Doctor, Heal Thy Wounded Inner Child
That voice in your head (that you think is you) causes most of your problems.
Right, I know. It blows your mind the first time you hear it, but if you are ready for the message: you are not the voice inside your head.
Not only is the “monkey mind” in your head not ‘you’ (it is your ego), it is the cause of suffering in your life. Depression if the thoughts are of the past; anxiety if the thoughts are of the future. The voice inside your head is your wounded inner child’s now maladaptive attempts to defend themselves against the small ‘t’ traumas we all face when young—even if you had a “good” childhood.
Become free from your past; be brave and face the deeper reasons behind your suffering. Meet your inner child.
“A belief is really only a thought that you keep thinking” ~Abraham-Hicks
What Is Your Inner Child?
Before we can talk about healing your inner child, what is your inner child?
Personally, I lost most of the joy of childbirth in med school after attending a few deliveries. Let’s not get into what gets into your socks during deliveries, but let’s think of that brand new baby girl snuggled up to her mother’s embrace.
Does she not deserve peace and love just because she is? Just because she exists, she is worthy. She is good enough, just as she is. Yes, perfect in her way. She can and should love herself, and she deserves love. A newborn is complete, compassionate love; just, whole, and brand new upon the universe.
You were once that newborn; you were once entirely deserving of having everything the universe has to offer. But you forgot.
Still, you have the power to set a transformational process in motion, to hold a vision for a better life, to wake up every morning and say, “it is a joy and a relief to be myself.” It’s as simple as choosing.
Your inner child is you. She is still in there and deserves compassion and care. Will you find her again, or will you continue to let the monkey mind control you and keep you rutted to behaviors that don’t serve you?
Does anyone know of a doctor who keeps doing things that no longer serve? Why can’t he stop?
Let’s meet your inner child.
How to Wound a Perfectly Good Inner Child
Without getting into attachment theory, we are originally one with our mother (caregiver) and eventually become our own individuated self. This separation causes the (small ‘t’) trauma—the wound to the inner child.
These wounds manifest through thought patterns, reactions to triggers, and the programming which becomes your personality which drives your mood. In essence, who you think you are if you think you are the thoughts that flit through your head.
To return to the truth of who you are, you must recognize that these thought patterns are not you. Instead, they are the wound—old defenses constructed as you ruptured from your attached infant into an individual person.
Like how adolescence causes further trauma as you rupture from your family to your peer group. This tug of war you know you must lose becomes the pervasive thoughts that fill your head. They could be shame, anxiety, grief, self-esteem or self-image issues, or any “you tell yourself” message that is not compassionate and loving.
Would you tell a newborn baby the thoughts you tell yourself? Does she “deserve” to think those thoughts? And what about your children—would you treat your son or daughter the way you treat yourself in your mind’s eye?
Those thoughts are not you; they are your wounded inner child.
You cannot heal what you are unwilling to see
So, doctor, we are not going to heal you in this short blog. But hopefully, we can jar a few thoughts loose in your head and get you thinking about thinking about more self-affirming thoughts.
Sure, you can continue beating up the gunner in your mind, and you have done pretty well with that so far. But at what cost? How is your health, and your primary relationships? Your “mood.” Any anger issues? Depression or burnout? Any patterns of behavior you might want to improve?
You cannot heal what you are unwilling to see.
Accepting that we all face unloving self-talk is the first step. Accept it. You don’t even have to dig into your childhood memories and address the wounding (though it might help if you do); you just have to accept that it is there and recognize that it is not you. The much younger you, who did not have your adult resources, slip-shoddenly positioned these defenses. Chances are these half-baked defense mechanisms (which we now think is “who I am”) are maladaptive; they no longer serve you.
Notice them. Notice the thoughts and be curious why you have them. Actually feel them. And then accept them.
There it is.
There it is again.
Huh, there it is.
Of course, of course, there it is.
That’s right, you need to accept that you have these thoughts (you are not the thoughts) and say, ‘huh, there it is again.’
Then, get to ‘of course, there it is again.’
See it. Feel it. Think about thinking it. This meta-cognition is your unrecognized superpower. How you think about your thinking is how you heal.
Healing the Wounded Inner Child
Once you are conscious and curious of your thoughts, you might be able to just let them be and then crest and then go. That’s all a thought is, a fleeting moment. It doesn’t have to spike your cortisol and make you react to the saber-toothed tiger that has never been in the clinic or hospital. Between stimulus and response, says a wise man, is your freedom. You cannot control what people say, but you can control how you respond; indeed, that is karma.
That’s how simple it is. Notice, don’t react. Instead, process, and then respond.
That’s what meditation, yoga, scented candles, energy healing, and all this self-care BS is about. Moving you from reaction to response. Getting you out of the ruts that no longer serve you. Treat yourself and all around you like a newborn (or like you would treat your children), being kind to yourself and others as a way of life. That BS (which is actually taking care of yourself—a novel concept to the physician) allows you to take care of others.
You are not your feelings, emotions, or personality. Don’t let them run your life. Instead, practice self-compassion and speak compassionately to your thoughts and feelings. Honor yourself (and honor the universe) by accepting yourself.
Self-Acceptance vs. Self-Esteem
It all starts with self-acceptance. Do you know that self-esteem muck they taught us in middle school? It harmed generations of children. You don’t need good self-esteem where we all have to be above average and which is contingent on external validation and success seen through the eyes of others. You need self-acceptance.
I am exactly who I am. What you see is what you get. I am me, and that is perfectly good enough. I love myself, and that allows me to love others.
Not love that is conditional, contingent on performing the right way, people-pleasing, putting yourself down or acting just right to get your parental approval fix. Not the right façade for the right situation.
You deserve love for being just who you are. If you can accept that, you don’t need self-esteem because you have self-compassion. If you can accept who you are enough, you might grow to have self-love and be able to love others and, thus, the work you do every day.
It is that revolutionary: accept yourself and be courageous enough to face the good in you (which we are told to tamp down for fear of burning too bright) and all that is odd or wrinkled or what actually makes you you.
I honor my thoughts, and I accept them just as they are. I treat myself kindly and with compassion. I notice and honor my suffering. But I am not my monkey mind. I am not suffering.
“When we know how to suffer, we suffer much, much less” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Doctor, Heal They Wounded Inner Child
Doctor, heal thyself. How can you do so? Through Self-Acceptance.
I love myself. Not in an arrogant, conceited, or egotistical way, but because I’m flawed and I’m good. I’m just who I am, and that is perfectly good enough.
Once you understand self-acceptance (who knew you were supposed to accept yourself?), you unlock the key to visiting and comforting your wounded inner child.
Inner child work (or inner child healing) is a process that can start whenever you are ready. First step: get curious about your thinking. As they say: create space to think about your thought. Hello, is that me there thinking, or maybe something else that no longer serves me? I’m curious. I’m going to sit with that thought for a second and see where it goes.