Our inner child is the full complement of childhood feelings, needs and memories. It is very helpful to picture or feel these feelings, needs and memories in the image of a child. Some people have benefited from finding a photo of themselves as a child, and placing it in a prominent location in their home as a visual reminder.
We love ourselves to the degree we accept and love our inner child. So if we ignore our inner child, we can’t fully love ourselves. It’s that important! If a girl was frequently ignored by her parents, she may learn by example to ignore her inner child, to feel that her inner child doesn’t deserve loving attention. Her parents basically demonstrated that adults are more important than children. So, as an adult, she thinks she is finally important. She ignores her inner child, and then wonders why she has so much trouble with her relationships.
So how can you love your inner child? First, identify the ways you were hurt as a child. There was physical violence in my childhood – not just in my home but also in the neighbourhood and in school. It’s obvious how this hurt and scared me. It was physical as well as psychological. Less obvious is the damage done by a father who works too much, even though it’s in the name of providing for his family. His children may feel the pain of his abandonment but, as adults, they may justify his actions and ignore their own suffering. Then they may fail to understand their own deep need for fathering, or their fear of abandonment.
This brings us to the second way to love your inner child. Identify the needs you had as a child, especially the needs that were not met. Some of us were not held enough as children. Our inner child still needs to be held. If we don’t see this clearly enough, we may try to get this need met through sex. But this never fully works, because the need for holding cannot be satisfied by sex alone. There also needs to be non-sexual holding of our inner child.
Many of us received the message that we’re not good enough, that we didn’t measure up to our parents’ expectations. We felt the pain of being criticised for not doing a good enough job, getting B’s instead of A’s, being too fat, or too skinny. Then we wonder why we get angry at the slightest hint of a criticism.
Ultimately, as individuals, we need to identify and make full use of our own inner parent. There can be no complete healing of our inner child without the love of our inner parent. We can even become stuck as an inner child, hopeless of ever feeling safe in this world. We can become victims of our own childhoods, robbed of our goodness.
Feeling our inner parent doesn’t depend on our having physical children. All of us have a loving inner parent, the part of ourselves capable of nurturing, protecting, and understanding. All of us have held children, animals, or even plants with a tender and yet protective love. That’s our inner parent.
Now wrap those same loving arms around yourself. Feel your inner parent tenderly holding your inner child. Feel the part of you that loves and nurtures, as well as the part of you that needs the loving and nurturing. Speak loving words to your inner child, words that directly address the most vulnerable needs: “You are precious. You are always good enough. I will keep you safe. You deserve all good things…”
If you do this exercise sincerely and frequently, you will notice real change for the better. When your inner child feels the love of your inner parent, you become whole, you become free.