5 Benefits of Inner Child Work for Healing the Mother Wound
“You’ll make a fool of yourself” the voice inside me threatened. Thanks to inner child work I’m familiar with this voice, which means I have my ways of working through it rather than let it take my spirit down. This inner voice chases me throughout my adult life and it’s a result of childhood trauma and emotional wounds. Inner child work has a key role in healing the mother wound.
In the past year I’ve revisited this voice with both my therapist and my mentor. I’ve gained an interesting perspective as both a client with a mother wound and as a therapist and coach for healing the mother wound. I’d like to share with you how I approach inner voices that can make us feel small, insignificant and not enough through inner child work.
What is inner child work
Inner child healing is a form of therapy that helps you find healing for unmet childhood needs, for negative impressions left on your sense of self from earlier years.
The inner child is a symbol and metaphor for young parts in our sense of self that carry the memory of childhood experiences. The inner child has access to both painful past experiences and wisdom for healing.
“In every adult there lurks a child—an eternal child, something that is always becoming, is never completed and calls for unceasing care, attention and education. That is the part of the personality which wants to develop and become whole” ~Carl Jung
Jung touches on all the benefits of inner child work in this quote. The inner child is perhaps an antidote for the false impression created by patriarchy and capitalism that we are supposed to become an “end product” as adults, having sophisticated answers to every quandary. Where in fact what we are is ever-changing and evolving beings.
To be cut off from the inner child is to be cut off from creativity and spontaneity, unconditional joy, self-assurance, self-care, inner wisdom and a sense of wholeness. I’d like to share with you these 5 benefits to inner child work for healing the mother wound.
1. Creative and spontaneous response to debilitating voices
Many women have a similar voice to mine. It can say “you’ll make a fool of yourself”, “who do you think you are?!” or “it’s just in your imagination!”. These are voices that pull the rug from under your feet whenever you have a fresh idea or want to make changes or wish to do something different, perhaps in a way that’s never been done before.
Whatever the context, the purpose of these inner voices is to stop you. While you might consider these voices “unreasonable”, it’s actually your inner child remembering how you were put down for being creative, innovative, original or simply different in some way in the past.
If you anticipate or fear rejection and criticism for simply expressing who you are, these voices will get activated to prevent you from experiencing similar hurt as you experienced in the past.
Before embarking on inner child work, I never actually noticed these voices circulating inside me. And perhaps many who know me as a confident woman who paves the way for authentic self-expression wouldn’t have imagined that I can sometimes be stopped by voices claiming with spite: “who do you think you are?!”
Many of my clients try to reason with this voice, as I have. Many times. The result is always the same: it doesn’t work. You might manage to suppress these voices for a little while and “push through”, but they’ll be back with a vengeance.
The way to dissolve these voices is to turn towards them, trace them all the way back to when in childhood they took shape.
The emotional risk of “making a fool of yourself” is too big to be reasoned with. Instead, with inner child work, you find creative and spontaneous ways of meeting these voices which will take the sting out of them.
2. Reducing shame and self-criticism
We are an amalgamation of different parts. Some parts of us know how to be confident and follow ideas to the end and some parts of us are tender, fragile and vulnerable, even insecure
When we try reasoning with inner child voices, it’s the adult part within us is criticising the more tender parts for needing something: A slower pace, perhaps, or a gentle touch; perhaps an open communication or some time alone. Whatever the needs are, it is the inner child that represents them.
These are often unmet childhood needs that are still trying to find response and satisfaction. As an adult you have the opportunity to give yourself something that wasn’t available in earlier years. You’d be surprised how healing this is.
A client of mine, Alli, struggled between her desire to be there for her own child and the needs of her profession as a stage performer. She followed in the footsteps of her mother in her career. But her mother was an internationally-acclaimed opera singer who was also a narcissist. She was never present for Alli’s emotional needs.
When Alli felt lost and confused in the negotiation between her role as a mother and her career, we did inner child work to make peace between those different parts that needed different things.
Only when Alli found a way to satisfy all of her needs did she arrive at a creative and fulfilling balance in her life as mother and performer.
Inner child work helps you bridge the gap between what you need as an adult woman and what you needed as a child.
3. Self compassion
I’ve learned to brutally criticise and censure my feelings and needs. I never really had a mother who was able to understand or provide for my needs so I had to find ways to contain them. Otherwise I would get completely devastated by not being met.
Criticising your needs as “childish”, “unreasonable”, “out of place” is a way of cutting off from the pain of not being met.
“You’ll make a fool of yourself” is a voice that talks down at me. It makes me feel like I’m shrinking and insignificant. Unmet childhood needs manifest in adulthood as voices that encourage self-criticism rather than fostering self-compassion.
It was extremely healing to articulate out loud my inner child’s voices, however hard or shamful, in order to witness the compassionate eyes of the caring therapist and mentor I have. Those moments together with someone caring transforms inner child hurts.
I’m bringing this example through my own experience as a client rather than a therapist because if I hadn’t worked on my own critical voices I would have transferred this judgment to my clients.
Learning to be more attentive to yourself, more caring, more compassionate happens through inner child work as you are at the receiving end of a compassionate, attentive, caring significant person who knows how to work with the inner child.
Growing a capacity to meet inner voices emotionally rather than rationally, meeting them with less shame and more self-compassion, is the first step towards building inner resilience.
Many women who’ve had a challenging relationship with their mother grow to become strong and purposeful. They have to. But there’s an important distinction between strength and resilience.
To be strong means that you can get through a lot, in the sense of 'pushing through'. Being resilient means that you also know how to bend like a reed in the wind, so your strength is not linear but has the flexibility to lean in, to be vulnerable, to ask and receive help to support your strength.
Addressing the inner child’s unmet needs builds your inner resources. As Dina, a former client, learnt when we worked through her unmet childhood need for a compassionate, supportive mother.
Dina was always getting caught in the endless and rowdy arguments of her parents. She was her mother’s saviour from the claws of her father’s aggression, and she grew up to be a strong, reliable woman who yearned to be able to let go sometimes and have a shoulder she too could lean on.
Through inner child work she realised how she replicated that strong woman role in all her relationships in life and how she got caught up in power-manipulation in her relationships with men. Rather than being told (by me or anyone else) what she should do, she found the wisdom from within.
Once you feel confident following your inner wisdom, you’ll find your resilience because you’ll be using your own inner knowledge, your own inner compass.
5. Sense of wholeness and feeling enough
Inner child work is the process of bridging between our different parts in a skillful, compassionate way. Being whole doesn’t mean being “fixed” or “done”.
When we compartmentalise by rejecting our own needs, shaming our own inner voices, we’re only sustaining the sense of being not-enough or too much, two very common manifestations of the mother wound.
Inner child work is a creative, organic process where instead of arguing with inner voices and trying to rationalise them, you address them with care and compassion. This heals any inner spilts and makes you feel more full.
With a greater sense of wholeness we don’t wait anymore for anyone’s permission to say, to feel, to do, to experience anything.
Inner child work has a lot more benefits I could name, but these 5 benefits for healing the mother wound have the power to bring your healing journey to new levels.
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Shelly's helping women whose relationship with their mother left a negative mark and want to become un-limited in their personal or professional life