Those that have been affected by childhood sexual abuse and other forms of abuse may benefit from inner child therapy. It can reduce nightmares and help victims learn to love themselves. It can erase, or hold at bay, the emotional memories and experiences that have been stored in the brain from childhood. It reportedly helps survivors understand their behaviours and fears and is considered less invasive than other forms of therapy.
No matter where a victim alls on the dis-associative continuum, inner child work can help them understand their tendencies. The therapy helps one become a friend to their inner child and helps them to heal behaviours such as comfort eating, self-harm, flashbacks, and panic attacks.
Inner child work has recently grown in popularity but is not new. Thirty years ago, Eric Berne introduced the idea of Child Ego State in his work with Transactional Analysis.
Carl Jung held a similar concept of the ‘Divine Child.’ Another therapist, Emmet Fox, called the same concept the ‘Wonder Child.’ Charles Whitfield called it the ‘Child Within.’ The study of Transactional Analysis refers to it as ‘Child.’ A modified application of the inner child concept popularised by self help movement leader and pop psychologist John Bradshaw is the “wounded inner child.”
In ancient mythology, we find the theme of the abandoned child, and this is representative of he characteristics of human need. It is the theme of needing to find a way to reclaim a childlike part of ourselves that leads to this recurring idea throughout history and therapy.
In order to address the needs of this inner child, one must first access it and examine the negative conditioning that brought the needs about. There is a child within each of us that is delightful, spontaneous, and mischievous. This child can also throw tantrums, and behave unreasonably or inappropriately. If someone was not damaged in childhood, this inner child is secondary to the adult persona. It can be controlled by adult will. But if there was damage or trauma as a child, this spontaneous child has been damaged as well, and an outlet must be found. By depriving this inner child of this need for delight, the adult child will continually feel hopeless or stupid and will not develop the self-esteem needed to function healthily.
Often when traumatic events occur in childhood, they are ignored by the adults around them. There may be things that seem run of the mill in adulthood, such as family bereavement, that goes unexplained, but leaves a scar on a young child. The child’s feelings are never validated. Their self-worth begins to diminish, and these feeling then need to be brought to the forefront in adulthood in order to be dealt with. More sever abuse will result in more severe damage and even lower self-esteem in adulthood
Today, there are numerous types of inner child work and therapy. Parks therapy require that the child part of the patient write about their bad memories, and then the adult return to the writing, apologise and nurse the wounds of the child. Other practices use drawing and writing with the non-dominant hand which brings the child-like feelings to the surfaces by undoing the blocks that traditional writing behaviour may create. Sometimes, therapies involve just growing more in touch with the child-like feelings that are inside and helping oneself get through the struggles and traumas.
Many that have suffered in childhood have benefited from inner child work in recent years. Traumas that have been dealt with include sexual, physical and emotional abuse. This is especially the case for those that suffer from disassociation in one form or another. The inner child work enables the victim to understand their feelings of guilt and shame, reduces the nightmares they may experience, and alleviates the panic attacks.
The neglected child was often left along and did not receive nurturing or love. This child does not believe they are worthwhile or lovable. The child will want to cry or hide and as an adult, has a difficult time showing love.
The abandoned child has been left during a time of trauma such as adoption or divorce. The part of this child that feels abandoned will always fear being left alone again. They are starved for extra attention and need reassurance that they are wanted and safe.
The playful child is creative, fun and spontaneous. They long to play and have fun, and because many adults forget how to do this, their inner child will desire to do these things without guilt or anxiety.
The fearful child was criticised and insult when they were younger. They now experience feelings of anxiety and panic much of the time. They need positive affirmations and encouragement.
The spoiled child still wants what it wants no matter what, and there will be a temper tantrum if this does not happen, in childhood or adulthood.
The disconnected child never learns to connect or be close to anyone. They are isolated and intimacy is scary and alien. Their major issue in adulthood is trust.
The discounted child was ignored and felt as though they weren’t worthy and did not exist. They do not believe in themselves and they need a great deal of love and support.