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Child Development

3 Ways to Heal Your Inner Child

Reframe, relinquish, and release your emotions to recover from childhood trauma.

Key points

  • People who are able to situate a traumatic experience within a broader life narrative are most likely to experience post-traumatic growth.
  • Shame is an assault on the self in which a person’s self-concept, sense of power, and control come under attack.
  • Feeling an unbridled release of deep emotional pain is part of the healing process. Embrace it without judgment.
Khorzhevska/Shutterstock
Source: Khorzhevska/Shutterstock

Many people come to therapy asking questions about how they can heal the emotional pain they endured during childhood. Sometimes, they were forced to grow up too fast and take on the role of a parent (what psychologists refer to as
"parentification") before they were ready. In other cases, they felt unseen during childhood and perhaps didn’t receive normal parental care. Others experienced devastating losses or abuse during childhood.

Dealing with childhood trauma is easier said than done. No matter the efforts you may have gone through to shake off your trauma, it can still feel like a traumatized child is living inside of you.

In this post, I discuss three ways you can embark on your healing journey.

1. Reframe your narrative.

Time and distance can help us gain perspective on traumatic experiences, even though the thought of such traumas may still sting in the present. Instead of looking back on your past with a sense of powerlessness, think about all the times you pulled yourself out of difficult situations. Regardless of how abnormal or difficult it may have been, your childhood shaped you to become the resilient person you are today. Many successful people have endured less-than-perfect childhoods. Use that as inspiration that it is possible to heal and flourish after surviving a painful childhood.

Constantly reflecting on your childhood without reframing it can cause you to become stuck in a cycle of victimhood. When you successfully reframe your narrative, you can break free from this mentally debilitating cycle.

Kat J / Unsplash
Kat J / Unsplash

One study published in Qualitative Social Work found that people who were able to situate a traumatic experience within a broader life narrative were most likely to experience post-traumatic growth. Taking the time to update your life’s narrative as you overcome obstacles and make progress toward your goals can help you feel more in control, thereby easing out the recovery process.

Narrative therapy can help in this process, so don’t be afraid to reach out to a qualified mental health practitioner to help guide you on your healing journey.

2. Relinquish shame.

Shame is a severely self-damaging emotion and one of the hardest to get over if you have experienced childhood abuse and/or neglect.

Shame can strike out of nowhere. It can affect how you perceive yourself as a person, and it can cause you to doubt your value. It can make it feel as though you don't deserve happiness or love.

One study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology conceptualized shame as an assault on the self in which a person’s self-concept, sense of power, and control come under attack. The authors suggest that people are most likely to bounce back from feelings of shame when they embark upon a process of self-reconstruction–prioritizing emotions such as acceptance, understanding, connecting, and refocusing. Again, therapy can help expedite this process.

3. Release your emotions.

Much of your current negative thinking and emotions can likely be traced to the deep wounds from your childhood when there was perhaps no opportunity to express them freely and without judgment.

However, it is never too late to let them out. Don’t be afraid to lean on your support system when you need to or bask in self-reflection as you try to heal.

On days you feel the burden of your pain pressing down on your shoulders, feel it and scream your heart out. Feeling that unbridled release of deep emotional pain is part of the healing process. Embrace it without judgment.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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