Inner-child work focuses on childhood experiences to improve emotional and mental well-being. It helps us heal past trauma and uncover why we do the things we do. It’s relatively new and there are different variations.
Not just for trauma, inner-child work will benefit anyone who uses it. It can help stop harmful patterns, remove blockers and stop us from feeling stuck. Sadly, some variations are just too weird to work. And while others are helpful, they still miss the mark.
I was using inner-child work before I knew it had a name. And when I started researching it, I noticed the gaps. So I used my knowledge and experience in healing my “inner-child” to create my take of inner-child work.
In this article we’ll review the history and some current variations of inner-child work. Then I’ll share my take on inner-child work, how it benefited me and how you can start your inner-child work to get results.
History of Inner-Child
It all started with Carl Jung. He suggests that we have a divine child archetype, a.k.a. knowledge obtained from childhood experiences. (Ref)
Which then lead psychologist Eric Berne to suggest we have unresolved shame and fear from trauma sustained as a child. Berne’s work is what we call “inner-child” work. (Ref)
In the 70s an art therapist introduced the idea of an inner-child needing to be “reparented”. She suggested we all have a playful inner-child hidden under a grow-up persona.
Inner-child work has since evolved into a practice for everyone—not just those who’ve experienced childhood trauma. It’s sometimes referred to as shadow work.
Weirdness Surrounding Inner-Child Work
One resource I found suggests that there is an inner-child in all of us who wants to come out and play… no thanks. I’ve also heard inner-child “gurus” talking to adults as if they were a child. Their take is that inner-child work means talking to others like children in order to nurture and coax out their “inner-child”.
I’m currently centering my inner-child and making a childlike hand gesture as I think about the ridiculous ways people treat inner-child work.
Other suggestions are to explore and spend time with children. All of this to bring out this inner-child that people assume is living in their brain. Like there’s some kid skipping in a field of brain cells and we’re calling them out to go play hopscotch.
This variation is over the top and it can turn people off to inner-child work. Heavily opinionated critics and naysayers are likely having a field day.
Current (Not So Weird) Inner-Child Work
Another variation inner-child work is that we have different states: an inner, outer and damaged inner child. It’s suggested we visualize ourselves as a child, remember intense and traumatic experiences, and bring the child on the inside to attention in an attempt to heal. (Ref) It focuses on self-forgiveness and acceptance.
After we bring the child like state forward, we can tell ourselves that we are safe. We tell the “inner-child” remembering the events that we (the adult us) will take care of them (child us) and that child us is protected. This is referred to as: “reparenting”.
We revisit past trauma and we work through it, reminding ourselves that we are no longer in danger or being abandoned. When we do this, we heal “abandonment wounds” and we open ourselves to love.
My take on inner-child work includes similar aspects of this version.
My Take on Inner-Child Work
I’m calling my take Thought Pattern Rework (TPR) because it focuses on reworking our thought patterns created in childhood. It’s a combination of Jung’s theory, current (non-weird) inner-child work practice, cognitive behavior techniques, and my work in overcoming childhood trauma and unhelpful thinking patterns.
Our current thought processes are influenced by thinking habits created in adolescence; and previous, unresolved childhood trauma or events.
TPR involves testing and challenging current thought processes. We do this by channeling childhood experiences and how they contribute to they way we think. It’s founded on the fact that when we replace unhelpful thought processes with with productive thought processes we improve emotional and mental well-being.
This may bring traumatic experiences to the surface. When that happens, it’s an opportunity to evaluate the experiences and our role in them. We work through any repressed feelings of shame or anger while removing the excuses we give to others and determining our actual contribution to the event.
Common Inner-Child Work vs TPR
Inner-child work suggests we have a child in our mind. Meaning we have a separate child brain within our adult brain. My take doesn’t separate the mind. In TPR we have one mind.
Current inner-child work encourages a separation of the “child” mind and current mind. And you focus on calling on your childlike mind to find answers. In TPR you focus on your current thought processes and reflect back to uncover how they developed in childhood.
TPR focuses on that time is a man-made concept. So within our brain, even though we may have been invalidated as a child, if we are in a similar situation, time is relative. It may feel like we are reliving the childhood experience, which heavily influences our response to the present situation, which then determines our actions and overall results.
Benefits of Inner-Child Work
I can’t speak specifically to each variation of inner-child work and can only speak to my unique variation that I refer to as TPR. Simply put, practicing TPR changed my life.
It helped me remove unhelpful thought processes and increase my emotional intelligence. I stopped talking responsibility for things I wasn’t responsible for and removed shame that wasn’t mine to carry.
I found an unshakable love for myself. My power and my voice.
I started painting again—woot woot! And I’m following my inner purpose! When I was a kid, I wanted to be a psychologist—it was not encouraged. Welp, look at me now. Creating, using and sharing my innovative psychological techniques to help others.
Practicing Inner-Child Work
Some common variations of inner-child work are over the top. And it’s not helping anyone. However, there are variations of inner-child work that can actually help you heal from past experiences. And the most efficient way would be to approach the matter as an effort to rework thought patterns derived in childhood.
So before you let someone speak to you like a child. And before you start the search for a child-like persona in your brain. Bring everything together. Find unity, and focus on becoming aware of current, unhelpful thought habits as a unique and whole individual.
If you feel particularly triggered or emotional regarding a certain event, question it. The emotions are there for a reason. Think back. What could this be reminding you of?
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