Updated: Jan 6
I would like to share some of my reflections on Inner Child work, which is based on my personal experience as a therapist, as well as my personal development and knowledge of working with people. This work has been transformative for me, and I hope that my reflections can provide some insight or inspiration for others who may be considering embarking on this journey.
"You can only hold the space for others if you are able to hold yourself. 'Holding yourself' means holding your inner child within.
This watercolor painting I did many years ago is a copy of someone else's work (a photograph). I wish I could credit the original artist/photographer, but unfortunately I don't remember who it was. However, I do remember having a strong, visceral feeling when I saw the image and feeling drawn to recreate it in watercolor.
In my experience, whatever therapeutic modality or intervention is used, it is not effective for producing long-lasting change without the presence of Carl Rogers' core conditions, such as empathy (a process), unconditional positive regard (an attitude), and congruence (a state of being) in the practitioner. It is the quality of the therapeutic relationship that promotes healing, not the intervention itself. In fact, the most important aspect of any therapeutic modality or intervention is the process of reconnecting, reclaiming, and reparenting one's inner child at different stages of development.
The work of healing my inner child has been the most difficult task I have undertaken in my life. Although I am not afraid of hard work (I am Polish, after all), this kind of work has been the most challenging part of my journey. It is an ongoing process that I believe will be a lifelong endeavor.
Trauma is corrosive damage to the human psyche that can leave one feeling unsafe in the world. However, the human organism is clever and has a way of helping itself survive by dissociating and adopting different survival strategies. And then, life brings us situations and people who can help us heal and resolve our past traumas.
When I was studying Fine Art, I created a concrete cast of a baby doll. At the time, I didn't understand what was going on within me. I had a limited level of awareness compared to what I have now. The way I was working creatively was a very organic and unfolding process. It wasn't until later, when I began my path as a counselor, that I understood the significance of my art and how it related to my family history, personal history, and the child within me
Love typically comes from the mother and boundaries come from the father. However, due to their own traumas, in many cases the message about what love and healthy boundaries are can be misleading, confusing, or dysfunctional.
To be loved, accepted, and cared for are basic needs. The love and care of an adult are not only the foundation for a child's survival, but are necessary for healthy development. When a child's basic needs are not met due to significant others' traumas, the person transitions into adulthood with a deficit within and spends time searching for an external source of love later in life.
When a person has not received adequate love and care in childhood, they may get into toxic or codependent relationships as adults. They may view their partner as a child views a dysfunctional parent, full of hope that one day, things will change. They may try to fix, control, or manipulate others and situations in an attempt to make that change happen, much like a child waiting for Christmas with hope for a better future.
This all happens on a deep, unconscious level because it is so foreign to look within, fix oneself, and take care of oneself and one's life. People often unconsciously replicate and relive a familiar dynamic from childhood, rather than facing and addressing their own needs.
It is so important to reconnect with the inner child, acknowledge what was lacking or missing, and recognize which needs were not met by significant others.
How it was for me?
This process involved getting in touch with loss and saying goodbye to it in order to move forward, always with respect for the past and an understanding of how it shaped me.
When a child experiences fear and trauma, and when parents harm the child or do not set limits, boundaries are violated and there is a violation of trust. In adulthood, it can be difficult to set healthy boundaries within oneself
Question: What about the ability to set limits or boundaries for oneself?
First, it's important to establish internal boundaries or limits. Once these are in place, external boundaries will adjust accordingly.
The brain likes symbols and rituals because they represent something deep within us. Many years ago, I was working with a therapist (a wonderful human being) on revisiting a traumatic event. During one session, she offered to bring a bag of toys and suggested that we use them to recreate the scene. I agreed and we sat on the floor as I set up the toys. She was just beside me, holding a safe space for me. This was a very profound and healing experience for me.
The healing of the inner child involves to pay attention, to listen to it, to give love and care, and acknowledge its feelings. Without this love and care, there can be no progress. When you rebuild the connection between your inner adult and inner child, and you are able to provide love and acceptance for your inner child, it is a huge accomplishment. It's also important to be able to set limits for yourself.
To say No!
I stop here!
This does not serve me,
I am not going there…
I stop here... on my second drink …
This is an aspect of inner child work that can be challenging for the inner adult. The inner child may have sabotage ideas, manipulate to get its way, put pressure on the inner adult, or deny the skills, talents, and abilities. It may want to do nothing and just wait for someone to finally change everything and notice these skills and talents, saying "Yes, you can!" This can be frustrating for the inner adult to deal with.
The foundation of inner child work is to love, listen to, and accept ourselves (our inner child) unconditionally, and to have empathy towards them. However, empathy can only be effective if healthy boundaries are in place.
The most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves. Alongside my counseling training, I participated in many workshops that used creative and imaginative methods to work with the inner child. I have seen firsthand how powerful this approach can be in helping us reconnect, reclaim, and nurture the child within. As a result, we are able to establish trusting relationships with ourselves, which is the foundation for healthy relationships with others.
Thank you for reading.