The concept of the inner child was first proposed by psychologist Carl Jung after he examined his own child-like inner feelings and emotions. Jung postulated that it was the inside part of all of us that influenced all we dan the the decision that we make, even as adults.
Inner children were us when we were kids. They are who holds all the memories and emotions, good or bad, that were experienced. These learned messages are incurred when we were helpless and dependent on our caregivers.
Unfortunately, it is also these inner children who absorb all the negative and harmful words and actions of these who were supposed to keep us safe. Once wounded, these inner kids negatively influence who we are as adults holding enormous power over our relationships and decisions.
All children deserve to feel safe—safe from harm, fear, and lack. Safety does not mean only physical security but also emotional and spiritual well-being as well. When children feel safe within the families they were born into, their boundaries are respected, and that their needs are met so they feel secure.
Childhood trauma, where the child’s needs are not met, destroys a child’s sense of safety, causing them to become hypervigilant and scared. In adulthood, these inner children never go away, and neither does their feelings of being unsafe and that the world is a horrible and dangerous place. When a child feels continually endangered, a massive gaping wound opens in their psyche that is so painful that many adults unknowingly repress it. (Kneisl 1991)
Words can hurt as severely as actions with some of the signals given to children leaving deep scars that can last a lifetime. Some of these statements and actions made by parents that leave open wounds are as follows.
Children who do not receive emotional and physical support grow up to be hurting adults.
Children crave and deserve to have their needs met and to feel safe and loved. However, even in today’s advanced society, many kids are neglected and wounded. There are three types of trauma children endure at the hands of their caregivers that cause later adult inner children injury. These include physical, emotional, and psychological neglect.
Physical Neglect: Physical safety and nourishment are basic human needs that are to be given freely from caregivers to children. However, in physical neglect, these rights are violated and are lacking. Unfortunately, physical neglect does not mean only that the child was kept from food and shelter. It also means several forms of abuse are taking place, such as sexual abuse.
The results of this type of neglect are devastating. Below are only a few of the negative impacts physical neglect has on children and the adults they become.
Emotional Neglect: In this type of neglect, a child’s caregiver did not show enough interest in the child’s emotional needs for support, respect, and love. In these cases, either the caregiver does not pay attention to or condemns any emotional expressions that the child might need.
Like with physical abuse, the symptoms, and outcomes of this type of neglect are dire in adulthood.
Psychological Neglect: This kind of neglect occurred when the child’s caregivers failed to listen, nurture, and embrace the beautiful human beings that they are. This form of neglect includes any or all the following:
The first step in healing your inner child is to acknowledge it is there and that he or she is wounded. The harm done to your inner child is directly correlated with the ways you feel unsafe in the world. Below are some signals that you have a wounded inner child.
The inner children that live in the human psyche directly influence all that we do. Adults are covertly controlled by their unconscious inner child, and this leaves a child in charge of their lives. When wounded, these little ones are full of anger, shame, and sometimes rage because of the maltreatment they endured. Inner children are the lens through which injured adults make their decisions.
Can you imagine your children or a child you see on the street trying to make sense of adult relationships? Or make career decisions? Predictably, such attempts could only end in disaster. However, this is what happens every day in the lives of people who have a wounded inner child.
These small, lost, and lonely parts of ourselves are afraid, anxious, and insecure, and that can make our lives miserable. However, there is hope. Inner child work, including self-parenting, can ease the pain and heal the wounds left behind by caregivers who were abusive and toxic.
“She held herself until the sobs of the child inside subsided entirely. I love you, she told herself. It will all be okay.” ~ H. Raven Rose
“Your pain needs to be recognized and acknowledged. It needs to be acknowledged and then released. Avoiding pain is the same as denying it.”
~ Yong Kang Chan.