Reparenting Your Inner Children

We read and talk a lot about our "inner child" as adults, but the truth of the matter is that we have more than just one.  In fact, we have an entire family of children living inside of us.  Don't worry, they aren't some gang of transient kids who have taken up resident in our heads when we weren't looking.  No, they are rather all aspects of us, each with their own story to tell, and their own reactions to external and internal phenomena.  

Ever wonder where your triggers come from?  Now you know.  It's all those kids inside of you who haven't processed their trauma correctly.  So we become reactive as adults, rather than responding to our triggers.  When we integrate these kids into our main personality (our adult selves), we can become whole in a way that we've never known before.  And rather than blanking, reacting, and then becoming emotional, we can pause, reflect, and take sensible action instead.  

So here is a list of the possible "inner children" living inside of you: 

  • the three year old who never got hugs
  • the five year old who's anxiety was never taken seriously and was picked on for it
  • the seven year old who was never listened to about the bully at school
  • the ten year old who was sexually assaulted by an adult
  • the thirteen year old who had to navigate puberty (and all things that go with it) alone
  • the fifteen year old who was told her mother wished she was never born
  • the seventeen year old who was told she was a whore when mom and dad fought out she was sexually active
  • the twenty year old who was punched in the face by dad
And the list goes on and on, with so many more in between.  All the trauma of having abusive parents adds up to one huge trauma, labeled as an "abusive childhood".  But that's just glossing over the fact that all of these kids inside of you are still hurting.  And each one needs to be tended to individually in order to help them all integrate into your adult self.  At the same time, you also need to be working on your adult traumas, too, as they are still open wounds, just as the childhood ones are.  Only working on one or the other means only working on half of yourself.  You need both to be whole.  

So get out your journal, and let's start.  

For one, I find it helps to name your traumatized childhood selves.  Think of all the ways you react to life, rather than respond, and write them down.  Give them names like "the anxious one", "the irritated one", "the obstinate one", etc.  Imagine them all as little kids running around without an adult to calm them down or someone who can understand them.  These kids have been unparented for a long, long time, so don't expect them to warm up to you immediately.  Some might.  Whereas others may hang back and wait and see if they trust you or not.  But naming them right off the bat is a good way to show them you are paying attention to them.  

Then I want you to name the good aspects of your personality, too.  Like "the strong one", "the smart one", "the capable one", "the talented one", etc.  Write all that you can think of.  Then take both lists, and write each one at the top of a page and then journal about what makes you this way.  What makes you strong?  Capable?  Anxious?  Irritated?  Expand on each one and explore where you think the traumatized ones came from.  And give examples of the good aspects, too.  The traumatized ones aren't bad aspects, remember that.  They are traumatized.  And that's not your fault.  We can only take responsibility for how we react through those traumatized parts of ourselves.  And if we make amends or not when we do act improperly (because all humans act improperly sometimes--the trick is to fix it when we do--click here for how to craft the perfect apology).  

You can make this an entire journal, as you most likely will have enough to write about.  But, you need to remember to make the good aspects of your personality just as filled out as the traumatized parts.  Don't skimp on any of it.  If you can't figure one aspect out, then move onto another, though leave enough space for that one to come back to later.  

So the reparenting part comes in when you are exploring the traumatized aspects, you write what would have made you feel better back when you were young when these parts of you were showing up.  Like when you were being anxious as a kid.  Recall particular instances when you were super anxious and ask, how would have you wanted your parent to react to you?  What would have made you feel safe?  What would have worked to make you feel calm and centered?  Write it all down.  And after, I want you to relive that moment in your head, and imagine either you as an adult or a parent acting the way you would have need them to act back then.  Feel the safety, the calmness, and let it flow through you.  And the next time you are anxious, imagine it again, but this time, imagine whoever you like treating you that way today, as an adult.  Or ask your significant other to do it for you, especially if they are interested in helping you heal (if not, really dig into your relationship and ask if it's healthy for you to stay in it).  Have them (or yourself, or someone else safe) give you the love you needed as a child in order to feel safe again.  Repeat this visualization (or action with another person) every single time one of your traumatized inner children come out.  

Next, I want you to make a list of all the core beliefs (a great printable here) that make you feel like shit about yourself.  Do you feel unloved?  Hated?  Stupid?  Etc.  Make the list as long as you like.  Check out this list here at the Hoffman Institute and see of any resonate with you.  Now, check with your list of inner children.  Which of these inner children are connected to these core beliefs?  What traumas did they endure that made them believe these things about themselves?  

Once you've connected the dots, you need to figure out what that child needs to understand that these core beliefs are not true.  What would you say, as an adult, to your inner child, to help them heal from their traumas so they can relinquish their hold on these core beliefs?  Because, as it stands, these beliefs are what affects you today and what drives you, and also what holds you back in life.  

Your inner children did not get the love, attention, and security that they needed as kids.  But you can give that to them now.  It will take time, but once you befriend your inner kids and make them realize that YOU are the parent now and you are there to help them, they will learn to trust you and eventually, integrate into adulthood.  

One great and awesome product that I've talked about on here before that can help you do this is the Inner Active Card Deck, which you can find here: 

Inner Active Cards

I am a strong believer in pictorial representations to help unlock the psyche (which is why I like tarot and oracle cards for introspection, also).  You can do so many things with the cards, and all the instructions can be found on that website above.

You can find more about parts work here: Inner Active Cards - Theresa McMordie

We didn't create our traumatized inner children.  But it is our responsibility in life to reparent them and work on healing them.  And since nobody can do it but us, I guess it's time we get to work :)

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