I have seen a lot of videos lately about healing your inner child. It's usually about meeting unmet needs and re-parenting yourself; everything from playing with toys you didn't get to as a child, soothing yourself in a way you weren't soothed or for feelings you didn't get to express, to in general acknowledging experiences you went through and validating how they made you feel.
I recently got very sad news, and the next six months will be very rough. This has stirred up a lot of anger and sadness from my childhood, and while my partner has been great at comforting my adult self, I have really felt the ache of my inner child.
4 ways I'm healing my inner child
1. Enjoying toys
I was at the thrift store and suddenly saw a box with a Barbie bubble bath playset and felt such intense happiness looking at it, knowing how much I would have loved it as a child. I almost bought it, but decided against it since we're planning on moving in a year. But it really connected me with the feeling of the little girl I used to be. On my way out I happened to see a very sad-looking stuffed bunny on a shelf, looking remarkably like Eeyore. For $3 he definitely went into my cart. He just tugged at my heartstrings and I decided that his name is Theodore.
For the past two weeks I've had him in my lap while I'm working (I work from home so this is luckily quite acceptable), snuggled up with him in my papasan chair to read or scroll on my phone, and even carried him around with me sometimes. It may seem childish (which is the whole point), but I've allowed myself to need what I need right now.
My friend came over the day after I got him to hang out on the deck and I didn't feel the slightest bit embarrassed to have him in my lap while we talked. We often delve into our traumas so she gets it. While this is not exactly the first stuffed animal I have gotten as an adult (I love them!), this is the first one that I have felt such a strong need to have, to have with me. And now I don't feel that intense need for him anymore -- I feel like that part of me healed.
I'm allowing myself to need
2. Comforting myself
The feeling I get from looking at this picture below is so strong. I want so desperately to be held and comforted like this, to feel so completely secure in the knowledge that a parent's got me. Holding my stuffed bunny makes me feel like the mom in the picture -- he becomes my inner child, and I'm consoling her myself, giving her what she needs.
I also put my hand on my chest a lot to calm myself down. Did you know that by doing so for a little while releases oxytocin? For someone who has such a high need for physical affection, discovering that I can give myself the same effect as a hug is a game-changer!
To turn it up a notch I cross my hands over my sternum and tap my fingertips, one side at a time, like a heart beat -- ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum. It has an incredible calming effect, and if I close my eyes it's like the best actually effective meditation I've ever tried. My mind is finally quiet.
Photo by Jordan Whitt
3. Journaling & writing
Two days after the news I was solidly in the anger phase of the 5 stages of grief. I felt anger at the whole situation, how unfair life is, but especially anger at my childhood. How while my parents weren't bad parents, they didn't meet my emotional needs; how I went through my first depressive episode in sixth grade; how I lost my sense of safety watching my house burn down at eight years old.
So I spent a few hours writing down all the things I was angry about, one of my favorite ways to blow off steam. I posted here, delving into the memory of losing our house and the effects it had on me.
I think there's a fine line between burying yourself in hurtful memories and being introspective, and I find that putting words on paper helps moving it into the latter column. While you can think the same thought over and over, run the same scenario in a loop in your head, writing it down makes it easier to move on as you move the story forward and find new perspectives and tangents to go on.
4. Moving my body
As a child, you move a lot. You pretend to be a horse, you play tag, you run just because it's faster and fun. As an adult, especially when you have a desk job, you tend to live a more sedentary life.
I have always held trauma and stress in my body, and dance therapy (which may sound intense, but is really just moving to music releasing tension) is something I find amazing. I didn't do it much growing up though, but I used to roam the forest for hours and come home with a fox skull for my "bones and cool rocks" shelf.
So right now I am focusing on physical selfcare -- from just walking around the neighborhood with my dogs several times a day and stretching to working out and hiking on the weekends. It connects me with the peace I always felt wandering around and also releases nervous energy. It's kind of like the saying "a tired dog is a happy dog."
It's kind of fascinating how much we know nowadays about our minds and feelings. How we have so many tools to work through old hurts and negative patterns; we just have to find them.
Hi, I'm Erika!
I know what it's like living with anxiety and depression, but living and living are very different things. I believe in practical tips and methods, and I will use them to help you be the brave, daring, darling individual you are.
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