We are born pure, whole, and full of love. Have you ever heard a baby laugh? Like, really laugh? Next time you’re feeling beat down by the world around you, do a little research on babies laughing on YouTube (you won’t be disappointed, but you may weird your roommate out).
Despite entering this world in such a state, we quickly become affected by the emotions of those around us. It’s not instantaneous, but it happens over time. We are spoken to harshly as children, some of us suffer much worse forms of abuse, we are judged by those around us, we are told to be quiet, to stop crying, to sit still, to “man-up,” to “act like a lady.” Moment by moment we suffer small injustices, sometimes large ones, and we begin to build a wall around that pure, whole love, protecting it from the harsh world around us. Remember that just because we build that fortress, it does not mean the goodness has disappeared or been hacked away. That childlike innocence and wholeness are still very much there and it’s called our “inner child.”
The pain our child selves suffer teach us to be untrusting, afraid of adventure, and even afraid of people. At the end of the day, we are all slightly larger versions of children roaming the world, still looking for answers.
When we begin to heal our inner child, it takes time, hard work, and it can often be an emotional process as we uncover painful memories that have been dormant for years on end, tucked far beneath our bricks of protection. Start slow and be gentle on this journey. Your child self, full of love, is waiting to be rediscovered.
Write a Letter TO Your Child Self
Once you’ve reflected on your child self through contemplative inner child meditations like this one or looking at old images, you can start out the healing process by writing a letter to your child self telling them you are there to listen to them. Maybe recount hard memories and tell them how proud you are of them and the persistence they have shown.
Write a Letter AS Your Child Self
Once you’ve completed the first exercise, have your child self write back to you. At first, it may feel a little strange, but you can start by picturing a version of yourself anywhere from 5-10 years old. Picture the child-like smile, bright eyes, and the clothes you were wearing (looking at an old picture can be helpful here).
At first, you will be writing like your grown-up self, but little by little you will start to channel the child self that you’ve buried away. I promise they are in there. Maybe start by writing what you wanted to become when you were older or your favorite childhood memories. Listen to them, let them begin to express old pains and traumas.
This can be an emotional exercise so practice self-care and self-love. Simply by letting your child self know you are ready to listen, you’re opening the door to begin true healing.
Meditate on Your Child Self
Sit down in a comfortable meditative posture, and close your eyes. Begin by picturing your 3-year-old self, watch them as they run around playing or smiling.
As a picture of them solidifies in your heart, you can silently repeat these five phrases to that version of your child self:
- May you be happy
- May you be healthy
- May you be safe
- May you be free from pain
- May you be filled with love
You can let the image of your 3-year-old self disappear and move on to picture your 8-year-old self, offering the same phrases. If you are feeling up to it, you can move on to picturing your 10-year-old self, and then your 13-year-old self. Sometimes it is helpful to think of the clothes we may have been wearing, our hair cuts, or us sitting in our childhood bedrooms or at school.
This meditation practice is powerful and can evoke a wide range of emotions. This is healing in action; tread at your own pace. You are beginning a powerful journey and your adult self will only benefit from the love and understanding you offer to your inner child
Meditate on People Who Harmed Your Child Self
I would begin by choosing people who we may have mildly uncomfortable memories with, maybe parents or siblings. (Mild is the key word here, if you suffered abuse or trauma at the hands of those close to you at a young age I would not recommend doing this practice quite yet. Perhaps meet with a therapist to discuss these painful memories at greater length).
The mild emotional wounds can still manifest in those close relationships today, leading to minor or major resentments. The same way you pictured child versions of yourself, begin by picturing the child versions of these people in your lives and offer them the same five phrases you offered to your child self. By forgiving these past memories, you are better able to heal your own child self.
As mentioned above, these practices can feel emotionally overwhelming. So remember to practice kindness and self-care. Accept the memories that come up, listen to them, hear what your child self wants to say, and let them know you understand their feelings. By doing this, you are reconnecting with your child self and allowing them to reemerge feeling safe, protected, and loved. Your childlike innocence, curiosity, and sense of adventure will begin to seep back into your life.
Grab a cup of warm tea, watch a feel-good movie or TV show, and eat some comfort food like chocolate or ice cream (or, if you’re like me, some tacos).
Remember, you are pure, whole, and full of love.
*If you’re interested in learning more about healing the inner child, I recommend reading Reconciliation by Thich Nhat Hanh.