The Healing Magic Of Inner-Child Work

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The Healing Magic Of Inner Child Work

"Inner-child work" therapy focuses on the unmet needs of childhood, and how fulfilling those needs can lead to a complete, more confident, and self-actualized individual.

This work is mostly experiential. It isn't talk therapy and is inclusive of many other modalities of therapy, as well. It was a recipe made up of several modalities, knowing when and how to use each one appropriately to achieve optimum results.

Inner-child work can take years of training, experience, and talent.

RELATED: How To Nourish And Heal Your Inner Child

Not unlike golf, a good golfer must first be talented and know what club to take from the golf bag to get the ball in the hole and win the game. I have always said, if you only have one club in your golf bag, you'll play a lousy game of golf.

Letting go of repressed feelings.

Inner-child work is highly abreactive, meaning it will help you get in touch with repressed feelings and allow them to be discharged.

Often, the discharge of those repressed feelings can be very intense. Infantile rage and unrelenting cries accompanied by howling, screaming, pounding a bat, and a cascade of grief are common.

It's essential for your therapist to encourage you to release your repressed anger and grief so you can heal.

“Let it come up! Say it again! Again! Louder! Louder! Give back the shame that was given to you! Bring the bat down! Fight for your child!”

These are a few of the expressions used to help you release the toxic shame that has stifled your emotional development and kept you from becoming the person you're intended to be.

Inner-child work means recovering your repressed memories.

So many adults who had been abused in their childhood have unconsciously repressed these memories to protect themselves when they were subjected to violence.

Many developed a dissociative disorder that is manifested in separating themselves from the trauma. That loss of integration resulted in becoming split off from their authentic self. Over the years, they became a lost self.

Addiction and coping. 

To some degree, everyone has developed post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. Too many have taken the path of addiction, no matter what the drug of choice.

In psychological terms, addiction is a pathological relationship with either a substance, person, or behavior that has mood-altering effects and life-threatening consequences. In laymen’s terms, it’s something you can’t stop.

Inner-child work and child abuse. 

The abuse may have been physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, intellectual, or spiritual. Often there was a combination.

The chronicity of the abuse will determine the repression and severity of the consequences. It's essential that during treatment, the client release these unconscious feelings to a benign witness who can validate them, thus proving this really did happen.

It is not unusual that you'll think you're crazy and perhaps made up these stories because your memories have been damaged by the abuse and the repression. This is the job of the therapist and any group members. It helps you champion your inner child.

What can you expect in the process of healing your inner child?

The process is exhausting, but relieves you from your abusive past. It allows the adult part of you to take care of your precious inner child, promotes a corrective experience, and allows you to give back the shame that poisoned your self-worth when you were too young to defend yourself against the violence.

Your childhood may have been violated by someone who was ostensibly supposed to protect and care for you (like your parents), but instead abused and abashed you in ways that destroyed your sense of being.

The results are very complicated and devastating. It leaves a child defenseless, believing that they don’t matter. Every child must feel they matter, otherwise they grow up believing they have no worth.

Your survival suit (false self) develops to protect against pain that became lodged in the limbic system — the part of the brain that's the seat of emotions. It gets trapped and acts as a defense mechanism, not unlike shock absorbers in a car.

By protecting you from the pain you felt as a child, it also inhibits your personal growth and development. Your authentic self and true essence gets lost along the way.

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It's a double-edged blade. The pain wants to be released, but the amygdala doesn't cooperate.

The internal conflict grows as you get older. You'll spend years seeking to matter and looking for love in all the wrong places. Your self-esteem is destroyed and leads to intractable emotional pain and the road to addiction.

The addiction is how to numb out the pain and artificially fill the hole in your soul. It’s a way of self-medicating.

Back then, you were too young and vulnerable to protect yourself against the violence, and too often felt responsible for your parents' moods and behaviors, believing it was your fault and you're not worthy of being loved as a result.

Too often, you took on the feelings of your parents and unconsciously identify with the one who abused you, recreating the same behaviors that tortured you as a child. This results in multi-generational toxic shame.

These feelings get acted out into behaviors, repeating the patterns of the parent who abused you. The equation is that dysfunctional families, coupled with abuse, neglect, and abandonment, lead to addiction.

The drug of choice does not matter. The family of origin dysfunction and abuse creates the shame that addiction attempts to cover up. The reality is, it doesn’t work.

Now, you have two issues: Your wounded inner child and the addiction. The truth is, we have become a culture of addictions.

The goal of inner-child work is to reclaim, heal, and champion the child that lives within you. It's essential to discover your authentic self; feel your essence, and become the person you were intended to be.

To go to your grave never knowing who you are is the greatest of tragedies.

So what results can you expect from doing inner child work?

This question is much easier to answer. I have always said, if a person decides to commit, the universe will cooperate.

You can expect to be liberated from the past, to live your life authentically, setting boundaries, being true to yourself, and becoming a healthy, mature adult.

Ostensibly, you'll become the person you were intended to be. You'll find healthy relationships, enjoy the freedom of being yourself, and most of all, loving yourself.

The best part is that you'll no longer be dependent on your drug of choice to live your life. You will redeem the life you lost and deserve.

To achieve this outcome, you must be committed to the process. It takes time, effort, patience, energy, and money. But it will be perhaps the best investment you will ever make in your life.

How long does it take for inner-child work therapy to be effective?

It depends on you. Remember, it's not an event. It's a process.

The work can be done bi-weekly, weekly, or in a one- to three-day intensive, eight hours at a time. Many return again a few weeks later to do more work.

Everyone has their own goals and knows when they need more work or when they feel complete.

If you want to heal from the past, now is the best time to do inner-child work and improve your relationship with yourself. Don't hold yourself back because of the pain you've experienced in the past.

RELATED: 20 Quotes To Remind Us That It's OK To Let Your Inner Child Out

Joan E. Childs, LCSW, is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I Hate The Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success, to be released October 11, 2020. To learn more about how Encounter-Centered Couples Therapy can renew and restore your relationship, contact her via email, or telephone her at 954-568-1004.

This article was originally published at Joan E. Childs. Reprinted with permission from the author.