If you listen closely, there’s a constant knocking at your door. I’m not talking about opportunity, we’ll leave that speech to Tony Robbins. I’m talking about your inner child, the one who was trustworthy, naive and vulnerable. The one who was carefree, didn’t even know what self love or self care was because they never believed the world would try to challenge that. Why are they knocking? Why even acknowledge the pain you went through as a child? We’re told to forgive and forget, to look forward, life is a marathon not a sprint, and no one looks back during either. Dredging up your past can make you feel like you’re constantly moonwalking through life, the illusion of going forward when you’re really gliding back.
Yet, as much as we shouldn’t dwell or linger on a past that might haunt us, that knocking will persist. At some point, there’s no set time or place or phase in your life, you have to acknowledge your guest, that little kid who did not have the power tools that you have now to know better, be better and do better. Invite them in, hear them out, and set them free of that hurt. They say that’s what you have to do with ghosts, confront and let go, and that’s exactly what your past trauma is, a lingering ghost who will show up unexpectedly, like an unwanted, uninvited guest, until you put your foot down. Hiding pain doesn’t heal it. Instead, it often surfaces in your adult life, showing up as distress in personal relationships or difficulty meeting your own needs. Working to heal your inner child can help you address some of these issues. Once you can do that, your inner child transforms. They’ll have a key and can become a source of inspiration, playfulness, carefree jubilance towards the world around you. Someone you can tap into when life gets too challenging or you feel bogged down by the weight of the present or the expectations of the future.
Not all of us were lucky enough to get exactly what we needed as kids. Love, praise, recognition, emotional support. Hell, we didn’t even know what a love language was then, let alone which one we specifically needed. But it’s never too late to heal. By learning to nurture your inner child, you can validate these needs, learn to express emotions in healthy ways, and foster self-compassion and self-love.
Power Tip 1: Don’t ignore the knock
There are parts of our past that have gone unacknowledged and they might manifest themselves as negative emotional habits. The first step, then, is to identify and acknowledge your triggers and the trauma that keeps rearing its ugly head. There is a thin line between being resilient and being desensitized and the difference lies in how self aware you are of the unconscious scars of your past. Trauma isn’t just war or physical abuse, although it definitely encompasses those things. Trauma is an experience that overwhelms you and strips you of the ability to stay in the moment, to appreciate yourself and be grateful for the life you have. Try to notice when you aren’t fully immersed in your present.
Let’s try something. Look in the mirror and pretend you’re speaking to the little kid you once were. Even if it feels a little silly, the conversation is probably long overdue. No one will know and we won’t tell anyone 😉. See it as a path to self discovery. The process of acknowledging your inner child mostly just involves recognizing and accepting things that caused you pain in childhood. Bringing these hurts out into the light of day can help you begin to understand their impact.
Power Tip 2: Listen to your guest but don’t be afraid to interrupt
Actively listening to your inner child means you are paying attention to your emotional reactions in challenging situations. Kim Egel, a licensed therapist, advises, “Situations that trigger intense emotions tend to awaken our inner child or ‘old wounds.’ Look for areas of discomfort, helplessness, insecurity, rejection, anger, fear, anxiety, a lack of control and grief. Generally, keep your eye out for situations that bring up resistance and a high emotional response. Look for a response that doesn’t align with the emotional intensity of the event.”
When you start to gently inquire about this misalignment of your emotional response to the present matter, you can start to understand how to express your emotions in a healthier way. This is when you can start interrupting the same flow of negative thoughts you’ve held close to your heart for as long as you know. “I have a hard time letting people in because my dad was an asshole,” “I feel insecure in my relationships because I’ve been abandoned so many times.” You can start to distance yourself from these past experiences, not letting them define you but rather, teach you how to move forward. What repeat behaviors do you have that obviously aren’t helping? Are you a people pleaser, do you lose your temper easily, do you give up on tasks even more easily?
Journaling and meditation are also ways to break this repetitive drone. They foster self awareness, they help you see patterns of destructive behavior, and they anchor you in the present so that you are almost forced some clarity. In order to integrate better habits into our daily lives, in order to fulfill our truest emotional needs, we need to find the motivation for our negative ones and break them down.
Power Tip 3: Keep the door open
You are a forever friend to your inner child. This path of self discovery isn’t a one time therapist session. It’s a lifelong relationship between who you were, who you are, and who you want to be. So be a good friend to them. Listen with compassion, with love, kindness and support. Let them share some insight about you so you can start to heal from wounds and bring some much needed balance in your life. Let the emotions pass through you. Sit silently with them. Is there tightness in your chest, choking feeling in your throat, butterflies in your stomach, or a heavy weight on your shoulders? Talk to your emotions and pain. Yes, talk to them. What are they trying to tell you? What is the message they want you to hear?
If your trauma is extreme and overwhelming, keep your door open for professional help. Mental health counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists should be welcome guests when on this journey, like spiritual guides giving you access to power. Knowing yourself is power. The power to face your problems head on. The power to recognize emotional triggers and apprehend them in a healthy way. The power to reassure yourself that your past will remain in the past and cannot rob you of your present and future joy. The power to be you, in your highest glory, unencumbered and free, like a kid again.
Real Talk: Open the door when you’re ready and befriend your inner child. Be patient. Be compassionate. Be the person you wish you had when you were that age. Paying attention to your inner child can lead to self awareness, confidence, and hope. Reinforce this friendship with self love; continue listening, offering support, and working to heal any wounds that remain open. Your past is a hidden access to power, it’s time we use it.