In this episode I dive into the 8 most practical steps I have found in healing your inner child and doing the inner child work.
Understand what / who your inner child is
Forgiveness for yourself
ExploreCreativity without judgment
The World witho.
In this episode I dive into the 8 most practical steps I have found in healing your inner child and doing the inner child work.
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To your inner child,
I see you. I feel you. I hear you.
You are not alone.
Inside of you is a warrior waiting to get out. Discovering self-love is without question the hardest thing that you may ever do.
I often ask myself what am I willing to do to have the life that I want to have and the answer is always WHATEVER IT TAKES.
By reading this and accepting a new challenge you are one step closer to being the person that you are capable of being.
There will always be space to learn to love, heal, nurture, trust, guide, and protect yourself as long as you are willing to. Even in the darkest of days, I know that there is still a small light that we can hold onto to guide us out of the darkness. May this book be your light.
I believe in you.
Though trauma may be our foundation, it is not our future.
I remember the first time I knew that I didn't understand what it meant to love myself. I was twenty-seven and had just recently gotten serious about my trauma healing journey. I was going to therapy regularly, working on my mindset, learning how to eat well, being kinder to myself, stopping smoking and drinking, and was on the path to healing. Or at least I thought I was.
I kept falling backward. It seemed like no matter what, I kept reverting to my past behaviors. I was in a loop of self-imposed chaos. I was continually taking one step forward and three steps back. Do you relate to this? I dove into this chaos in my first book, Think Unbroken: Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma; I won't get into the depths here. Let's just say that my childhood really fucked me up.
There I was on a bright and sunny Indiana summer afternoon sitting in my therapist's office and wondering again what I was doing there. Therapy didn't seem to be helping. I kept going, but it just felt like nothing was different. There was always another visit, another payment, and another dive into the depths of my abuse. But I kept feeling like there must be more. I kept seeking whatever that more could be, and I continually fell short. It seemed like I was destined to be trapped in The Vortex - the place in your mind in which you can't seem to get yourself unstuck no matter what you do because, to be frank, you hate yourself, and the world has reinforced that reality through your experiences of abuse.
This one particular visit to my therapist is so ingrained in me because that would become the moment that I decided to take therapy seriously for the first time. For years I had been going and paying all this money to tell people what I thought they wanted to hear. Talk about the definition of insanity. But that day, as I walked out of the office and into my car as the hot and humid Indiana day hit me in the face, I made a choice that I was going to get more serious than I had ever been about walking into that office and speaking my truth, the real truth. No more hiding from myself. I was so tired of feeling like a lost little boy all the time. I was tired of feeling hurt, unloved, ashamed, guilty, and scared of my past and knowing that I was letting down the little boy in me.
I didn't understand at the time that this moment would become one that would forever change my life. I had been going to therapy for a couple of years to that point, and I had yet to make the declaration that I would step into those offices with intention. I wanted so desperately to feel better, but I had never been clear about why. I knew that I needed to bridge the gap between what had happened to me and the man I now was because I was burning down my own house as the child in me screamed, rescue me!
What I would come to understand about myself and the world of childhood trauma is that it is multifaceted and that to heal one part, you have to heal all parts. Healing all of the hurt parts of you means that not only do you have to heal your present, but you also have to heal your past. You have to heal your past. I can't place exactly what happened that lead me to be OK with that truth, but I can tell you that it was a battle, and I fought it kicking and screaming. I was terrified that I would have to step into a place of comforting, protecting, and loving not only the Michael who was in the present moment but also the Michael who was that scared, terrified, helpless, unloved, and unprotected little boy. Talk about a mind fuck.
The truth about my experience in healing trauma is simple: If I didn't heal my past, I couldn't heal my present. And I will keep it real with you; I hated every single moment of healing my inner child until I didn't.
I was engulfed in fear, resentment, guilt, and shame about the child version of myself. I would scoff at anyone who would dare present the idea that you should "reach inside and hug the child version of you that was hurt." What bullshit. Or so I thought until a moment in which, during a deep meditation, I held the hurt child in me and promised him that I would protect him.
The in-between of beginning to do that inner child work and the point in which I finally found the space to not only love but protect the child within me would take another five years of constant work. And as I did that work, I started to think more deeply about what it meant to love me, heal me, and be the Unbroken me writing this today, and what came to me was an understanding that you have to protect and love the child in you if you want to love the person you are today.
