How do I heal or reparent my inner child?
There are several aspects to healing inner child parts:
- growing up your “inner adult” self and taking responsibility for your adult life and the healing of your inner parts
- developing a relationship with your child parts, listening to their pain, and offering them nurturing, validation, and support
- letting your inner child parts be a child – being creative, having fun, spending time that is not full of worry or adult concerns
What is Parts Work?
If you aren’t familiar with parts work, I recommend this short, free IFS intro course. But the basic concept is that we can have inner dialogue with all the various parts of ourselves, and many of them are child parts that hold pain from the past.
The IFS concept of “Blended parts” and “Unblending” is important to understand–this is when you ask the child part to hold their pain without overwhelming you with it. This lets you have a dialogue with it, understand its needs, and help it release its pain. This is covered in more detail in the book Self-Therapy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness Using IFS by Jay Earley, which I recommend.
I do parts work in my journal, but there are also many IFS therapists out there who can help you with the process. It is one of the more effective types of therapy, in my opinion, and once you get the hang of it, you can easily do it on your own. I actually started going parts work on my own before I learned about IFS, but they have a really good system and it’s very well laid out and explained.
One big thing I got from IFS is learning that I don’t have to wear my inner parts “on the outside”, I can keep them “on the inside”. Meaning if a younger part gets triggered, I can tuck her away inside, deal with the situation from the most adult part of me, and then talk to my inner parts later when I’m alone and can meet their needs. That really reduced my anxiety around being in certain situations because it was really a fear of being triggered and responding like a child. Of course a 2 year old is going to scared to be out alone in the world, and it’s up to me to help find her a cozy place inside and let her know she doesn’t have to go to the grocery store with me, of if she does come, I’m here taking care of things and she can just watch the world go by and let go of trying to be in charge.
How can I grow up my inner responsible adult?
In my experience, growing up is about accepting some hard truths about reality. Truths like:
- It’s nobody’s job to save you, not even your therapist or your parents, and especially not your romantic partner.
- Your inner child need you to take care of it, not your partner.
- Blaming other people robs you of your own power to change your life, and destroys relationships.
- Nobody wants to be around someone who is angry, even if you have every justifiable reason for being so.
- You really can destroy friendships, relationships, lose jobs, get kicked out of groups, etc if you act out your trauma, and nobody will save you from that either.
- What happened to you wasn’t fair or right, and it’s also not fair that you now have to heal yourself of that trauma, but that’s the way it is if you want to create a better life for yourself.
- Creating a better life is entirely up to you, and nobody is going to do it for you.
- Nobody can read your mind and know what you want or need, so you have to work on overcoming any shame or fear you have about asking and learn how to ask in an appropriate manner, not make demands, and accept no for an answer.
- Your healing fantasies are not real, and they are hurting you, and it’s up to you to not get lost in them, and deal with real life instead.
- If you’re in a bad situation, it’s up to you to leave it.
Yup, your inner adult comes from giving yourself tough love. Not mean, self-critical condemnation, just honest, clear, grounded love that doesn’t entertain self-delusions, because they are hurting you.
How can I be more nurturing toward my inner child?
This is the fun part! This is about letting yourself have the things that you weren’t allowed to have, or weren’t given to you as a child.
My inner child loves stuffed animals and cartoons. I have a lot of stuffed animals–the one I love the most is very squishy stuffed unicorn, and it is perfect for squeezing tight when I feel stressed or sad. When I am doing parts work, I’m usually holding it and it is very comforting. I like watching Disney movies, and letting myself just enjoy it like a kid would.
Learning self-validation was really big for me. It’s basically telling yourself, “Your feelings make sense, it’s OK to feel how you feel”. I grew up in a very invalidating environment where my feelings were always too much, silly, immature, etc, and so I developed an inner invalidator that mimicked those voices. Doing some deep work undoing that really helped calm a lot of my inner turmoil.
I personally found learning NVC (Nonviolent Communication) to be essential to learning how to empathize with all my inner parts, and it enabled me to understand my needs a lot clearer.
It’s a bit dated, but the book Healing Your Aloneness by Margaret Paul & Erika Chopich goes into inner child work in more depth. Hope this helps!