In psychology, the term “inner child” refers to the aspect of an individual’s personality that continues to reflect the innocence, creativity, and vulnerability of their childhood self. We call it our playful, impulsive, wonder- and imagination-filled side. To achieve emotional and psychological well-being, some therapeutic philosophies view the inner child as a distinct element of the self that needs to be recognized, loved, and healed.

Discovering your inner child.

The inner child has a strong influence. It resides deep inside of us. Think about a young child who is wholesome and content. Feel the life in this child as you visualize them. It explores its surroundings with considerable enthusiasm. It is aware of its emotions and expresses them honestly. It cries when it gets wounded. It cries out of rage. When it is joyful, it chuckles and smiles from the bottom of its heart. The child is also very instinctive and sensitive. It is aware of whom to trust and whom to avoid. This child enjoys exploring and playing. Every moment is brand-new and amazing. This playfulness is a never-ending source of inspiration and vitality.

As time goes on the child runs head-on into the demands of the adult world. The voice of grown-ups, with their own needs and wants begins to drown out the inner voice of feelings and instincts. In effect, parents and teachers say, “don’t trust yourself, don’t feel your feelings, don’t say this, don’t express that. Do as we say, we know best.”

With time those very qualities that gave the child its aliveness- curiosity, spontaneity, ability to feel, are forced into hiding. In the process of raising, disciplining, and educating children, adults often turn the child into a predictable adult. By eradicating the child’s vulnerability (along with its lack of control), they severely damage the essential self of the child. The baby is thrown out with the bathwater. The adult world is not a safe place for children. For survivals sake, the growing children sends its delightful child spirit underground and locks it away. But that inner child never grows up and never goes away. It remains buried alive, waiting to be set free.

The inner child is constantly trying to get our attention, but many of us have forgotten how to listen. When we ignore our true feelings and instincts, we are ignoring the inner child. When we fail to mature our body and soul, we neglect the child within.

When we talk ourselves out of childlike needs with the excuse that they are not rational or practical- not the adult thing to do- we abandon the inner child. For instance, we may feel an impulse to skip for joy through the park, or to cry uninhibitedly over the loss of a friend.  That is the inner child expressing themselves.  However, when our serious adult selves assert, “No, you can’t do that! Adults don’t skip,” the Inner Child is put in the closet because “you must appear to be in control.”

We lose our inherent spontaneity and zest for life when our inner child is blocked. This could eventually cause shame, low self-esteem, an unknowingness of who we truly are, as well as poor energy levels. True intimacy with others may be impossible as a result of this. We never really get to know one another. The child within must be accepted and acknowledged for us to be fully human.

By working with the inner child, individuals can gain insight into their deepest desires and fears, uncover and release emotional blockages, and develop a greater sense of self-awareness and self-compassion. This can lead to improved relationships with oneself and others, increased emotional resilience, and a greater capacity for joy and fulfilment in life.

The Author: Melissa Hattingh (Humanitas Intern)

Here is a little bit more about her: 

People, people, people – my passion has always been people. Whether it was two people having a disagreement, or a friend feeling down, I was always the little girl sitting down to hear their frustrations out. That is why becoming a counsellor/psychologist has never felt like just a goal, but a natural progression in my desire to help others. As a Christian, I try and use my beliefs in a way that helps guide people from where they are, to where they want to be. This, no doubt, has informed my other interests in psychology, including criminal psychology. I’ve never been one to judge others for their decisions because I’ve had my fair share of screw-ups. Personal struggles, experiences from trauma, crises, grief… through all of it, I’ve learnt that the best way out, is always through. My belief is that challenges are God’s way of strengthening us mentally, spiritually, and physically. The guiding principle of my belief has always been that of unconditional care for other human beings – be they an atheist or religious, heterosexual or otherwise, black, or white, identifying as he/she/them… in the end, we’re all people, and we all share more than we realise.