Noticing, Healing and Freeing Your Inner Child

We’ve all at one time been advised to “get in touch with our inner child.” Especially yoga and meditation teachers often invite us to unfold this child inside us. But who is this inner child? This articles explores the meanings in psychotherapy and eastern philosophies and what it means to heal and reparent this inner child. Also, discover popular guided inner child meditations.
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog
inner child healing
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog

What does working with and healing our inner child entail? We explore the history of the inner child concept, several possible meanings, and the resulting freedom in getting better acquainted with this side of our being. You can also find guided inner child meditations throughout the article.

Understanding The Concepts Of The Inner Child In Psychotherapy And Eastern Philosophies

The Inner Child In Psychotherapy 

The psychologist Carl Jung (1875-1961) is most commonly considered the first to have coined the term “inner child.” The divine child archetype is one among many defined by Jung. 

Rejecting the idea that we come into this world as a blank slate, Jung instead believed that individuals have predestined “primordial images” within their subconscious. Jungian archetypes are manifestations of the collective unconscious, potentials that are realized when they enter consciousness and take form as behavior and interaction with the outside world. The archetype is an inborn unconscious driver of our behavior. 

In popular psychology, the inner child archetype is akin to an unconscious subpersonality that consists of what a person learned and experienced in the earliest years of their life. This inner child personality is subordinate to the conscious mind, yet influences this mind. The influence manifests negatively if the inner child is traumatized, wounded or anxious. 

The role of Jungian psychotherapy is to heal this inner child. Through a process of conscious “reparenting”, psychotherapists assist their patients in recognizing the inner child’s trauma and pain. By compassionately working with this inner child to teach them new patterns of behavior, the adult becomes free from the compulsion to act upon the whims of the unruly, subconscious child.

Read more: Psychotherapist Dorothy Ratusny explains the damaging effects of lacking self-love in children all through adulthood.

Meeting The Needs Of The Child Within Us

Roberto Assagioli (1888-1974), founder of the term psychosenthesis, the study of both personality and soul, inferred that while healing childhood trauma was essential to the healthy development of the ego, human growth was equally dependent on spiritual experience, and the goal of “self-realization.”

Assagioli’s concept of self-actualization was later made famous by its place at the top of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s theory was that once humans have satisfied their basic needs of food, water, and shelter, the actualization of their full potential can begin to take place. 

These 19th-century psychotherapists would have agreed that “self-actualization,” the realization of our full potentiality, cannot be arrived at unless and until we make peace with the child within us and their needs. 

The Inner Child In Eastern Philosophies

Jung’s archetypes are founded upon the idea that we do not come into this world as a blank slate. This concept is echoed in eastern philosophies and the belief in past and future lives.

The Inner Child & Karma

According to the laws of karma, the unfulfilled desires of our past life compel our rebirth in the present. This cycle also unfolds from moment to moment, as the unmet needs we are unaware of drive our present-moment actions. 

The traumatized inner child’s desire is to heal. The child within us that remains in pain, fear, anger or rage, guilt or shame, either retreats from or lashes out at the world around them, unable to cope with their intense emotions. It may be firmly rooted in black and white thinking and solid beliefs as a means of protecting themselves from the outside world. It needs guidance and loving-kindness from their adult self so it can learn to trust and feel whole.

Until the inner child is healed, our past troubles will continue to reveal themselves. Karma says we are fated to repeat the cycle until we consciously break it. While Jung may have referred to the “hidden subconscious forces” of the inner child, eastern philosophers note the seeds of karma.

These seeds are stored in our subconscious, and until we replace them by planting positive seeds or liberate them through self-awareness, they will continue to grow and ripen into negative outcomes. 

The good news is, just like the seeds of karma, the hidden forces of the inner child archetype can be redeemed. We can plant seeds for positive karma, and we can benefit from the positive characteristics of a healed inner child. 

The redeemed inner child is the emancipated child, freed by you as the parent. A healthy and healed inner child is able to remain in the present moment, no longer clings to black and white beliefs and feels comfortable letting things go. The child within us becomes curious, playful, and accepts a sense of humor in all things.

