Inner child work is an extremely profound way of empowering yourself, it is a way of re-writing your personal script, your story and enables you to make positive changes in the way that you think and feel.
Before I lose some of the more scientific among you, let me start with the logic and rationale as to how and why this type of work does work!
Your long-term memory, also known in hypnotherapy as the subconscious mind and in psychotherapy, the unconscious mind has many jobs to do. One of its main directives however is to store information, regardless of whether it’s true or false.
The subconscious mind has no understanding of past or future, so memories are held ‘in state’ i.e. in the way that you experienced them at that given moment in time, yet they are simultaneously in the here and now.
Clients often tell me how invalidating and annoying it is to be told “ but that happened years ago, why don’t you let it go and move on.” It may well be that something happened years ago, but as far as your subconscious mind is concerned it is still happening at an emotional level. The feelings from the memory are constantly replaying at a physiological level. Your body is still replaying the fear, the anxiety that the bullying caused. Get it?
The main filing system of the subconscious mind is symbols, pictures and images.
Therefore the best way to work with the subconscious mind is in imagery. Let me explain.
Let’s suppose you have a bad memory, something unpleasant that happened to you when you were twelve. Let’s say you were bullied at school. No matter how many times you look at that memory, you are the victim of the bullying. So why would you want to keep revisiting it? The only reason to revisit an unpleasant memory is to change it, rearrange it and put it back into the subconscious mind in a way that leaves you feeling empowered and if you like, the victor, as opposed to the victim. This works because the subconscious (unconscious mind) believes whatever it’s told!
So we might work with the twelve year old ‘victim’ by revisiting the memory, only this time imagining that your older self walks back into the school room and gives the bully a real talking to, maybe even incapacitates the bully (whatever feels right and justified to you). The adult you can then take the twelve year old by the hand and lead them out of the classroom and take them somewhere safe and secure.
Once there, your older self can engage with the twelve year old encouraging a two-way communication. This means asking the inner twelve year old a question and waiting to sense the response rather than assuming you as an adult knows what that younger you needs.
Often the younger part needs a hug, or to feel loved or heard. In your imagination give the younger you whatever it is they’re asking for, in the best way you can imagine.
Often, whilst in the process of reframing we may have an emotional release. It’s an opportunity to let go of the feelings bound up with that memory. This ‘clearing’ out of old emotions is what feels so healing. We are left with a sense of inner space and a deeper sense of peace.
This talking to yourself silently can feel a bit odd at first but you get better at it as time goes on.
So you might close your eyes simply stare at the floor.
Invite yourself to go back in time to that memory and begin to run it as I’ve suggested above or in whatever way feels like an appropriate positive reframe for you. The aim is to get the ‘stuck’ or ‘victim’ part of you out of that situation and move them to a better place (albeit in your mind/imagination).
I’ll say it again, this works because the subconscious (unconscious mind) believes whatever it’s told! Simples!
Please do not attempt to do this work with highly abusive memories. If you were subject to abuse or long-term neglect or bullying please find a professional therapist to work with.
As an aid to this technique I have made a download called Healing Your Inner Child, which will guide you to reframe negative memories. Again I add the caution that this it is not an appropriate tool for long term abuse or neglect in childhood. You will be better served to work one-to-one with a professional therapist or counsellor.