Embracing your wounded inner child.
I once went to a workshop on PTSD where the rather famous presenter mocked the concept of a wounded inner child. He declared that such a concept is ridiculous because there’s no inner child inside of you unless you’re pregnant. Frankly, I was shocked by his rigid concreteness and inability to see the healing value of embracing your wounded inner child. So, what actually is your wounded inner child? Well, it’s a metaphor for all your unhealed wounds from childhood composed of certain thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations that are triggered by specific stimuli, throwing you into a trance-like state of powerlessness, shame, and fear.
So, when your wounded inner child is triggered, you emotionally become the traumatized child you were, still trapped in dysfunction or abuse, which can significantly distort the way you perceive yourself and your relationships.
Okay, so I want to bring the metaphor of the wounded inner child to life. Let’s talk about Bobby who grew up with an abusive alcoholic father. Now let’s flash forward 25 years and Bobby is married to Julie, who is a sweetheart. However, Bobby still carries significant wounds from childhood that are instantly triggered by certain stimuli.
For example, if his wife disagrees with him, he is immediately thrown into a panic and then compulsively avoids the potential conflict in anyway he can. But why? Because arguments in childhood always led to pain and chaos. But in the present reality, Julie is frustrated with him because he rarely expresses his opinion or lets her know what he needs or wants. She longs for his feedback but rarely gets it, and so she feels alone in a marriage with a man she’s realizing she doesn’t even know.
Finally, she gives him an ultimatum: “Get therapy or I’m leaving.” Here’s another example: Loretta was physically abused by her mother and then became riddled with feelings of shame, fear, and powerlessness.
She eventually married Rodney, an angry man who drank too much. She tried everything to make him happy but never succeeded for very long, so she felt like a failure. And when he abused her, triggering the shame of her wounded inner child, she blamed herself for his abusive behavior just like she did when her mother abused her.
Thus, Loretta’s feelings of shame, fear, and powerlessness kept her trapped in an abusive relationship. As I mentioned before, the trance of the wounded inner child is composed of shame, fear, and powerlessness, which are what prevented Bobby from sharing his opinion with his loving wife and Loretta from getting out of an abusive marriage. And at the core of the trance of the wounded inner child are certain beliefs, called Core Beliefs, that fuel shame, fear, and powerlessness, which I will now discuss. First, let’s talk about Core Beliefs that children develop growing up in a loving environment: Core Beliefs about self include: “I am worthwhile,” “I am safe,” and “I am capable,” which lead to feelings of self-worth, safety, and empowerment, which you may notice are the opposites of shame, fear, and powerlessness.
Core Beliefs about close relationships include: “Others are available to me,” “Others are responsive to me,” and “Others will meet my needs,” which leads to feeling safe in close relationships, a belief that my needs and feelings matter, and trust in others.
Now, let’s talk about the Core Beliefs that children develop growing up with trauma, abuse, and significant dysfunction: Core Beliefs about self include: “I am worthless,” “I am unsafe,” “I am helpless,” which lead to shame, anxiety, and powerlessness. Core Beliefs about close relationships include: “Others are unresponsive,” “Others are unreliable,” and “Others might even be dangerous,” which leads to hopelessness, shame, anxiety, and anger. As you can see, Core Beliefs are at the root of the shame, fear, and powerlessness of the wounded inner child. And, in order to heal such wounds, your mindful, adult brain must become the loving, nurturing parent for your wounded inner child that was lacking in childhood, so that you can learn to develop healthy Core Beliefs, such as “I am worthwhile,” “I am safe,” and “Others will meet my needs.” I call this process “reparenting your wounded inner child,” the subject of a previous video of mine.
If you’d like help reparenting your wounded inner child, then visit my website, serenityonlinetherapy.com, to learn more about the online services I provide. If you liked this video, please click the Thumbs Up button and then subscribe to my channel to hear more from me. And finally, keep paying attention to your life! Until next time.