In Order to Become a Successful and Fulfilled Adult
We are always going to be susceptible to the things that happen to us – the relationships we form, the experiences we undergo, and the consequences of the decisions we make. However, we are even more affected by the experiences we undergo up until the age of six, based on the elasticity of our developing minds. When we are young, the way that others interact with us will set the stage for the ways in which we believe we should be treated; we will likely spend the remainder of our lives subconsciously reinforcing these beliefs. If we are deeply cared for and nurtured when we are developing, we will grow up believing that we are worthy and deserving of love. We will seek out partners that treat us with kindness and respect, and if we fall into unhappy partnerships, we will ultimately leave them in search of something more fulfilling. If we are neglected and shamed when we are developing, we may grow up believing that we will never find a meaningful and sustainable relationship. We may grow up believing that we are undeserving of fulfilling love.
Changing the Tapes
Think of your mind as a tape recorder, one that records the messages you receive throughout your youth and plays them back over the remainder of your life. Unless you figure out a way to shut the tape recorder off, or to record over the old tapes with something new, you will keep hearing those same messages. And if the messages are misguided – if they are untrue, misinformed, and damaging – you will be harshly hindered, incapable of growth. The trick to healing your wounded inner child is changing that tape; recognizing how worthy you are, and taking the steps to further confirm that belief. But how do we know that our inner child is wounded in the first place? Everyone gets down on themselves from time-to-time. Maybe we miss a deadline, or forget an important appointment, or show up late to an important event. We might kick ourselves, curse ourselves as failures, and (however dramatically) convince ourselves that we will never amount to anything. Of course, these feelings – this negative self-talk – is usually pretty fleeting. We accomplish something else, or run into an old friend, and suddenly all is right with the world.
If our inner child is wounded, however, we won’t be able to easily shake-off these negative messages. Woundedness stems from very early adolescence, and results in deep-seated issues such as low self-esteem, shame, codependency, intimacy issues, manipulation, obsessiveness, and substance dependency. Our early wounding leads to our current struggles. If we struggle with codependency – or a lack of personal boundaries, for example – we may have been over-coddled as an infant of child. We may have also been neglected; experiences affect different individuals in different ways. Whatever the case, some of your needs during infancy or early adolescence were not met. Fortunately, it is never too late to meet your own needs. All you must do is learn to reparent your inner child and grow yourself up. Record over the old tape and move forward.
Healing Your Wounded Inner Child
The first step to healing our wounded inner child is acknowledging him or her, and adopting him or her into our day-to-day lives. Once we welcome our inner child in, we can soothe him, and learn to listen to him without judgement (and without letting him take over our adult self). We can work on turning our negative, self-shaming talk into a comforting and forgiving voice. An adult voice. Rather than say, “I can’t believe you crawled back to your ex-girlfriend after everything she’s put you through – what were you thinking? You’re weak!” Try saying something like, “Why do you feel the need to stay in contact with your ex-girlfriend? Maybe we can figure that out and work on bolstering a sense of self-worth. You deserve to be respected and unconditionally loved. You deserve to be with someone who understands just how incredible you are.” Learning to speak to your inner child with kindness can truly make all the difference. If you’re having a difficult time adopting your child into your life, try looking at an old photograph of yourself. Does that child deserve love? What did that child need that he or she wasn’t getting during that point in time? Forgive your child for acting out, apologize for not being there in the ways you could have been, and take his or her hand.
Your woundedness is not your fault (nor is it the fault of your parents). It is something that occurred, and it is something that can be remedied. Putting the effort into remedying yourself can make worlds of difference, but if the wounds are deep, and if they have been in existence for awhile, seeking professional guidance is likely the best option. We at Next Chapter Treatment are extremely well-versed in healing wounded inner children, and in helping adult men become the functional, capable, and independent people they truly deserve to be.