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  • BY MELISSA FAIRCHILD, LCSW

Self-Love and The Inner Children

For some the term self-love has become an excuse to indulge in expenses such as getting mani-pedis, sending yourself flowers, getting a massage, or meditating with a guru on some remote mountain top.  Though such activities have a place in loving yourself, profound self-love involves a great deal of internal work.  


Life changing self-love is taking care of your needs with the same love and concern that you put into caring for others, including your physical, emotional, mental, medical and spiritual needs.  Addressing these needs often involves facing internal resistance that interfere with you doing so.  Beliefs, fears, expectations, guilt, and competing priorities are just a few barriers that can assault your efforts.


Volumes could be written on learning how to love yourself given all the ills and pains of the world.  But today, let us look at approaching self-love through work with your inner children.


Inner Children


Inside of each of us is just an inner child yearning to love  and be loved in return. - Lai Rah

I’m sure you have heard of the concept of the inner child.  The inner child is said to hold the playful, spontaneous, and creative sides of ourselves, as well as anger, hurt and fears attributable to childhood experiences that manifest in adulthood as particular perceptions, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and actions.


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Self-Love and The Inner Children

After working with numerous individuals, I have come to believe that a more accurate term is actually inner children.  In simple terms, each child represents you at various points in your life and the unresolved issues or misunderstandings that interfere with you fully and authentically expressing the whole you.  These children can range in age from before birth and into adulthood, though most tend to be from childhood.


Issues represented by the wounds vary greatly.  For instance, I had a client who did not like colored panty hose or tights because an elementary school teacher chastised her for coloring legs any color but flesh colors.  This inner child came to represent her anxiety of freely expressing herself for fear of rejection and her deep need to please and be accepted.  


A more trauma based wound, such as losing a parent in childhood, may be triggered whenever the person is faced with a situation similar to their own.  I have a friend who lost his father when he was nine years of age.  Fifty-five years later, he still avoids speaking of this loss.  His inner child represents his unhealed pain and grief.


Inner children hold the wound until it is healed, so that you can then take the lesson and move on.  Each inner child represents parts of ourselves that needed love and understanding, but may instead continue to feel abandoned, judged, overwhelmed, and/or unloved.  As each child is reclaimed, you are enabled to accept and appreciate yourself with compassion.  Most importantly, you find the love you have sought is not out there somewhere.  This love is you.  


Integration of each inner child completes the healing process and allows you to restore the gifts of that aspect of you.  In time, you come to realize you were always enough.  In fact, you were more than enough.


How Inner Children Communicate


Let us listen to the needs of our inner child that is being tamed and imprisoned by the rules of a grown-up world.  ~ Erik Pevernagie

Just like human children, our inner children use many means to communicate their needs and fears.  When we do not listen to them, their communication gets louder and louder until you can no longer ignore them.  They may seek your attentions through boredom, general dissatisfaction, various emotions (especially anger), or depression.  


At other times, we just feel stuck as nothing you do seems to make a difference.  Being rather resourceful, your inner child may attempt to connect through whole or partial memories, pictures in your mind, repetitious thoughts, or songs.  They may even talk to you through your dreams.  


Sometimes you are aware that you have over reacted to a situation, but cannot stop yourself and do not know why this is.  This can happen when some element of the situation triggers a subconscious memory.


And then there are the behavior patterns that may drive you mad, such as repeatedly checking that all your doors are locked and appliances are turned off or unplugged.  Maybe you even struggle with a bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).


Learning to Listen to the Inner Children


Perhaps the only contact we’ve had with our inner child for a long time is to scold it, criticize it.  Then we wonder why we are unhappy.  ~ Louis Hay

Once you are aware of the existence of your inner children, the next challenge is to understand what each wants you to know.  In general, your inner children are demanding your attention because you are ready to heal the issue and expand beyond your current comfort zone. Furthermore, they will not give up until resolution is achieved.  


As annoying as the inner child may be at times, listen without judgment.  Coax her with kindness, just as you would any child in distress.  Also keep in mind that each expresses appropriate to their age, so communication could be non-verbal.  Finally, persevere in spite of feeling silly.  Together, these tips will increase your ability to understand the message each aspect carries.


Ultimately, in this big and messy world, each inner child needs and wants to be heard, accepted, and validated.  Each also needs to know she is safe, worthy and supported.  When you honor your inner child’s feelings, you are enabled to eliminate your emotional baggage and fully care for yourself on all levels.


