In popular culture, seeing a psychotherapist for inner child work gets as bad a rap as the counseling cliche, “And how does that make you feel?” But after being in private practice for the last ten years, I can tell you this: Nearly all present-day therapeutic issues have their roots in our early childhood experiences.
First, a definition: doing inner child work refers to all of those experiences we had prior to puberty. These formative years set the template for our beliefs and expectations about ourselves, others, and the world. Typically, these core beliefs surround deep issues like our fundamental sense of worthiness, lovability, and purpose. In other words, the things that many of us struggle with, but few of us admit.
As adults, we all have different beliefs about how we need to be in the world in order to receive love. Common examples include the implied belief that I will be loved when I perform well, when I am perfect, when I put the needs of others ahead of my own, etc. These are patterns that we tend to repeat indefinitely and without awareness.
To be honest, many of us don’t want to do our inner child work. We think it unnecessary, unproductive, and something left to the woo-woo touchy-feely types. Thankfully I’m a psychotherapist who lives near Boulder Colorado where we value things like personal growth, mental health, and spiritual development.
Childhood is emotionally challenging. We are trying to balance vulnerability with protection, and fitting in with finding our own identity. Similarly, doing our inner child work can be emotionally painful as well. But the great news is that when we become willing to explore those scared, wounded parts of ourselves, we tap into a wellspring of vitality, creativity, spontaneity, and play. We laugh more, and we spend more time doing things we love.
Doing our inner child work can start with this: Find an old picture of yourself as a child. Put it some place you can see regularly. Each time you see the photo, try and remember what that child liked, what they loved, and what they were afraid of.
Let them remind you who you once were, and in some ways still are. They still have a lot to offer.
Americana singer songwriter Jeremy Dion puts as much energy into his guitar playing as he does his songwriting. Dion is an Americana Singer Songwriter Psychotherapist.
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