Many people would say that they had emotional needs that were not met as a child. Maybe your parents or caregivers never validated your feelings or told you not to talk about them. You may have even been emotionally neglected or abused.
Now that you're no longer a child, it's left up to you to do the inner child work to heal from what might have happened. A wounded inner child can cause a host of problems that can affect your life as an adult.
Even though you can't change what happened in the past, you can control your present and future. By healing your inner child, you can learn to create the safety inside yourself that your younger self so desperately craved and deserved.
Signs That You May Need to Heal Your Inner Child
1. A Pattern of Unstable Relationships
If you have inner child work to do, you may notice that you select unhealthy romantic and platonic relationships. You may have seen your parents or caregivers have volatile relationships and learned to view unhealthy patterns as standard.
Or maybe your emotional needs were not met when you were younger, and subsequently, you feel fearful of expressing emotions. This can result in not bringing up subjects with your partner out of fear, not standing up for yourself when you need to, or neglecting your own needs in the relationship. You may also be afraid of your partner's feelings or emotions and end up failing to acknowledge their emotional needs as well.
A fear of abandonment may play a role in your relationships, leading you to become avoidant or stay in a relationship even when it no longer feels right for you.
You may cling to the ones you love excessively or try to avoid becoming attached to people entirely. You may swing back and forth between the two extremes. The emotional rollercoaster can be exhausting.
2. Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
You may find yourself binge eating, drinking, using illicit drugs, engaging in unsafe sex, or using other unhealthy habits to cope with life. Coping mechanisms can quickly get out of hand. In many cases, people who use harmful coping mechanisms know what they are trying to escape from. If you're using destructive methods of dealing with life without knowing what it is that you're trying to cope with, it may be your inner child reminding you that you still have work to do.
3. Not Asking For Help
While a measure of independence is beneficial, it can be taken to an extreme. If you find yourself not asking for help from loved ones when you need assistance, there's a chance that you need to look to your inner child. Independence is good, but neglecting your own needs can be incredibly damaging.
How to Heal Your Inner Child
If you've noticed that some of the above signs sound familiar to you, then it might be time to work on healing your inner child. What are some ways to do this?
Accept What Happened
The first step to healing is acceptance.
You may have dealt with painful trauma in your childhood, and it may seem easier not to think about it. But the thing about trauma is that when you ignore it, it demands your attention. It can show up underneath the veil of unhealthy coping mechanisms, unstable relationships, or mental health issues. Your inner child needs your attention.
Journaling is an essential aspect of healing your inner child. Take a moment to reflect on how you feel. Reflect on how your inner child is feeling and how they are doing. Write it all out.
Take this time you have with yourself and with your feelings and let them be. Let your inner child tell you what needs they have that need to be met, and allow your journal to be a safe space for all thoughts and feelings. Journaling is unfiltered and personal, so there's no need to try to feel anything besides what you're feeling.
No, you don't necessarily have to play with Barbies or Hot Wheels to get in touch with your inner child.
But you will need to create time for the simple joys in life, such as going all out for the holidays, looking at Christmas lights, spending time in the park, playing games, and sharing a laugh with friends. Your inner child has missed out on many positive childhood experiences, and you owe it to yourself to indulge now.
Seek Professional Help
If you can, reach out for help and find a therapist you trust as you do the difficult inner work. A therapist can help bring out things that you didn't know you needed to work on and support you as you work through things that may be painful and difficult.
You shouldn't have to go through the process of healing your inner child on your own.
Healing your inner child is a process that can be very difficult. Still, healing is possible, and it's never too late to start the process.
Despite the trauma or neglect that you may have faced when you were younger, there will always be space in your life for healing. You can learn to develop healthy coping skills and provide yourself with the compassion and love that you needed all along.