Inner children are parts of all our psyche that remains full of innocence, awe, and wonder. When our inner child is healthy, and we are connected with them, we tend to be invigorated, inspired, and excited.
However, what happens when our inner child is wounded from past trauma, and we are disconnected from them? When we ignore the inner child in our psyche, as adults, we feel disconnected from life, tired, empty, and unhappy.
This article will further explore the topic of the wounded inner child, how these little ones can affect their adult selves.
A Brief Recap What is an Inner Child?
The concept of the inner child was first proposed by psychologist Carl Jung after he examined his own childlike inner-feelings and emotions. Jung postulated that it was this inside part of all of us that influenced all we do and the decisions that we make.
Inner children were us when we were kids that never grew up. They are who holds all the memories and emotions, good or bad, that we experienced. These learned messages are incurred when we were helpless and dependent on our caregivers.
Unfortunately, it is also these inner children who absorb all the negative and harmful words and actions of those who were supposed to keep us safe. Once wounded, these inner kids negatively influence who we are as adults holding enormous power over our relationships and decisions.
The Unsafe Messages Children Receive
All children deserve to feel safe—safe from harm, fear, and lack. Safety does not mean only physical security but also emotional and spiritual well-being as well. When children feel safe within the families they were born into, their boundaries are respected, and that their needs are met so they feel secure.
Childhood trauma, where the child’s needs are not met, destroys a child’s sense of safety, causing them to become hypervigilant and scared. In adulthood, these inner children never go away, and neither does their feelings of being unsafe and that the world is a horrible and dangerous place. When a child feels continually endangered, a massive gaping wound opens in their psyche that is so painful that many adults unknowingly repress it. (Kneisl 1991)
Words can hurt as severely as actions with some of the signals given to children leaving deep scars that can last a lifetime. Some of these statements and actions made by parents that leave open wounds are as follows.
- Not allowing a child to have their own opinions
- Discouragement from playing or having fun
- Not allowed to display strong emotions
- Punishing for speaking up
- Continuously shaming by caregivers
- Not allowing spontaneity
- Was not given appropriate hugs, kisses, or cuddles
Children who do not receive emotional and physical support grow up to be hurting adults.
The Three Common Ways Children are Made to Feel Unsafe
Children crave and deserve to have their needs met and to feel safe and loved. However, even in today’s advanced society, many kids are neglected and wounded. There are three types of trauma children endure at the hands of their caregivers that cause later adult inner children injury. These include physical, emotional, and psychological neglect.
Physical Neglect. Physical safety and nourishment are basic human needs that are to be given freely from caregivers to children. However, in physical neglect, these rights are violated and are lacking. Unfortunately, physical neglect does not mean only that the child was kept from food and shelter. It also means several forms of abuse are taking place, such as sexual abuse.
The results of this type of neglect are devastating. Below are only a few of the negative impacts physical neglect has on children and the adults they become.
- Low self-esteem
- Eating disorders
- Violent behavior
- Sexual dysfunction
Emotional Neglect. In this type of neglect, a child’s caregiver did not show enough interest in the child’s emotional needs for support, respect, and love. In these cases, either the caregiver does not pay attention to or condemns any emotional expressions that the child might need.
Like with physical abuse, the symptoms, and outcomes of this type of neglect are dire in adulthood.
- Low self-worth
- Repressing emotions
- Ignoring one’s own emotional needs
- Shunning Emotional closeness or intimacy
Psychological Neglect. This kind of neglect occurred when the child’s caregivers failed to listen, nurture, and embrace the beautiful human beings that they are. This form of neglect includes any or all the following:
- Lack of privacy
- Making overt threats
The symptoms that occur when the inner child endures this type of neglect and inhabit adults can be:
- Deep-seated feelings of anger
- Inability to love themselves
- The development of low self-esteem
- Psychological illnesses
- Physical illnesses
- Showing a lack of respect for others
- Problems with sustaining a healthy relationship
As can be seen, the wounds children incur become the wounded inner children adults who have grown up and later have left that home.
Some Signs You Have a Wounded Inner Child
The first step in healing your inner child is to acknowledge it is there and that he or she is wounded. The harm done to your inner child is directly correlated with the ways you feel unsafe in the world. Below are some signals that you have a wounded inner child.
