to ask his inner child how he is feeling, he broke down. He realised that his new path was there the whole time, within him. We are continuing this work by getting to know his inner child, communicating with it and learning from it.
It takes a some intensive work to help clients let go of mistaken beliefs and self-attacking behavior, but it is possible, and clients report long-standing depression and anxiety as well as physical symptoms resolving after doing the work. As we let go of mistaken beliefs about ourselves, we can begin to love ourselves, and especially the naïve and trusting child part of us who was once hurt and wounded. As we heal, we can then also begin to love others more deeply. Clients who do this work suddenly find themselves reassessing relationships with partners and with their children, being able to be closer and to offer more caring to others and especially to themselves.