Your inner child is the portion of your psyche or personality that has not evolved to unify with the adult identity you have cultivated.
Often, we think of the inner child in terms of trauma – because trauma responses keep emotions trapped in our body that keep us anchored into subconscious aspects of our identity formed by the unprocessed emotions. Through this lens, the inner child often feels and sounds powerless, as its internal dialogue is often more simple, direct, and emotional than our more adult internal dialogue. But in truth, the inner child is tremendously powerful and wise, and one of the best internal compasses for healing, growth, and fulfillment.
Your inner child is genuine, filterless, and a determined advocate for authenticity and self-love.
Your inner child gets louder when you’re scared, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable. It speaks up to refocus your attention onto the personal needs you’re neglecting in pursuit of people-pleasing, productivity, and “success”. This aspect of you that knows what true success is – joy, self-love, genuine fun, authentic intimacy, and creativity – is a powerful and wonderful phenomenon to be cherished.
Parenting Yourself with Love
The best way to relate with your most vulnerable self is through the role of a reliable, patient, and curious parent.
If you feel yourself throwing a tantrum, you didn’t listen when your needs were quiet and kind. Now, your inner child will do whatever it takes to get the attention it deserves. Its role is to alarm you to change how you relate with the rest of the world. When you act like a reliable parent who listens even when nothing specific is said, your inner child relaxes.
In other words, an inner child that is lovingly parented is a happy one. It only shows upset when something is off and needs to be acknowledged. You will know if you’re being attentive enough, based on how calm you feel. If the alarm system keeps going off, you have a significant journey of growth to embark on.
The question is, how do you know if you’re lovingly parenting your inner child?
5 principles of loving inner parenting
1. REFLECTION: You meditate, journal, create art or have another daily mode of serene reflection.
2. OPENNESS: You give yourself permission to change your mind, plans, personality, and beliefs, even when it upsets others. You acknowledge that being set in your ways is unhealthy and you prioritize growth over short-term comfort and external validation.
3. PRESENCE: You prioritize activities that focus your attention on your physical senses and life’s simplest pleasures. You take time to smell the roses, make a fresh fruit salad, take a bath, etc…
4. TRUTH: You say no whenever you want to say no. Or “not yet” or “maybe later”… but you only say yes when you really, truly want to say yes. (For tips on how to do this, read my blog titled “Don’t be a vending Machine“
5. HEALING: When you’re uncomfortable or in pain, you slow down and heal. As opposed to reaching for pain meds, coffee, alcohol, or another mind and body-altering substance that ignores or tries to work around your feelings.
You’re human, and following principles is “a practice”, not “a perfection”. Your inner child might still have to get your attention sometimes. The good news is that returning to the above principles provides a clear path to realign with yourself. You’ll slow down and quiet your mind so that you can attentively hear what your inner child needs.
It’s important to take great care of yourself so that you can reconnect with the wisdom available inside you. For more practical guidance, check out my podcast The School of Self.