The Healed Inner Child

The Buddhist spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh has said

“the cry we hear from deep in our hearts comes from the wounded child within.”

It’s our life’s work to stop, notice, and listen to this child. We cannot reach our destiny without healing the inner child’s pain and transforming their sadness, fear or anger. In his 2010 book, Reconciliation: Healing The Inner Child, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests using mindfulness to listen with compassion to our inner child.

Hearing & Reparenting The Child Within Us Through Mindfulness

In Buddhist psychology, consciousness is divided into two parts:

  • mind consciousness or active awareness, and
  • root consciousness, similar to the subconsciousness where our seeds of karma are stored and the inner child resides.

We can strengthen our mind consciousness through meditation and by doing even the simplest daily activities with awareness. 

As mindfulness increases, we can better hear the call of the child inside us. Noticing and listening is the first step in the process of reconciliation. Once we recognize the child, Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us to embrace them, to take care of them, and to compassionately reparent them.

Discover hundreds of free guided self-compassion meditation practices that help to acknowledge pain and suffering and respond to it with kindness. 

Through its call to us, the inner child is asking us to help it heal. Like all children, this child has within it the potential to be healed. The call of the inner child is the call of our true nature, it asks us to listen, to slow down, and to treat our innermost being with compassion and loving-kindness. Ultimately, the call comes from a part of us deep within that is already whole, enlightened and divine.

Before reading on and learning about the enlightened and joyful inner child, you might want to connect to your inner child right now. Get in touch with your child-like nature and start healing from within with the help of these popular inner child meditations, all available for free in the Insight Timer app:

  1. Healing Inner Child & Emotional Processing Meditation Erin Colleen Geraghty 17:58
  2. Inner Child Healing Meditation: Self Love, Inner Power & Self Worth Affirmations Kenneth Soares 21:45
  3. Inner Child Meditation for Codependency & Negative Programming Michelle Chalfant 20:00
  4. Loving Your Inner Child Patty Alfonso 6:35
  5. Inner Child Meditation Selena Lael 29:02
  6. Inner Child Healing Oliver Jenkin 40:07
  7. Remembering The Lost Inner Child Lisa A. Romano 19:36

The Enlightened Inner Child 

The divine child, the healed child inside us, is an archetype that’s frequently enmeshed with descriptions of enlightened beings. This is the child your meditation and yoga teacher wants you to invite to the forefront. This is the child that comes out to play once the reconciliation and healing process is complete. 

While the traumatized inner child is imbued with mental afflictions, the enlightened inner child is joyful, empathetic, curious, and playful. 

Spiritual texts from all faiths describe the childlike features of those fully connected to the divine. In Mark 10:15 the Bible says

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Without the humility, teachability, and faith of a child, one will be unable to connect to one’s God. One must follow the teachings as a child follows a parent.

Embracing Our Child-Like Nature

The Hindu Swami Amar Jyoti describes “the great souls” as like innocent children, spontaneous, with simplicity and purity of heart. He goes on to say high beings appear childlike because they are unassuming, free and unattached to a static definition of “self.”

The Dalai Lama is often referred to as child-like, “manifest Buddhism in his own nature – child-like, joyful, and empathetic.” Vancouver’s Dalai Lama Center emphasizes a child’s ability to see themselves as limitless, to dream big and focus on their potential and the possibilities of what they can do, as the desirable qualities of a divine being.

Children are naturally curious and open to learning, they find joy in exploration without attachment to outcome, they ask for help when they need it, and imagine they have the potential to be really good at something. 

Carl Jung famously said,

“The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.”

Once we come to terms with a healthy ego by making friends with the child inside us, it’s time to allow the enlightened qualities of this child to teach us to let go. 

When asked to get in touch with our inner child, we may at first find someone scared, hiding, angry, or lashing out. Through conscious connection and compassionate self-parenting, we allow this inner child to shine forth with all their innate wonder, curiosity, awe and potential. 

True adulthood and maturity arises when we have fully acknowledged, accepted, and taken responsibility for our inner child, through loving and compassionate self-parenting.

Read more: Discover how to appreciate yourself and how to practice self-love every day.

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