Take compassion with you as you step into the journey of healing your inner child. Healing the inner child in you is a process that no single book, podcast, or exercise will expedite. The only way this works is to do the work, day in and day out. That is the only secret I know about this process. You have to go towards love for yourself every day, and in time you will put your feet on the ground, sit within the space of yourself, and declare I LOVE ME.
As you step into this book and on this path, I want you to know that what you are about to read is a short guide to creating a pathway and framework to healing your inner child. There are hundreds of books on the subject and countless courses and seminars that you can attend. What is enclosed in the following pages of this book is what worked for me, and my only hope is that you will see that what has and continues to work for me is not accidental but instead intentional.
I invite you to do three things as you read what is ahead:
1. Challenge yourself. I know you may be thinking that just reading this book is already a challenge, and you would be correct, but in this journey, you will have to get vulnerable with yourself in ways that you may have never been.
2. Be compassionate. The reality is that you have already suffered enough, and you don't need to continue to bring the wall down on top of yourself. Ask yourself a straightforward question - can I be kind to myself today?
3. Do the work. There are many suggestions in this book about what to do to start healing your inner child, but they are all just fruitless ideas if you do not follow through.
I want you to know that you are not alone in this process, and as someone who has been on the other side of these pages, I want to thank you for being willing to discover something new about yourself. No part of this healing journey is linear, but I do know that on a long enough timeline, everyone can Be Unbroken.
The path to healing requires daily effort and attention. There is no magical moment that you no longer have to show up for yourself. I wish that weren't the truth, but it is. From this moment forward, you have to choose to be the HERO of your story.
I used to think that I was continually failing and falling backward, but that wasn't the truth now that I reflect on those experiences years later. Every day you grow and set a new precedent for who you are and what you are capable of being. There is power in that truth and power in the reality that you start to heal the whole once you heal a piece.
Those old negative behaviors I eluded to are still there, and I don't know that they ever go away, but today they show up less and less. The inner turmoil, guilt, shame, hate, and disgust that I had for myself have all but dissipated, and I hope that eventually, those dark parts never show up, but I can't promise you that reality. I can say that in learning to love myself both past and present, it has become clear that healing my inner child has given me so much space to be me without prejudice and with a little more compassion each day.
Though trauma may be our foundation, it is not our future.
I just want to take a moment and say that I really think you need to pause whatever you're doing and pay attention to this because I often try to think about what I needed, especially at the beginning of this healing journey, and I want to give that to you in a way that I believe is palatable. I have a feeling this might be one of the most important things I've ever written, if not the most important. And so, I want to challenge you to find the next couple of hours to read this in solitude or, at least, a space to soak in what I'm going to share with you.
I was thinking about the process of healing your inner child, more precisely - healing my inner child, and thinking about the work that it takes, and what that means, and how that really parlays in creating health in your life and creating change in your life. And at the beginning of this journey, thinking about this idea or concept of healing the inner child, I thought it was stupid, to be honest with you. And the reason is that I wasn't actually allowed to have a childhood. And in recognizing that and thinking about what bits and pieces of joy that I had and how they are far outweighed and overshadowed by the experiences that negated those I felt compelled to write this. It was almost impossible for me to have a moment of peace, clarity, happiness, joy, or whatever that childlike wonderment is that so many people experience. As you may have experienced, coming from a home of abuse is not conducive to a great childhood.
As an adult, as I sat with knowing my childhood was stolen I started researching this entire healing journey, I kept seeing inner child, inner child, inner child. And the whole time, I thought to myself, well, this doesn't apply to me because I don't have a childhood, I don't have that experience, and I don't have that moment in time in which I felt like - “Oh, I'm a kid. This is childhood, this is happiness, this is peace, love, tenderness, and joy.” And because of that, I just kept looking at this ideal of healing my inner child and it didn’t make sense. Why would I go through the process of healing a childhood experience that I never had? And then I realized it is actually so incredibly important to understand that your childhood experiences being reconciled is one of the most important cornerstones of this entire journey in that healing trauma.
Perhaps I've done a really poor job to this point of actually relaying that to you. And to be fair, part of that is also because I feel like it's still a process that I am always exploring, I am always healing. And it's one of those things that even though I go, and I learn, and I do certifications, and I have these sessions with myself in the world of trying to understand how to tap into my inner child. This journey is evolving, it's always changing, it's always growing. Being on this journey is about always trying to figure out how to step further into the place of healing of your inner child, or more importantly, I should say, my inner child. Yes, I am also writing this book for me. In part it’s a reminder of what is capable and in part it’s a guide to what tools we can incorporate into our toolbox.