- A deep feeling that there is something wrong with you
- Being a people-pleaser
- Being a rebel and feel alive when in conflict with someone else
- Being a hoarder
- Not being able to let go of possessions and people
- Experience anxiety with something new
- Feeling guilty for setting boundaries
- Driven to be a super-achiever
- Being ridged and a perfectionist
- Having problems starting and finishing tasks
- Exhibit constant self-criticism
- Feel ashamed at expressing emotions
- Ashamed of your body
- Having a deep distrust of anyone else
- Avoiding conflict, no matter what the cost
- A fear of abandonment
If you recognize yourself in many (not necessarily all) of the above-listed items, then there is a high chance that you have a wounded inner child.
The Influence of the Inner Child in All of Us
The inner children that live in the human psyche directly influence all that we do. Adults are covertly controlled by their unconscious inner child, and this leaves a child in charge of their lives. When wounded, these little ones are full of anger, shame, and sometimes rage because of the maltreatment they endured. Inner children are the lens through which injured adults make their decisions.
Can you imagine your children or a child you see on the street trying to make sense of adult relationships? Or make career decisions? Predictably, such attempts could only end in disaster. However, this is what happens every day in the lives of people who have a wounded inner child.
These small, lost, and lonely parts of ourselves are afraid, anxious, and insecure, and that can make our lives miserable. However, there is hope. Inner child work, including self-parenting, can ease the pain and heal the wounds left behind by caregivers who were abusive and toxic.
“She held herself until the sobs of the child inside subsided entirely. I love you, she told herself. It will all be okay.” ~ H. Raven Rose
“Your pain needs to be recognized and acknowledged. It needs to be acknowledged and then released. Avoiding pain is the same as denying it.”
~ Yong Kang Chan
Dean, M. (2020). Inner child: What is it, what happened to it, And how can I fix it?. Retrieved from: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/inner-child-what-is-it-what-happened-to-it-and-how-can-i-fix-it/
Kneisl, C. R. (1991). Healing the wounded, neglected inner child of the past. The Nursing Clinics of North America, 26(3), 745-755.
Luna, A. 25 Signs you have a wounded inner child (and how to heal). Retrieved from: https://lonerwolf.com/feeling-safe-inner-child/
The Healing Book Club
The CPTSD Foundation would like to invite you to their healing book club, where they are beginning to read a new book on July 4, 2020. The title of the latest featured book is “The Drama of the Gifted Child, The Search for the True Self” by Alice Miller.
The book examines childhood trauma and the lifelong effects it has on a person’s management of repressed anger and pain.
Led by Sabra Cain, the healing book club is only $7 per month, the fee going towards scholarships for those who cannot afford access to materials offered by the CPTSD Foundation.
Should you decide to join the Healing Book Club, please purchase your books through our Amazon link to help us help you.
If you or a loved one are living in the despair and isolation that comes with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, please, come to us for help. The CPTSD Foundation offers a wide range of services including:
- Daily Calls
- The Healing Book Club
- Mindfulness, Prayer, and Meditation Circle
- Support Groups
- Our Blog
- The Trauma-Informed Newsletter
- Daily Encouragement Texts
All our services are reasonably priced, and some are even free. So, to gain more insight into how complex post-traumatic stress disorder is altering your life and how you can overcome it, sign-up, we will be glad to help you.
My name is Shirley Davis and I am a freelance writer with over 40-years- experience writing short stories and poetry. Living as I do among the corn and bean fields of Illinois (USA), working from home using the Internet has become the best way to communicate with the world. My interests are wide and varied. I love any kind of science and read several research papers per week to satisfy my curiosity. I have earned an Associate Degree in Psychology and enjoy writing books on the subjects that most interest me.
I’m interested in the healing to live a happy and fulfilled life
Hello dear Shirley,
this is my way of coming closer to my wounded child, i’m writing a song 🙂
If you like, listen to it on YouTube
Songs from the Inner Child
Greetings from Germany
How do you live with a person who has an angry inner child inside them? I walk on eggshells. I know it’s damaging my health. We are living together caregiving for a third family member who is elderly, has dementia and many health problems. There is no point in communicating to overcome the anger because the wounds are running too deep and talking about it causes more anger.
It is none of my business, but should you still remain in a relationship with someone who is harming you? Why don’t you respect yourself enough to find someone who will treat you with the respect and dignity you deserve? Please, consider these questions and seek out professional help to find the answers. You cannot change others but you can change and improve yourself. Shirley
My son is 28, and has a very wounded inner child.
He also has narcissistic disorder.
