22/02/2022

Integrating the Inner Child

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , at 5:48 am by The Water Bearer

When trying to tackle the anxiety, depression, dissatisfaction and countless other unpleasant feelings that plague me in this life, its automatic to wrestle with myself and God. Praying to be different, trying every possible method to resolve the issues, and kicking myself for being unable to behave the way I believe I should, the way to earn me an easier and better life.  

I used to think this was normal and tried to white knuckle through.

But what I came to realise during the final stages of editing my novel, is that the majority of my discomfort comes from emotions that are primal, and historical. The battle of Inner Angels and Enemies isn’t just happening on a linear timeline, progressing from youth through to old age. As partly spiritual beings we have eternal energy which is not confined to human time, and our battles are constantly moving back and to, throughout the entire timeline of our lives. This opens up a whole realm of possibilities when it comes to finding faith, peace, and healing.

During a serious bout of anxiety, due to some extreme personal challenges,  my therapist told me to say to myself, “This is me in my fear, this is me in my fear” I wasn’t to say it to him in an attempt to explain myself, but rather to say it to myself to bring me to a deeper place of awareness and acceptance.  Immediately I felt like I was 8 years old. My therapist directed me to pay my 8 year old self some attention, to listen to her and then show her unconditional love.

I have a vivid imagination, so I found it easy to picture listening to this younger version of myself prattle on about how scared she was, I pictured myself playing with her hair and validating her and holding her with compassion and affection. I felt better instantly.

This was revolutionary and sparked an amazing journey of growth, healing, and self-acceptance.

Developing resilience during childhood dysfunction or trauma hugely influences our adult lives. Children often blame themselves for any kind of trauma or trouble in the family home, and I took it upon myself to carry the burden of responsibility for things that I actually had little to no control over. Things such as the mood and safety of the home, the feelings and choices of others, financial worries and solving other grown-up problems like spiritual, health and relationship issues. 

Children in these situations have to grown-up quicker than they should, which means shutting down the childish part of their true selves. This childish part has the power to sabotage our thoughts, emotions, and actions, as well as our playfulness, innocence, and sense of faith, safety, and trust, long into our adult years perhaps even the rest of our lives.

Sometimes the inner child is referred to as the ego, because they had to default to certain survival strategies to cope with childhood struggles. They can become defensive or controlling, hyper responsible, avoidant, addicted, aggressive, judgmental, co-dependant, promiscuous or dishonest (just to name a few) in attempts to remain safe in an unsafe environment. 

I didn’t even realise until recently that my inner child was suffering from prolonged invisibility. She had been shut down so often, ignored, and bullied into submission that she had practically disappeared. No one including me knew she was in there. But she began showing up more and more. I noticed myself acting in extremely childish ways. Over-reacting to the trivial annoyances of life, crying when angry, feeling clingy and needy, shame spiralling, or turning into a sulking or hostile brat when my plans were challenged even slightly. 

I knew it was time to integrate my inner child… but I was shocked to find more than one child inside me!

Depending on the emotional trigger, I can often discover children of different ages within me. Sometimes I have to console a 2 year old, sometimes a 12 year old and sometimes a 20 year old. Today I am dealing with the pain of a situation that happened only last year that needs healing. 

My practice is this….

PROCESS OF INTEGRATION

1. Notice any disturbance to my mood. Ask myself am I peaceful or pressured?   

2. If any sense of discomfort or pressure, take myself somewhere quiet with a pen and paper or journal or laptop. Write every thought that comes to mind and I mean every thought. Go deep and name the feelings and reason for these feelings. Then go deeper again and sit with those feelings. I don’t try to change or fix or resist them, just be with the feelings, practice acceptance. This is about being curious not critical of ourselves. 

3. I imagine a younger version of myself and see if she has any feelings to add to the pile. I let her unburden her “Childish” and intense feelings and thoughts. I pay her all my attention until she has unloaded everything.

4. Then I give validation to her feelings. i.e. “That must feel very unfair. That must be heavy on your shoulders. I’m sorry you feel that way. That must feel awful, of course you’re angry, scared and sad.” etc. 

5. Reparenting for me involves considering how God parents us, He doesn’t give us advice on how to fix ourselves, and He doesn’t condemn us in our brokenness. “A Broken and contrite heart God will not despise” God models patience, kindness, forgiveness, freedom, love and hope. So I remind my inner child of all the principles of God’s love for her and point her to the ultimate act of love. His Son on a Cross! I tell her how much God loves her (even if I am struggling to believe it myself) I recall all the amazing blessings God has given her. I tell her how worthy she is, that she is enough, she isn’t being punished and she isn’t to blame, she is forgiven, she doesn’t have to be perfect to be loved, she can embrace her humanity. 

6. Sometimes I have trouble connecting with my inner child or sometimes she seems fine even when I am disturbed. So recently it came to my attention that apparently I can also be influenced by the inner children of my parents. This could be all part of the generational healing in God’s design. This requires knowing some of your parents childhood and the types of struggles and painful feelings they faced. Sometimes their child needs validation and comfort (as above), but sometimes its as simple as recognising that they are not me and I don’t need to carry the burden of their unresolved emotions. I can detach from any unhealthy attachment or powerful feelings like blame, bitterness, shame or criticism etc. 

This process takes time and practice to do well and I learn something new about myself and my inner children every time I do this. Some therapists recommend holding a stuffed animal or doing some colouring in, or having a childhood photograph nearby, anything to connect with the inner child to help tap into the flow of feelings. I have also found so much healing from writing honest letters to God from my inner child, and writing apology letters to my inner child for all the times I ignored her or betrayed her to please others. 

There are so many beautiful benefits of learning to integrate the inner child; such as feeling soothed and calm without any external crutch, feeling balanced and more mature in challenging situations, increased faith in being loved and worthy. But also embracing playfulness and joy that comes when the super-serious pressure lifts and we are finally able to experience the childlike innocence we missed out on. 

The painful challenges of our lives can be handled in so many interesting ways. I hope you try this one for yourself and experience the freedom and healing it brings.

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