There is something very powerful and profoundly liberating in seeking your inner child and validating her feelings. During my Oprah & Deepak meditation, Oprah speaks of John Bradshaw, author of Home Coming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child. While on Oprah’s show, he instructed the audience to conduct an exercise. He told everyone to close their eyes and envision their childhood home, look into the window of that house and find themselves inside the home. He then asked them to reflect on the following questions:
What do you see?
What do you feel?
What is going on with you and your relationships with everyone in the house?
What gift did you possess that others may have overlooked?
What burdens were you made to carry?
What brought you hope?
What made you sad?
In, Home Coming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, Bradshaw dives deep into the process of healing your wounded inner child which involves these six steps (paraphrased from Bradshaw as noted on psychcentral.com)
For your wounded inner child to come out of hiding, she must be able to trust that you will be there for her. Your inner child also needs a supportive, non-shaming ally to validate his abandonment, neglect, abuse, and enmeshment. Those are the first essential elements in original pain work.
If you’re still inclined to minimize and/or rationalize the ways in which you were shamed, ignored, or used to nurture your parents, you need now to accept the fact that these things truly wounded your soul. Your parents weren’t bad, they were just wounded kids themselves.
3. Shock & Anger
If this is all shocking to you, that’s great, because shock is the beginning of grief.
It’s okay to be angry, even if what was done to you was unintentional. In fact, you have to be angry if you want to heal your wounded inner child. I don’t mean you need to scream and holler (although you might). It’s just okay to be mad about a dirty deal.
I know [my parents] did the best that two wounded adult children could do. But I’m also aware that I was deeply wounded spiritually and that it’s had life-damaging consequences for me. What that means is that I hold us all responsible to stop what we’re doing to ourselves and to others.
After anger comes hurt and sadness. If we were victimized, we must grieve that betrayal. We must also grieve what might’ve been–our dreams and aspirations. We must grieve our unfulfilled developmental needs.
When we grieve for someone who’s died, remorse is sometimes more relevant; for instance, perhaps we wish we’d spent more time with the deceased person. But in grieving childhood abandonment, you must help your wounded inner child see that there was nothing she could’ve done differently. Her pain is about what happened to her; it’s about her.
The deepest core feelings of grief are toxic shame and loneliness. We were shamed by [our parents] abandoning us. We feel we are bad, as if we’re contaminated, and that shame leads to loneliness. Since our inner child feels flawed and defective, she has to cover up her true self with her adapted, false self. She then comes to identify herself by her false self. Her true self remains alone and isolated.
Staying with this last layer of painful feelings is the hardest part of the grief process. “The only way out is through,” we say in therapy. It’s hard to stay at that level of shame and loneliness; but as we embrace these feelings, we come out the other side. We encounter the self that’s been in hiding. You see, because we hid it from others, we hid it from ourselves. In embracing our shame and loneliness, we begin to touch our truest self.