As I'm in this, and as you're here with me, I am going to dive into this a little bit deeper than you have ever gone. I want to give you a little bit of clarity, hopefully - clarity about what this means in your life. And so I put together this list of eight ways to step into the healing journey of your inner child. I want to tap into these with you, because right now, you're probably in a place in your life where, especially at this moment, you're thinking to yourself: “I have no idea what any of this means. This sounds nonsensical. What is my inner child? How do I do this?” Am I right? I have been there my friend, and I want to share that experience with you because I've had it myself.
In my journey, these tools have been not only practical in changing the way that I think and feel about myself, but also, they have changed the way that I experience the world. Because I've been able to, for lack of a better term, let down some of the guard and barriers that I have had up for so long, especially when it comes to human connection, I have been able to become more vulnerable and simultaneously compassionate towards myself.
In my book Think Unbroken I shared that growing up, I wasn't allowed to cry, I wasn't allowed to exist within the framework of who I was as a person, as a child, as a human being, I wasn't allowed to explore my creativity, I wasn't allowed to nurture myself, and I wasn't allowed to even speak without ramifications. I understand that as you're reading this, that you may be having memories or even flashbacks to those moments for yourself. And so, I want you to be very cautious when you're reading this book because it can be a little triggering. This book is not triggering in, i.e., I'm going to dive into my experiences because I don't think that's necessary. But as you're reading, you may have these moments where you think, "Oh, this thing happened to me." So, you know, just a little heads up, have yourself mentally prepared for stepping into this. Again, we aren’t going down the rabbit hole but I don’t know how to talk about healing our inner child without talking about our experiences, to some extent, as a child.
Inner Child - noun: a person's supposed original or true self, especially when regarded as damaged or concealed by negative childhood experiences.
Who am I? This must be the most challenging question that a trauma survivor can attempt to answer. It is a question so perplexing that it may take a lifetime to come to a concrete statement. I know for me who am I is a question I ask myself daily.
For the first twenty-five years of my life, I was living a lie. I was living as a hurt, lost, and unloved little boy. Two years ago I was sitting on the train from London Heathrow Airport to the city after living in Asia for the previous sixteen months. London was my next stop before heading back to America to see my brothers, sister, and friends. As I sat watching the street lights woosh by, I had a moment of clarity: I am finally me. I guess it would be unfair to say that I haven’t always been me, but I hadn’t always been me on my terms. At this moment on the train, as I saw these brief reflections of my face in the window, I knew for sure that I was finally living life on my terms.
How did I get there? How did I get to peace with experiences of trauma, my choices as a man, and the fact that I would be facing this battle of healing for the rest of my life? In part, I recognized that I was fulling my visions of what I wanted my life to be, and the other part was that I was good with who I was. I was no longer afraid to say I love you, I’m proud of you, or I see you to myself.
I tried so many different modalities in healing my childhood trauma. Still, it was rekindling or building the first true relationship with my inner child that the truth of who I am felt real. And knowing that I was good with the answer to who I am was a power that I felt in all of its grandeur at that moment.
Let me explain.
The first thing that we have to do is talk about and understand what/who your inner child is. And if you are like me and come from a place where childhood was not allowed, finding and discovering who you were as a child will take some time. In my experience, it was really leveraging and looking at those moments when I felt at least some semblance of joy that started creating some indication for who I was as a child. What came to mind initially during my search was that I loved building things. When I was young, I loved the idea of creating and building. I loved Legos and Connex, and I made towns and villages and communities and all those things. There was something about putting objects together to make other objects that I was fascinated with. And on the other side of that seeking, I remembered that I loved to write. I mentioned this in a podcast not too long ago: I wrote a vampire romantic comedy when like I was eight years old because I had just seen both Vampire in Brooklyn and Anne Rice's movie, Interviewing with the Vampire. I remember writing a short story and thinking like, "Oh, I really am curious about writing.” Which turned into “I'm really curious about building things with Legos.” And “ I'm really curious about constructing and creating.”
As I've sat with this idea of naming who my inner child is, I've created an understanding of them by tapping into these moments in which I recognize, "Okay, this is kind of who I identify," the hard part of it was I also had to identify the factors that weren't so fun and joyful, which obviously were the vast majority. I had to sit with those terrible experiences and recognize and honor that I was a hurt, scared, shy little boy, who just wanted love and connection and companionship, and to be seen and felt and heard, and to be understood and to be hugged and to be kissed and told that I was good enough, strong enough and that people were proud of me. That little boy was someone who really, if anything, just wanted to be acknowledged for how great they were. Does this seem familiar to you?
