by Viviana Diaz, LPC
In working with adults, we explore therapy dynamics that have impacted the most important moments of a client’s childhood and informed them who they are now. Blame or judgment aside, parenting may have been insufficient to support the demands of children’s formative years, or parenting was healthy, but we had unmet needs. The most perceptive years of childhood are between 0-7 years old and they are the most crucial in absorbing data, dynamics, and cognitions of our family. How our parents related to us, interactions, guidance, and values are absorbed by young brains at a faster pace in those years. As we grow older, we abhor the idea of becoming our parents and swear in our teenage years “we will never be like them.” We will be different and better… to a certain extent. We have the capacity to create better experiences; however, whatever shortcomings our parents had in parenting impacts us as adults almost inevitably.
During therapy, a client’s perception of his/her needs is imperative to build momentum in sessions. It is useful to explore the past and recollect the needs that were not fulfilled, the love, the cognitions, and unhealthy messaging that we learn to live with, or even normalize through the years. In adult life, these unmet needs may take the form of anxiety, shame, guilt, enmeshment, judgment, poor boundaries, and self-abandonment of our own needs. Unintentionally, we may be repeating the same patterns that we witnessed and normalized in our young mind. Additionally, we may even interestingly attach and gravitate towards partners that reflect similar patterns that we observe as children consciously or not. We seek validation of our external world and may learn to repress and disassociate from our own body to meet the demands of an external world.
Inner child work provides a structure to allow a client to get in touch with unmet needs that have not been fulfilled. In therapy, we seek to connect the individual to that younger self and reconnect with those needs. Thus, he/she becomes aware of dynamics that directly impact the present moment and nurture parts of ourselves that were not considered. Also, clients are encouraged to support healing from those experiences by utilizing his/her own inner resources such as: compassion, care, love, and acceptance. By doing so, we may have more connection to our needs as adults and to our body by developing safety inwards. This develops our capacity to nurture ourselves, and challenge unhealthy bonds that may keep us in the same patterns of unhealthy behavior in relationships.
1. Write a letter to him or her: It helps to find a picture of your younger self. Appreciate the qualities of your childhood: your innocence, your favorite toys, your favorite activities, your best friend, your sensitivities, and inner fears. If in this letter you could travel through time and go back to when you were a child, what would you say to your younger self? What advice would you give? What will be important to tell this little person? Finally, write and repeat to yourself (I love you, I hear you, thank you, and I am sorry).
2. Observe the qualities of children around you: Notice kids in your life and be curious about their feelings. Ask questions and spend some time with them.
3. Spend time doing things that you used to enjoy: Children engage with curiosity, and as we mature, we lose that quality over time. Explore an activity that you were good at, or things you used to enjoy with your parents and other family members.
4. Lean in on what you learn: What did you learn about your childhood? Is there anything that you can incorporate in your adult life that involves childhood joy? Were there needs that were not met then that you can fulfill now? Be compassionate, be kind, be nurturing, and remember when you speak badly about yourself you are talking to your younger self. Love yourself and your inner child. He/she is still there inside you.
If you or a loved one are looking for help connecting with that inner child and gaining more understanding of oneself, please visit our website or call our office at 630-733-9108 to schedule.