What Is Inner Child Work?

If you are immersed in any kind of self development and healing work, chances are you’ve come across the concept of Inner Child Work. To those of us who are unfamiliar with this practice, it can sound rather woo-woo and mystifying to be working with some obscure facet of our personality we may not be fully aware even exists. 

Along my earlier journey, I had no concept of what the Inner Child even was, let alone any depth of understanding as to how my Inner Child was stealthily running the show from behind the scenes of my subconscious programming.

I was sleep-walking through life while my Inner Child was secretly puppeteering me in nearly every facet of life with the strings of my unresolved childhood trauma. 

Inner Child Work stems from the 12 Archetypes of Jungian psychology, each of the 12 archetypes representing universal characters that reside within the collective unconscious. These 12 main archetypes embody traits that show where our subconscious behavioral patterns and motivations stem from.

We all have these archetypes embedded in our psyches that show up by acting internally or externally through us based on the experiences we encounter. 

The concept of the Inner Child comes from the Innocent Archetype. This archetype is the epitome of wholesomeness, purity, and optimism.

As with anything, there is also the Shadow side of this archetype in which they can avoid seeing the reality of a situation, other people, and themselves in favor of viewing life through idealism-tinted glasses. 

Patterns of behavior stemming from the Inner Child are driven by programming we received in childhood due to how we were raised, the kind of love we received, and unresolved trauma still lingering in the subconscious mind and the resulting build up of that emotional data stored in our energetic auric fields.  

I recently worked with a client who was plagued by people pleasing tendencies to the point of not being able to determine if her behavior was truly in alignment with her highest good or if it was to placate the perceived demands of others around her. 

She had a pattern of choosing romantic patterns that reflected back to her the same emotional unavailability she experienced in the relationship with her father.

When forming connections with women, she habitually fawned over them upon first getting to know them by fixating on only their good qualities, and when their less desirable qualities came to light, these women fell from the pedestal she placed them on and she would reject them entirely. 

Through the process of working with this client’s Inner Child, we discovered that her mother was incredibly domineering and often would pit her against her sisters, creating a family culture of a competition-based method of relating. As an adult forming friendships with other women, she perpetuated these inherited beliefs by taking on her mother’s voice and initially hyper-focusing on all the qualities she admired about these women. 

This perpetuated a cycle of not feeling good enough and brought up feelings of insecurity and shame that continued to dwell within her Inner Child. At this point in the cycle, she once again adopted her mother’s critical voice towards her child self and would lash out at her female friends as her mother had done to her in childhood. 

When we encounter patterns of behavior in our lives that seemingly perpetuate themselves, the root often stems from the scared, wounded little kid that still resides within us.

We do everything in our power to get the love we need and act out our childhood traumas in covert ways. It can be a bit frightening to recognize that most of our behaviors do not stem from a space of awareness and conscious choice, but rather from a place of recreating what we have always known. 

The beautiful thing about this realization is this – once we become aware of this hurt Inner Child running the show from backstage, we have the power to engage with this part of ourselves for deeper understanding, awareness, acceptance, and healing.

There is no right or wrong way to do Inner Child work.

In both my personal healing journey as well as in my coaching practice, this work is done through many different modalities such as a meditation connecting with your child self, becoming aware of how your Inner Child acts when triggering and reparenting this part of yourself, journaling through the voice of your Inner Child, taking yourself on a play date – just to name a few!

This work then opens the opportunity to create some very real, powerful change for how we want to move through the world going forward. 

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