In part 1 of this article, I spoke about what an inner child is and why it is the most critical relationship in our life. In this article, I will offer some simple exercises to now connect with your inner child and to begin to work with him/her. While I say these exercises are ‘’simple,’’ that doesn’t mean they are always easy. If at any point during these exercises it becomes overwhelming, just take a break or come back to it another time when you are feeling more grounded and centered.
1) What does your inner child look like?
- First and foremost, before you can connect with our inner child we need to see it or have a sense of it. To do this, find a quiet space by yourself and close your eyes. Think about yourself as a child and what do you see? Whatever image comes to you first is most likely your inner child. Remember that it can be any age between birth to 18 although typically it will be between ages 5-10.
Some questions to illicit your image more clearly are:
- What age are you?
- What are you wearing?
- What are you doing?
- What is your facial expression? Emotional state?
- Are you saying something?
- Are you somewhere particular? If not, it’s ok.
Pay attention to all the details of your inner child. The more you know your inner child the better. If the picture of your inner child is not very clear or specific, don’t worry about this. Get as best a picture in your mind as possible.
Once you have visualized your inner child, another option is to find a photo of yourself at the same age that reminds you of your inner child. This is for people who prefer to have a concrete photo to look at, but it’s not necessary. For those who like to draw or paint, you can also create a picture of your inner child to work with. Do what feels right for you. You can’t do this wrong.
Feel free to write down the details about your inner child and what you observe and hear. Again, this is not required, but if it helps you then go ahead.
2) Acknowledge your inner child
- Let your inner child know that you are present and listening. Depending on the emotional state of your inner child, you may need to apologize to it for having ignored him/her for so long. If your inner child appears very upset, this is probably a good place to start.
- Sit closely to your inner child and offer a hug if it will allow you.
- Tell your inner child that you love him/her very much and you want to understand how it feels.
- Ask your inner child how it is feeling and why. Depending on the age of your inner child, you may need to help it identify the feeling(s) or if the child isn’t verbal because it’s too young, you may need to do it on your own.
- Acknowledge and validate the child’s feelings no matter what they are. You don’t have to agree with them or understand them, but you need to acknowledge them. If you are unfamiliar with how to validate a feeling, use sentences like, “I see that you’re (upset, angry, sad, etc).” “I know it’s hard and I want you to know I’m here.” “I love you and I’m listening.”
3) Identify the themes of the inner child’s emotions and the underlying causes.
- Take notice of the primary emotions of your inner child (ie, anger, sadness, loss, feeling ignored, scared, incompetent, etc.) and ask the child and yourself where these feelings are coming from. What happened during your childhood causing these emotions to develop? If you have no idea at the beginning, start by thinking about your primary relationships first, meaning, the people who were your primary caretakers. Often it is in our primary and first relationships that have the deepest impact on our development and our beliefs. Of course, it’s also possible that the underlying causes of your inner child’s emotions may have occurred when they were a bit older so make sure to think about your entire childhood and explore with your inner child how they felt growing up.
4) Acknowledge the emotions and experiences with your inner child and give healing messages
- Use phrases like:
“I know you weren’t listened to when you were growing up, and that wasn’t fair. You deserved to be heard and I am listening to you. I love you and I will always listen to you.”
“I know you were treated badly and not protected when you were little. I’m so sorry you went through that. It wasn’t right or fair and you deserved love and respect and to be protected. I am here now to protect you and won’t let anything bad ever happen to you again.”
These are only a few examples to get you started. It’s most important that you speak from the heart and with love when talking to your inner child. If you find yourself not knowing what to say, again think about someone you trust and admire and what they would say in the same situation to a child. Or, think about what you wanted to hear when you were the age of your inner child. What did you need at that time? Sometimes just acknowledging and hugging your inner child can offer the most healing so don’t get too caught up on saying the “perfect” thing. This whole process is about giving love back to yourself essentially, so if it’s done from a place of love, you can’t go wrong.
5) Write a letter to your inner child
- This can be done in addition to the exercises above and is very powerful and healing. Write a letter to your inner child telling him/her all the things you needed to hear when you were growing up. Again, speak from your heart. Don’t worry about finding the “right” words for this exercise either. The process of writing the letter is the most important. After writing the letter, read it out loud to your inner child. If you prefer, you can also read the letter to something that represents your inner child (ie, a photo, drawing, doll). Make sure to do this, and the other exercises above, alone in a private and calm space since a lot of emotions can surface and you will need to be able to let them out. Don’t judge your reactions or emotions-- just acknowledge them and allow them to surface.
After completing these exercises, continue the process on a regular basis until you begin to notice your inner child feels emotionally balanced and secure. You will know this has occurred when you begin to feel less emotionally reactive in your day-to-day life and less negative emotions in general. You may also notice feeling more playful, joyful, energetic, confident, loving or assertive.
Remember that your connection with your inner child is a lifetime process, particularly during periods of emotional difficulty. Whenever you find yourself becoming overly emotional or reactive, feeling more sensitive or unhappy, always check in with your inner child first. Often, you will find an unresolved issue here that is surfacing and needs your attention and understanding.
Lastly, if you begin to feel overwhelmed at any point during this process, it may be warranted to see a psychotherapist or other type of healer you feel comfortable working with to provide you with additional support. It is not required, but if you feel the need, please reach out to someone who is qualified to help you with this. In the end, it’s most important that you make peace with your inner child in order to move towards a balanced, happy and healthy future.
Tania Manczarek is a holistic swiss army knife. A trained therapist, intuitive energy worker, certified yoga instructor, massage practitioner and hypnotist, she focuses on healing through the mind/body/spirit connection and helping people live an authentic and balanced life. Originally, from Los Angeles, she left to travel the world over 5 years ago to find her own path of healing and to follow her dreams. Now living in France, she offers individual wellness services by phone/Skype, events and retreats in France and abroad and support for individuals with chronic illness. Her FB group is Feel Better Be Happy.