Tools to Support and Encourage Communication with the Inner Children


Many of us are guilty of not taking enough time to dial into 

our inner child's voice.  ~ Kim Ha Campbell


There are many ways to acknowledge and communicate with your inner child.  Some methods I have found to be particularly effective include the following.


Journaling


Journaling is expressing yourself freely.  It can include writing, drawing and other artforms, composing poetry, and any other method that allows you to openly communicate what you feel or have to say.  The key is to avoid limiting your voice by censoring or judging yourself.  Do not be concerned with grammar, spelling, or handwriting.  


Place no limits on how the inner children voice themselves.  Maybe today one wants to write and draw with the crayons.  Do it.  You may or may not want a special journal book.  Or you may type it in file on your computer.  I personally like sketchbooks with thick paper that allows for all manner of expression.  Do what works for you.


Meditation


There are numerous forms of meditation.  The key is exploring the various options without any particular expectations.  My clients tend to respond to the guided meditation I have developed over the years.  In fact, many clients thought they could not meditate until experiencing my process.  So there is hope if you too have found meditation challenging.  


One of my clients has her own method to get quiet and relaxed before asking herself questions that invite an inner child to speak.  The response may be a memory, thought, feeling, color, etc.  She gently supports the child until the session feels complete.  


You may want a special space dedicated to meditating, but this is not required.  Some try to keep a regular time to meditate.  Although keeping a schedule is helpful for some, it is not necessary either.  Let your experience evolve as you discover what works for you.  


Getting help


Many find having support in this process to be helpful.  There is no shame in needing help.  In fact, seeking help is a great act of self-love in itself.  A qualified coach or therapist can help to facilitate exploration and communication with your inner children.  


There are so many options to attain assistance.  You may join a support group, enter therapy, work with a spiritual group, or hire a coach.  If you are like me, you may use all of these resources of support and more as you progress through your process.  


Creative expression


Children are naturally creative when given freedom of expression.  The problem too often is the education and other systems tend to override our natural inclinations by dictating what is acceptable.  Over time, we come to believe we are not creative, when in fact our individual creativity has been suppressed.  


Let your inner children use whatever techniques they choose.  A combination of methods is likely to be used at different times, such as coloring, drawing, painting, writing poetry, singing, or even dancing.  Just remember to leave judgment out of the picture. 


Stuffed animal 


This is one of my favorite tools.  Choosing a soft, cuddly stuffed animal to represent your inner children allows the intangible to be more accessible.  Your inner children need to be held and soothed at times.  Imagining the stuffed animal to represent each inner child allows you to “hold” the child, speak to her and say all the things she needs to hear in the moment.  Know that what you say to the inner child, you are saying to yourself.  


This tool is so powerful that one severely traumatized client went from barely keeping a job as a busboy and sleeping with a weapon under his pillow to being promoted to assistant manager, being able to hold his newborn grandchild (extremely important to him) and sleeping with his stuffy instead of the weapon.  When we give ourselves the love and support we need, healing is profound.


Whatever combination of tools you use, the idea is to provide a means for the inner children to communicate the feelings held deep inside.  As you trust your inner children to share their experience, you validate yourself while providing a safe space for healing.  


Benefits and Conclusion


Caring for your inner child has a powerful and surprisingly quick result: Do it and the child heals.  ~ Martha Beck

In summary, loving you inner children is just another means to learn to love and appreciate all of yourself.  As you give them your attention, they direct you back to your heart so that you can remember how to trust yourself.


As each inner child is healed and reintegrated into the wholeness of you, life will begin to change.  Some shifts will be subtle and revealed over time, while other changes may be more dramatic.  Together, you experience yourself in a more profound way as the changes spread throughout all aspects of your life.  


As you learn to own your power, victimhood is left in the past where it belongs.  No longer do you allow others to manipulate your feelings or actions.  You honor your ‘yes’ and your ‘no,’ safeguarding your boundaries and your priorities.  


Results include taking better care of yourself, better physical and mental health, greater confidence in yourself, stronger relationships, and greater courage to accept challenges to expand your comfort zone.  Overall, your life continues to grow evermore happy as you show up authentically to share the real you.  


Welcome home.


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Melissa Fairchild with Her Nation Magzine
Melissa Fairchild | LCSW

Meet the author:

For more than 35 years, including 27 years in the Veterans Administration, I have helped thousands to develop the stable, loving lives they desired. Having overcome a traumatic childhood, I understand the challenges of facing the wounds that hold us hostages to the past.  I combine my personal and professional experience to support your transformation into the person you were born to be.


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