What Is Inner Child Work?
If healing from abuse looked like a circle rather than a line, the points that connected it would begin and end with inner child work. Whether memories from that period of time are clear, muddy, or completely blank, inner child work isn’t contingent upon an omnipresent understanding. Much to the confusion of the ego, we will never receive back all the memories, all the many ages, and all the versions of self that have been fragmented through abuse and trauma. It is not, and will never be about, permanently stamping out a timeline of all our experiences, hurts, and triggers so we can claim control of our reactions and pain. The belief of self and inner child is birthed from vulnerable surrender, not dogmatic demand.
Very often these inner children will eventually relay our truths differently, as we sway on a pendulum of new safety. Akin to how sand settles underwater after it is kicked up, this recollection and restoration of truth is a process. Learning how to find stability within this process, and find our own way to extend belief to oneself, is the doorway to our new beginning.
Overtime, inner child work leads us into self-integration; where our once fragmented, compartmentalized, and disembodied pieces stabilize and unify. When I was eighteen, after I had the privileged option to escape into rehab, I was very much disconnected and estranged from myself and inner child. Truthfully, I didn’t even know what an “Inner Child” was. I remember being instructed by my therapist, whom I did not trust nor like at the time, that I had one of the worst cases of denial she had ever seen. I held an innate ability to fill an entire hour session with distracting, beautiful, words, none of which held truth. This was, and often still is, my gut-reaction to the feelings of endangerment; I fill the space with whatever I think will take the target off my chest. However, this important survival skill was the barrier between myself and my inner child, and in order to begin my healing process, I needed to access the door.
I recall how she would simply sit and listen to me speak nonsensical words for each session, without demand or further instruction to do anything but what felt safest to my triggered and disembodied self at the time. She invited me into the water, without force or accusation. There wasn’t a timer, there was only time. This level of trauma-informed care saved my life. For, it enabled me to subconsciously begin to mirror the safety she provided for me, for my inner child. Until, one day, I entered her office in silence, turned my palms up on the arms of the chair in which I sat, and the dam that held me together cracked. Just like it cracks now, as I type this pain-filled language in a tongue only survivor’s know. Unlike what many believe my words are not cathartic for me. In contrast, they feel like a full bloodstream of poison being sucked through one needle, slowly over a long space of human-constructed time. I am quite cognizant of how healing they are to those who read them, though.
My therapist told me that in order to rebuild trust within myself, I needed to be the one who designed my own healing work. I needed to become my own lighthouse so that even in the midst of the darkest storm, I knew that safety was tangible, not dependent upon anything or anyone else but myself. My inner child may have been brutally raped, tortured, and manipulated for eighteen years of their life, but that painful reality is not the only truth my inner child knew. Before we ever learned how to survive, we held the awareness that surviving was necessary, and that space is the very where I needed to return to in order to reformulate a new way of living. I needed to remember why I was surviving.
I ended up laying on a soft carpet, pencil and paper outstretched before me. In the sacredness of surrender, I outlined what would become my most powerful tool; my inner child journal. Over the course of months, I sketched out each age that I felt I needed to reconnect with and then began to re-introduce myself to them. Learning their fears, their likes, and what made them feel loved. I also learned what happened to them. Not a lot at first, but snippets of what was to come. An invitation into friendship; a defining moment on my path to self-awareness and self-integration. This journal became the tool that saved my life.
Inner child work is an amalgamation of the reclamation of self-trust, the bittersweet freedom of self-compassion, and the stabilizing ground of self-awareness. It is reminiscent of wading into a stream blindfolded and learning that not all life will drown us even if we cannot control where we step and how we feel. Non-metaphorically, it is grounded within the restoration of an inner voice that we have silenced in order to survive. Enmeshed within this inner guidance and wisdom lies the roots of every initial understanding, every origin of relationship, every intergenerational and systemic trauma. Subsequently, we must understand that this healing also is tied with great privilege. Given to those with the space to be messy as they become re-embodied. Who holds the option to do the work alongside a trauma-informed, inclusive, guide from their own culture. Who has access to the security they require in order to stay alive when life eventually crumbles around them. Healing amplifies our vulnerability, which is why inner child work only becomes optionable when we’re safe. Every single individual deserves their right to this work, and to do so alongside those of their own community (e.g. not just another white therapist).
Inner child work is how we learn to walk ourselves home.
An Inner Child Meditation Prompt has been created and is currently available. This mediation, like all my other offerings, is simply a reflection of what my own healing work looks like, and is never meant to replace or overshadow professional advice. It is intended to provide a sense of relief, assurance, and community to those who have already begun their healing journeys.
Example of some of the Meditation Prompt:
“I am here to listen and believe. I commit to writing down, to the best of my ability, all I hear within myself as a way to honour the bravery in the inner child who is speaking. I commit to remind myself that whenever I step away, I plan to return. I am here to restore trust where abandonment currently rests. I am here to re-parent myself.”
It is currently up on Patreon for my $5+ Patrons. It is also available to anyone who isn’t a patron for $10 via Paypal, sliding scale. If you feel connected to this work, but do not have the resources to pay for it, you may always message me. I commit to never questioning, judging, or turning away a survivor in need and will happily extend it to you for free.