Integrate Your Younger Self Into Your Adult Life
When we have an abusive upbringing, it can often feel like our younger self is still there in your childhood home living out a parallel past timeline while you carry out your adult life in the present. For me, it felt like I actually carried a dollhouse of my childhood home inside me, complete with miniature but equally potent versions of my parents and child version of my brother and myself. It felt like no matter how much work I had done, that dollhouse was still inside me living out our abusive dysfunctional life. And that meant that my child self was still stuck there in a figurative but emotionally real version of my childhood home.
The Inner Child is a widely accepted psychological notion stemming from Carl Jung that part of our psyche remains in a child-like state. This is similar to the Child Archetype, in New Age terms. Caroline Myss, a renowned archetype expert indicates that among some other archetypes that vary from person to person, we all have an inner child archetype. The Child Archetype has several subtypes, two of which are the Wounded Child and the Magical/Innocent Child. If you were abused you are likely fairly in tune with the Wounded Child, the part of your childhood self who was wounded by abuse and remains present in your psyche. There is also an Innocent Child, the part of you that contains the pure, magical, optimistic wonder that all children do. The point of this exercise is to rescue that Wounded Child and to reclaim the Magical, Innocent Child.
One helpful technique for healing your inner child is to create a place for your childhood self in your adult home. This can be a helpful daily reminder that your childhood self isn’t relegated to live in your childhood home anymore, that he/she figuratively lives with and is being taken care of by adult you now, that he/she is welcomed and loved and seen and allowed to just be a child in your adult home. Doing this myself hasn’t just been helpful in my healing, but it has helped me better relate to my own young daughter.
How to do this:
1. Choose a location: This can be as prominent or discreet as you’d like. I have a place set up on a ledge of my closet, for example. That way I see it every day, but don’t have to explain to any house guests.
2. Place a framed photo of your Childhood Self: This should be a photo that you feel really speaks to your innocence as a child and just your essence as a person. How would you describe him or her? Some ideas: creative, energetic, bookish, artistic, giggly, opinionated, etc.
3. Choose what else to place there: Some things you may consider:
– Toy: This can be your favorite stuffed animal if you still have it or a toy you always wanted as a child (or a toy that reminds you of that if it’s no longer made) or even a modern-day toy that your childhood self would have loved.
– Clothing: To hang a dress or place a little shoe, etc. of yours near your photo can be helpful because sometimes we can forget that we ever were a child. Seeing this can remind us of just how small we once were and how unacceptable the hurts we endured were. It can bring you back in touch with an inner child who adult you can now protect.
– Beacons of Hope- Is there was a person who was a beacon of hope in your childhood? For me, this person was my Grandma, so I have a framed letter and a poem from her. Or perhaps this beacon was something symbolic like a hummingbird, butterfly or rainbow. Or perhaps this was something spiritual or religious, like angels or a religious symbol. Feel free to place any trinkets, totems, books, etc. there that remind you of this beacon of hope that got you through the dark-times child you experienced.
– Letters or Drawings- Do you have any letters or schoolwork or drawings from your childhood? Like clothing, this can take you back and really remind you that you were once a child.
– Memories or Wished for Memories- For example, this could be a trip to Disneyland as a child or a trip with your own children where you were able to bring out your inner child. This could be a photo or something that reminds you of the memory. Or, this can even be a brochure for a trip you will take one day.
– List of Favorites- If you’ve been to a young child’s birthday party recently, you’ve likely seen the list of favorites. The invitation is for you to make your own list of favorites. Some ideas: color, TV show, movie, song, place, food, sport, past time.
– Smells: smell is clinically proven to be strongly linked to memory. I like to keep some powder that smells like my Grandma in this location, for example.
I hope you will find this exercise healing and maybe even a little fun. If you have children, it can be a way to help you connect with them, not just as a parent, but also as the child you that still exists inside of you. It will help you connect yourself to that part of you that survived even in spite of being abused- because your inner child reveals so much about your true essence as a person.
Wishing you the very best in your healing journey.
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Writer and Coach
Azure Moyna is a writer and coach about issues relating to food, body, mental illness, familial dysfunction, societal treatment of overweight people, and the healing journey. Azure is the author of her memoir, Fullness.