When I first read about the idea of the “Inner Child,” the notion that there was a little kid inside of me throwing tantrums and demanding love felt a bit self-indulgent. But after going through a rough period where I really did have to consider how my childhood has influenced my adult life, I decided the concept of the Inner Child is pretty worthwhile and sensible to think about. And it works.
So what positives can you expect from Inner Child Work?
1. Reconciling childish qualities with the grown-up, adult you.
Children possess a myriad of traits and impulses that they outgrow as they get older. However, life is limited, so not every immature tendency has enough exposure to life experience for you to grow out of them. Aspects of your personality are still operating at 5 years old, or 10, or 12 or whatever. Inner child work illuminates what behaviors are still emerging from the younger you, and not the you of today.
2. Putting painful childhood experiences in perspective.
If you’ve had a traumatic childhood, you still have memories that haunt you and color your perspective on life in a negative way. If you ruminate on past experiences and are mourning the ideal childhood you never had OR if you minimize how bad things were as a way to cope, you will grow from inner child work.
For example, maybe your childhood relationship with your parents influences your relationships now, and you reenact destructive patterns you had with them because it feels familiar. Your subconscious mind is pulling the puppet strings instead of the adult you consciously selecting your experiences. This gets frustrating when you feel like you’re dating some version of your parents over and over!
Inner Child work takes a look at past experiences so you can process them, let go, and construct your future from a decisive state of mind instead of from subconscious, past trauma.
3. Reclaiming suppressed strengths and abilities.
As a child, you absorb from authority figures how to behave and who you should be. You downplay certain aspects of your personality and play up others to become socially acceptable. You mold yourself to suit your authority figures, and internalize the projections of adults as a way to please.
However, some repressed qualities are critical elements of who you are and would really enrich your adult life if you were aware of them.
I read a story of a woman recently whose father was always telling her that she was the “creative” one and her sister was the “intelligent” one, so she always believed she was stupid. She consistently flunked out of school. When she was in her 40’s, she went back to college after doing some inner child work & realizing the role of the underachiever kept her eternally unhappy. She earned excellent grades, and found out later she always had a high IQ, but her father’s issues and emotional abuse kept her in the dark about her innate intelligence.
Inner Child work restores hidden gems inside of you that were stolen, dismissed or denied by your primary authority figured. You will have more courage, strength, and individuality because you’ll be a more whole you.
4. Clearing up destructive fears, defense mechanisms, and beliefs that are clouding your mind.
As human beings, we long to make sense of the world, including when we are children. However, as kids we don’t have a mature adult perspective, so the explanations we tell ourselves are inaccurate. Some of those beliefs and defense mechanisms have survived into your adult life to your detriment.
For example, my childhood life was chaotic and my parents were neglectful. I observed very quickly if I needed help, I wouldn’t get it, so I should shoulder all my burdens on my own. This carried me through my childhood, but it’s crippling in adult life.
What explanations are you still clinging to from childhood that just don’t make sense? What instinctive behavior is costing you adult success?
Inner Child Work puts the adult you at the helm, not the child you.
Essentially inner child work is parenting yourself in the ways that were vital but absent in your childhood. You are becoming responsible for yourself.
Of course the Tarot is a great way to get to know your inner child, so I’ll be inviting you to try a spread on your inner child’s personality in an upcoming post.