relationships

Healing our Inner Child

One of the biggest challenges we face in our growth and development as adults is healing our childhood wounding.  That is, the traumatic impact of both emotional and psychological wounds we incur in childhood.  

This wounding is most often the result of our needs not being met by our parents.  Everyone that I work with has experienced this, as I have too. It is not because our parents were terrible parents, although some people’s parents were horrible.  It is that many of our parents are not perfect, they are people who were trying to work, raise children and have a life. They cannot focus all their attention on us 100% of the time.  They also had their own inner child wounds and at times they were parenting from that part of themselves, not their adult parts. The trauma I am talking about that we experienced as a result of this ranges from being criticised for not getting a great test score on a test at school, to being ignored, to in some cases, emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

Trauma expert, Dr Bessel van der Kolk, whom I have had the pleasure of being taught by, says in his book “The Body Keeps the Score”, ‘Trauma causes people to remain stuck in interpreting the present in light of an unchanging past’.

We develop strategies, habits and patterns of behaviour, that are often very reactive and they become our dominant approaches to cope and live our life.  Thus often repeated patterns of feedback are given, repeated incidences of relationships dynamics occurring are often a sign that you are operating from your inner child self.  Anything that gets you a bit fired up or ‘triggered’ is often a good sign that old programs maybe of shame, inadequacy, abandonment, betrayal or feeling unsafe are operating. These programs always have stories attached to them that allow us to feel in control of what is actually going on.  So much so, that we attract the same situations and act them out on a daily basis.

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When we are unaware of these child parts of ourselves running our life we are actually walking around projecting a shadow part of ourselves onto others. Our inner narrative might be ‘the bad person who did that to me’, ‘the bad luck responsible for our suffering’.  In some cases we get feedback in the workplace, giving us a sign of how others are experiencing this shadow part of ourselves - that we don’t see - and how it impacts on them. However, it can, when left unattended for a long period of time turn into symptoms, illness or disease; often in the case of repressed emotions that were not accepted as part of us as children.  For example, many people have an unhealthy relationship with their own anger and struggle to express it in a grounded way as it was deemed unacceptable when they were a small child. How many toddlers having a tantrum at two years old are sent to the ‘naughty corner’? What they are actually doing when they shake their body on the floor is trying to discharge the energetic charge of anger running through them.

Why do we need to do this inner child work?  I hear you ask. Well, often we don’t get a choice because we hit rock bottom.  Either in terms of poor health or relationship rupture. Often in midlife, our psyche gives us a chance to heal this wounding and face our pain to prepare ourselves for a vibrant ‘third act’ after we turn 50.  In her famous essay on Midlife, Brene Brown says it like this. ‘Midlife is when the Universe puts its hands on your shoulders and says “I’m not screwing around. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go. Your armour is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armour could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy and loveable, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever. Time is growing short....”

Facing childhood wounding and working with relationships that will help you heal your relationship with your inner child might be some of the most challenging personal development work that you do but it will also be the most freeing and empowering.  

To heal your inner child, you need to bring that part of yourself to consciousness.  You do this by witnessing your inner world. That is, be able to observe when you are acting out one of your habits or patterns of behaviour.  Once you can do that, you work out what that behaviour is trying to gain for you; often love, safety and belonging. The next step is being able to parent yourself. This enables individuation and clear separation from the sensitive child part of you within you.  The third step is learning to put some strategies in place for self care so you can regulate your nervous system and then develop new strategies to cope and thrive in the world.

This work is freeing both to you and your family system.  It breaks cycles of family patterning that you have been carrying.  It creates the capacity for you to witness and observe your emotions and understand in an embodied way that you are not your emotions - you are just the experiencer of them.  It makes baring your emotions so much easier and gives you the ability to listen to them when they arise.


