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What Is Meant by "Inner Child?"

Updated on August 24, 2017
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I became a news reporter for the Marine Corps in the early 70s. I'm now retired and write on a wide variety of subjects in my spare time.

The inner child

Sometimes it's helpful to reconnect with our “inner child.” But what does that mean? In popular and analytical psychology, our inner child is our childlike aspect. It includes all we learned and experienced as children, before puberty. Our childlike essence was uncomplicated and innocent.

When feeling angry or upset, think about what's really happening. Where are the emotions coming from, and how do we get rid of them? Listen as you would to a child, since it's your inner child you are trying to connect with. The next step is to acknowledge the emotions.

Most therapists use the inner child model for understanding the way people think and react to their emotions. Those working with addictions find it useful in understanding who we are.

Studies show about 85% adult personalities have solidified by the age of six years. Unfortunately, for many childhood experiences haven't been pleasant.

The human mind is made up conscious and unconscious components. Childhood experiences have a powerful influence in shaping them. They're in a continual battle. The unconscious tries to push thoughts and memories into conscious awareness. On the other hand, defense mechanisms struggle to keep the most painful and frightening of them suppressed.

When born we were an empty slate, innocent, curious, naive, spontaneous, and vulnerable. Then bits and pieces of the world began trickling in.

When mature, we learned to control our behavior and conduct ourselves in social settings. We learned some would reject us because of things we say or do. As a result, we became able to adjust behavior to meet the expectations of others.

Inner self versus outer self

Although it's important to recognize our inner child, it's more so to interact with others appropriately. The healthiest are those able to merge the two. However, getting to know the inner child can be painful. When others get too close, some panic. Compulsions and addictions are attempts to keep the inner child hidden from others, and sometimes ourselves. Depression, anxiety, anger, fears, and relationship problems are warning signs pointing to probable issues emanating from the inner child.

What is re-parenting?

Perhaps the most misunderstood word in the medical community is re-parenting. The inner child has been a term used since the mid 80’s. It came about when it became obvious there was a common denominator. Their clients all had traumatic damaged childhoods. They included problems like neglect, abuse and abandonment issues. Unconsciously many later chose paths they believed would eliminate their pain. This often created more problems like alcoholism and drug addiction.

Re-parenting the inner child

Sometimes, personality and beliefs of a person may hinder healthy development. The treatment a child received affects how they act as adults. Some instances, like discipline, or parental conduct can have huge consequences on personality, and relationships with others as an adult.

Frequently a vicious cycle is found. The way parents treat a child is usually a reflection on how their parents treated them. The same pattern keeps repeating.

What is re-parenting?

Re-parenting deals with three aspects of an individual. They are:

  • Adult: The adult is the individual .

  • Inner child: The inner child is the stage at which an individual was mistreated.

  • Parent: The Parent is a therapist or individual giving correct responses a child should have received.

    Re-parenting is a return to where an adult was wounded.

Re-parenting the inner child

To start the re-parenting process, it's important to work with the inner child, experiencing the pain and understanding of what caused it. Bear in mind, the inner child may not know how to express themselves or believe they’re not allowed to. Many think their feelings are unimportant because of lies they were told. Since the inner child feels flawed, it usually hides behind a false identity.


The good news is, you can heal your inner child by being the parent now.

We all need to be heard and know we matter, that we're valued.

Parenting approaches have only recently moved towards valuing children as valued human beings. It's likely your feelings were invalidated at some time as a childhoods while you were growing up. As adults we can be the inner child's parent.


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