Guess what?  You’re filled with little people.  And a lot of the time, they’re running the show.

No, I haven’t lost the plot (honest).  Hear me out….

When we experience traumas which don’t get resolved, particularly in our early years, then our younger selves get stuck in the cycling of that experience.  They remain inside of us, and show up whenever something similar arises.  They take over our behaviours and reactions, trying to keep us safe (but their toolkit is that of a young child – it’s not sophisticated, and sadly it’s often not that healthy).

Trauma doesn’t have to be a horrendous, acute event. It occurs any time your nervous system is overstimulated by something which it can’t then discharge (usually this is because it doesn’t feel safe to do so), and so it doesn’t get processed. It is then re-experienced in our bodies either continually or when we are activated. It’s here, in the present, not in the past.

Trauma – a definition

So what does this all mean in practice?  Well, it means that most of us will have a beautiful inner child (in fact children of many ages) within us, perpetually living their childhood over again. And though this is a safety resource, it can mean that we get stuck in harmful patterns that make things tricky.  It’s why we encounter the same problems repeatedly – and it’s tiring and demoralising.  Some examples include:

  • You want to take your business to the next level but despite all your knowledge and talents, you’re procrastinating and hesitating (perhaps the young child learned that if they stood out from the crowd, they got told off or mocked)

  • You scream and stamp your feet when your partner tells you they don’t want to go to the cinema (the inner child who only got attention – even if it was negative – when they kicked up a fuss)

  • You keep falling desperately for the unavailable bad guy (because you grew up in a house with emotionally unavailable parents and now want to put it right)
  • You can never relish praise and instead must keep pushing to the next goal (because you only felt love from your caregiver when you achieved something and your inner child is hungry for more)

  • You have to fix everything and be the solution-giver (because you had to parent your own parent when young, keeping them safe and well)
  • You withdraw totally at the slightest hint of a disagreement (as you learned as a teenager that you couldn’t rely on others so had to do it all yourself)
  • You have to keep your house spotless, but it still never feels good enough (because as a child you were only valued if you kept things neat)

These are just a few examples, wow there’s so many. And it really is astounding the impact that this can have on us EVERY DAY.  Think of all the times you’re frustrated with yourself and wondering why you’re acting in the way you are. And then imagine that you’re actually asking a 3 year old toddler, a 10 year old child or a grumpy teenager to cope.  It then starts to make a little sense.

Remember, this doesn’t have to be about abusive, neglective parents (although it does include that).  This is usually this is about unresolved trauma passing through the generations – people trying their best but not really dealing with stuff so well.

And the great news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can become the parent these inner children need – with understanding, unconditional love, support, availability, balance.

And the magic of that is that we then don’t need to look for approval, safety, love, to be fixed or numbed from other people or other things.  We can invite what we want into our lives from a place of positive conscious choice rather than a desperate, unconscious need.

And we can heal and show up as our wonderful, capable adult selves.

This work isn’t easy but it is sooo possible.

“It’s never too late to have the childhood you deserved.”

Peter Levine, Founder of Somatic Experiencing

Learning to parent your inner child(ren)

I’ll be providing some more tips next week to help you start to work with your inner child.  But in the meantime, start to bring awareness to when a younger part might be showing up.  If you’re feeling stressed or like you’re not in the driving seat, ask yourself:

  • How old do I feel right?
  • Do I feel small or do I feel big?
  • Do I feel in or out of control?
  • Do I feel capable or incapable?
  • Does my reaction match my circumstance?

And start to acquaint yourself with these younger parts:

  • Begin looking at pictures of yourself when you were younger. Choose the ones you’re most drawn to.
  • Use an exercise or two to bring yourself to a calm, adult state (reach out to me if you want a copy of my Self Soothe Superpower System to help with this)
  • Imagine the picture you’re looking at is the child of a friend, a niece of nephew, even your own child. How would you empathise with them if you knew what they’d gone through? Take time to sit with this and then try and bring that same compassion and kindness to your own younger parts.
  • Put your photos some visible and look at them regularly, repeating the above steps.

I would always suggest working with a professional to guide you through this.  I’m now trained in this type of work, using Polyvagal theory and somatics as part of my trauma-informed embodied coaching.  Drop me an email if you want to know more.  You’ll be amazed by just what might be possible when your inner children know that you’ve got this, and they step back so you can step forward.