Doing the inner child work is tough.  You want to do it supported by a coach or therapist and with the support of those you love around you.  It will improve the quality of your relationships. It will open you up to different types of relationships and experiences in your life as you stop reacting and start creating the outcomes you want.  It will allow you to have a close relationship with your body and really learn to listen to it and the innate wisdom it has within it, by listening to your emotions and learning to be with them. You will learn to appreciate your shadow and move towards self-love and self- acceptance as you learn to love all the different parts of you, good and not so good.  Hopefully you learn to listen to your nervous system and really learn the meaning of ‘take care of yourself’; how to give yourself permission to rest, how to regulate yourself at a pace that is supportive of your need to recover. But most importantly, you will learn to love all the different child and adult parts of you that you discover and that you are a glorious, multi-dimensional being who is capable of living their best life and thriving in the world. 



I do inner child work in my coaching - if this is something would like to explore, come have a chat with me.



Boundaries......clear boundaries will set you free

Boundaries are a great container for love and growth in relationships. I love that I have very clear boundaries and part of that means putting my own needs first with self-care. If I don’t look after myself, how can I have the energy to meet my family’s needs? How can I create a safe, deep and nurturing space for clients that I coach?

So what are boundaries? Simply put, what is ok and what is not ok for you. Boundaries are flexible, we are constantly reviewing, inquiring and negotiating them as we learn and grow the skills we need to navigate the world. They are changing all the time as we change.

Our parents help us enforce them for the first 7-8 years of our lives because we are not resourced to deal with life yet. As we learn new skills to navigate life, we learn to be able to express them. In Pre-school, children are taught language to set their boundaries when they learn to say 'Stop it I don't like it”, when faced with behaviour they are not ok with. They are learning to express their Yes and No.

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When someone has low boundaries they get stepped on a lot because they often do not know what their ‘No’ is, that is, what is not ok for them.  They can also rub others the wrong way by not being aware of others’ boundaries. People with really high and rigid boundaries often struggle to let others in.  They create distance between themselves and others, often to feel safe, which does not allow others to get to know the real them.

Most of the interpersonal conflict experienced by people I've coached over the years has involved boundary violations. Often without people really understanding what was going on.

How can we think constructively about boundaries?

Boundary setting is an expression of self-love and community care.  It creates healthy relationship dynamics because we are being honest about our needs.  When we honour our own needs, we are bringing our whole self to a relationship.

When we hide what we need, we pretend to be something that we are not, we are performing. When other people set boundaries with you, don’t make it about you and what you need.  Thank them for setting their own boundaries. You might not like what they say or you may not be able to meet their needs but thank them for telling you what they need. All you need to say is, ‘Thankyou for telling me what you need”.

There is a misconception that boundaries are created to keep us small, marginalise us, push us into a corner or keep us from being free.  That is not boundary setting, that is controlling behaviour. There is a huge difference between someone expressing a boundary to protect their sacred space and someone trying to exert control over your space. One is someone protecting their own wellbeing whilst the other is someone who is trying to fill their own desires with dominance over another.

A boundary is as much about what you are saying yes to as it is what you are saying no to. To quote the fabulous writer Elizabeth Gilbert. “Within you sacred space can be your time, your creativity, your loved ones, your privacy, your recovery, your values, your mental health, your joy, your heart and your soul”.

How do we get better with boundaries?

We get super clear on our desires. Many people can tell me what they don't want. But most often they struggle to tell me what they do want in their life. We bring boundaries to life when we can express our desires. When you express your desire and someone honours your boundary, thank them. Praise them. You could say “Thank you so much for……it made me feel…..”.

We work on learning to express and feel our emotions in an embodied way. When we learn to express our emotions in a grounded way, we get comfortable listening to their messages and we learn skills to self-regulate our nervous system.  This in turn helps us work through if we are ok or not ok in a situation. If we are working from a neural network that is an adult part of us, rather than one developed in childhood which is an outdated part of us, we get clarity on what our true Yes and No is.

When someone communicates with you how they like to be touched or not touched, treated or spoken to, they are expressing their boundaries. Try not to see this as a rejection of you. It is ok if they don’t want to engage with you in the way you want to engage. It is not a measure of your worthiness as a person. It is just their boundaries being expressed. Thank them for telling you.

Finally, we work through what our purpose in life is. This is a big existential question but so linked to desire and emotional expression. When we are clear about what our bigger picture is, what we want, how that makes us feel, we experience a sense of love and freedom inside. Then we are content to just 'be'. 

This is not short term work, it is ongoing, forever.

It is the lifelong adventure of learning.