Did we lose them forever in the process of growing up or can they be reclaimed and become a natural, lush ingredient in our adult lives again? Bonding with our inner child not only brings back these long-lost qualities but sets us free from the past as well.
“Connecting with your inner child” is thought of as a bit passé these days. Introduced as a popular method for recovering authenticity and healing childhood wounding some decades ago, it seems to have lost its appeal in this day and age. Perhaps it reminds us of hippies and New Age types, running around a campfire in a state of confused bliss. Perhaps it doesn’t speak to us in this time-frame of serious business, where the emphasis is placed on being successful and selling yourself well.
Of course, over time, Inner Child work has evolved and new psychological insights have been added. We learned for example that connecting with our childlike qualities is not the same as regressing into a toddler: running around a campfire acting like a four year old is a nice try, but turned out to bring only a temporary relief, not seldom leaving the person with a sense of bewilderment about what exactly was released or gained.
The adult perspective
We found out that only if we were present with our adult capacities while looking into fears of the past, a healing process could take place. It wasn’t about regression, about becoming a child, but placing experiences in the right, adult perspective, this way being able to understand and process the old wounding, lifting the burden of shame and guilt that we once incorrectly took upon our little shoulders. This was a crucial insight, offering us sound boundaries for the bonding process by rooting it in reality: you are not a child but an adult now.
Still waiting for parental love
When offered in a proper way, working with our inner child is an amazingly effective way to connect with parts of our being that are still waiting for parental validation and love. This unconscious waiting keeps us on hold, cut off from our ability to live freely and enjoy fully who we are. It is like we deep down still need (parental) permission to like ourselves and be carefree, without the constraint of worry or cautiousness.
A leap into emotional adulthood
The validation and love we are waiting for will not be given to us in the way we would have wanted when we were small children. The past cannot be altered, what’s done is done.
However, we can begin to take care of our own inner child by calling upon the capable adult that we have become. Once we realize we will not receive that parental love anymore, we can let go and become our own parent. It turns out that we can perfectly bond with the parts in us that need validation and healing, offering our love and affection. We can very well learn to become an inner father or mother taking care of our vulnerable, sensitive self, in fact, this ‘reunion’ is a blissful one, a leap into emotional adulthood, setting us free from the past.
The inner child represents the parts in us that ‘froze’ in our childhood. When we felt threatened, unloved or neglected as a child (especially on a day to day basis) we subconsciously suppressed our pain and started to adapt our behaviour to prevent the situations that would make us feel unloved or scared.
We began to hold back natural expressions we felt would cause rage or disappointment; we hid our liveliness, our wildness or our honesty. Instead we offered our parents what seemed to ease their tension or what hopefully would make them like us better. By becoming a ‘good’ boy or girl we tried to avoid rejection and feel loved and safe. We even came to believe that we were the cause of our parents’ unhappiness simply by being our natural self.
We couldn’t heal our parents
Of course our natural, spontaneous expressions as a child were never the real cause of our parents’ unhappiness. We can see now, as adults, that a child is never to blame, nor responsible for the problems of its mother or father. We couldn’t have made our parents feel better, or heal their woundedness, as we may have believed as little ones. Only they could. Their hurt had nothing to do with you.
The melting process
When we begin to bond with our inner child by validating and welcoming it, the frozen parts in us start to melt. It may take some time to open up to each other (both adult and child) after being separated for so long. As an adult you need to learn how to open your heart to what was once labelled ‘wrong’. Your inner child needs reassurance and encouragement to step out of his or her hiding place. But once the connection is restored it will feel as if something precious has returned to you, something natural and fluid, fitting you like a glove.
The qualities of the inner child
What are the gifts of our inner child that become available again once the ice of survival has melted?
Here’s a few: trust, liveliness, innocence, curiosity, joy, boldness, clarity, wonder, lightness, purity, playfulness, openness…
Qualities we recognize in young children (making them so adorable) but that we somehow seem to have left behind in the process of growing up. Qualities we long for and that long for us as well. In all of us there is a little boy or girl, representing these life-giving juices, waiting to be found, held and be part of you again.
Bonding with your inner child
Apart from all these good things that will flow back to you, the process of connecting with your inner child may be emotional and painful as well sometimes, especially in the beginning. Therefore I would recommend to grant yourself a counsellor or therapist to help you work through the difficult patches if you feel it may be a challenge for you.
To help you on your way and offer you some insights and guidelines that may be helpful, I will describe the following four steps of the bonding process.
Step one: making contact
The first step in bonding is making contactwith your inner child.
You do this by simply visualizing yourself as a little boy or girl. The child may appear as a four or ten year old, all is fine.
This may sound easy, but is not always the easiest part. You have been subconsciously suppressing his or her presence for so long that you may feel reluctant to actually meet your inner child. The same goes for the little boy or girl who may initially appear distant, sad, frozen or not at all! Don’t feel discouraged by this. Understand that it takes time to trust each other again. There may be grief over the things you didn’t receive in your childhood, simply give some room to these emotions. They will soon make place for the joy of meeting that beautiful small person.
Step two: Establishing trust
Sometimes the connection is there immediately, more often it takes time to establish trust. The little child deeply longs for your embrace and love but may need reassurance and validation before it will give itself. Connect to your inner child often, listening, validating its feelings and needs, loving it.
Step 3: Fully engage
Once there is enough trust, you are ready to fully open up to each other. Enjoy the qualities of your inner child, and keep tending to its needs to feel safe and welcome. Put it number one as often as you can. Give it a front seat in your heart, stay open for its playful energy. Enjoy the intimacy between you!
Step 4: Integrating these qualities in your adult life
Reclaiming these qualities as an adult is a beautiful process.
Again, it is not about regression, about you suddenly acting as a little child expressing these natural gifts. Forget about visiting a playground doing childlike things, but embody your liveliness while being at work, enjoying the energy of it. The invitation is to allow these qualities to be part of your adult life, to bring wonder and curiosity in your days, to welcome joy and trust in your own heart and stop hindering yourself with critical remarks.
Home in yourself
The process of bonding takes time. Perhaps a few weeks, a few months or even years. It doesn’t matter, just enjoy the ride!
A totally integrated inner child is a child no more, its essence simply absorbed into the heart’s fabric, adding trust, ease and lightness to your inner felt sense, making you feel at home in yourself.
Passé or not, I have found there is much to gain by melting these frozen parts and welcoming their energy in our lives again.
In the end, life’s too short to not live it to the fullest.