He does not live in my home anymore. I was in physical danger around him because his inner wounds make him be a rebel, very angry and agressive.
He has a problem with gender, and I am a single, divorced mother.
Lately I had to set boundaries on an e-mail regarding his alcohol drinking. He is actually, 9n the run, for having agtessed badly with his fists a young lady.
His response to my e-mail is silence.
He is now giving me the narcissistic “silent treatment”.
My heart of a Mom aches.
I need some advice and some words to confort me.
I have been ridiculed in the comment sections of my pieces in the past because I try to give my honest and heartfelt answers to people who are in pain. That has nothing to do with you Mary Lou, I just wanted to get it out there that I am only human and not any type of professional. I answer the best I know how and sometimes (perhaps often) I miss the mark.
Mary Lou, I’m not a mother and am inadequate to help on that front. I’m sorry.
The pain you must be in is horrendous and I’m sorry that your son is behaving this way toward you. In my opinion, and it is only an opinion because I have no credentials as a mental health professional, you should concentrate on taking care of yourself and never lose hope in your son. Perhaps when he is older (he is very young) he’ll see that he has hurt you. But even if not, your being healthy as possible will help him because he will have a secure base to return to when he wants to.
I wish you all my best. Shirley
I thank you for this answer from the heart.
It hit me in the right place when you are saying to never loose hope on my own son.
I will follow your advice and take care of myself in the best way I can, so that I am here offering a solid and loving mother and a steady balanced home.
I will send him other loving e-mails, in case he’ll read them, be patient and wait.
I will try, while I wait, to focus on myself, and keep him warm in my heart with deep prayers for him.
You’ve been of much help.
Thank you again.
Mary Lou C.
Thank you, Mary Lou. I’m glad I was able to help some. I do care. Shirley
Wrong. You clearly have no idea of what that person has gone through in their life. Easy for outsiders to say “So stop complaining just get out” unless theyve been on that same journey. Dont judge.
Dear Shirley am a woman I grow up in a single parent family, I was living with my mum,y childhood life was not good at all, grow up without a dad, witnessed my mum being mistreated by her boyfriend, and later got married to a man who made things worse foe by mistreating me and I left the marriage and as we speak am single. I feel disturbed emotionally weak, kindly help
75 years of traumas having lived and continue to live in a time capsule of many yesterdays removed. So I’m not here to convey some success story. More pertinent would be to point out how my feelings and thoughts formed in a survival mode and persist to present moment. The best way to pinpoint my 3 year old inner child’s existence is in referencing his and my core issue. Abuse is abuse and I’m not here to describe those abuses rather to relay an understanding of how “Little Jimmy” transformed from a loving, happy, outgoing child to being locked into a world of dismay and utter frustration. Please understand the utter and complete change as experienced internally. It was and through constant reliving that moment of regression that pervade and feel consumed existence in a world of fog , pain, and confusion.
The core change took place within a micro second of time. Three years of bliss of being rocked and cradled in Mommys arms enveloped in a shower of love and adoration were abruptly interrupted when one night Little Jimmy was pulled out of his bed onto the floor for the first beating. Thereafter on a continuing daily basis the abuse grew into not just the physical but also included sexual, emotional, abandonments, and extreme neglect. The dramatically increased inner pain far outweighed the traumatic results on his outer being. He (I) from that first moment of total shock internally crying for the loving Mommy of just moments before were cemented into a world of absolute pain and heartbreak with no sign or even a spark of a sign of a return to his world of comfort and love. No. That was all gone though he never quit screaming for her throughout the next 72 years. A long life peppered with traumas after traumas, utter cultlike control persisting in the defining of an existence of further heartbreak and pain.
Screaming for help to this day, the adult Jim is continually researching everywhere pining for some form of relief and help. CPTSD is like a glue impossible to remove and I have learned that there is no known cure. But perhaps having a better understanding of how to live and maybe even control the triggers is now my goal. Learning to live with and in a world of confusion and fog will at least enable survival to some degree. Acceptance of my present diagnosis and how it affects my iss by far a better position over self sabotage and self destruction. Loving others and having a burning desire to help others in their recognizable troubled state at least helps survival with a spark of hope.
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I enjoyed reading this post. Thank you. I have done some inner child work during therapy and it has helped. I feel as if I never grew up even now. I’m stuck somewhere and no matter how much work I do with my inner child to address this, I am still feeling this way.