As a child, I knew that there was something remarkable about me. Still, I felt like there were always these barriers created by the adults in my life that kept me from being curious to discover what that greatness was. As an adult, I had to identify who my inner child is - a scared, shy little boy. And I've had to discover how to mend that relationship within myself to tap into strength. I know you may listen to my podcast every week, and you may have read my book Think Unbroken and seen the work that I do, and you may have even said that what I do is courageous or that there's strength in it. And the truth is, and I acknowledge myself in this, there is a level in which you have to recognize the things you believe to be true to yourself. I mean that there is strength and courage in what I do, and those same attributes are in you as well. Getting to a place that you can acknowledge your power is not easy - that is a hurdle, like for real - a hurdle that you have to step over that is incredibly difficult and tedious. But in time, you will get there, patience, my friend.
You have to understand who and what your inner child is. And in the past, if they were that hurt, shy, scared, little boy or little girl, it's okay to acknowledge that. Because, as I've said before, to get to where we're going, we have to understand how we got to where we are. And today, I look at my inner child, and I say, "my inner child is a part of me that I protect, that I nourish, that I explore, that I speak my truth to and that I understand in this wonderful way." Being able to step into that level of connection has allowed me to explore the joy that life can have, like when I need an emotional break from work, from life, from whatever, I will go and play video games for an hour or two, or three or four.? Once every couple of weeks, once every couple of months, whenever that moment comes, I'm like, "Okay, I need to honor that part of me that just needs to feel joy for a moment or play board games," I honor the part of my inner child that wants me to play more games, which was actually on my goals list for 2021. Being able to explore that joy is such a huge part of healing. Now, I will say that I am super competitive in it, but that's a part of who my inner child is. I want to compete. I want to win. I want to feel great about what I do.
Can you identify your inner child? What is it that you understand about who and what your inner child is?
Use this space to write who your inner child is:
You have to forgive yourself.
Forgiving yourself is the most important and easily the most challenging thing you'll ever do in your life. There is power in acknowledging and allowing the truth that the awful and traumatic events that happened to you as a child are not your fault! Nothing about the experience that you've had growing up is your fault. You're not guilty of the bad things that happen to you. The people who were supposed to take care of you did not. They failed, not you. They are the responsible ones, not you, not 5-year-old, 10-year-old, 15-year-old, even 18-year-old you. You are not responsible for those things. And you're going to have to come to peace with that shit. And I'm sorry, I wish it weren't true. I wish it weren't the case. But I have no fucking idea how you can move forward in life if you're still holding yourself accountable for other people's mistakes. So think about that for a moment. Can you forgive yourself? If you can't, at this moment, what I want you to understand is it is not your fault. You cannot be responsible for shit that you didn't do, got it? In no way can you be responsible for the rain; in the same way, you cannot be responsible for the sunshine. You just can't. And stop trying to find reasons why you should be because you're just stealing from yourself. That shit is fucking dark. It's fucking ugly, it's unhealthy, and it will eat you alive.
You've got to be able to step ahead of that guilt. Forgiveness is so important in this healing journey. And look, I recognize, and I understand where you may be because I used to beat myself up every single day. I must have not been good enough; that's why my birth father was never in my life. I must be a loser; that's why these beatings happened. And so one. There are so many stories that we have. And I've said it a million times: we are the stories that we tell ourselves. Start telling yourself a different story. You owe it to yourself. You owe forgiveness to yourself for shit that you didn't do, fucking period.
If someone throws garbage in your front yard, you can either step over it every day and pretend it's not there, or you clean it up. The sad truth about this is we are often left cleaning up other people’s mistakes.
One practical tool that worked exceptionally well for me was creating an inner dialog with my inner child. I would sit alone in silence and visualize telling the child in me that what happened wasn’t their fault. I’ll be honest, this was incredibly difficult at first, and as you will read later, it was a precursor for a massive shift in my life. I know that you might be reading this and thinking the very prospect of speaking to your inner child is stupid, but if you are willing to step into it, you will see change.
Think about what it would mean to forgive yourself. What would happen if you took away the shame and guilt you feel for your childhood experiences that you were not in control of? Would you feel a sense of relief, excitement, or hope?
Write what your life would look and feel like if you forgive yourself for things that are not your fault:
Exploring is one of my favorite things about healing your inner child. For many of us, we can give ourselves permission to play for the first time. When we're young, the creativity within exploration is often met with judgment. We are forced to draw inside the lines, color inside the lines, build out things like theirs, and we continuously hear, don't you dare go outside of the box.
I want you to think about the impact that conformity has had culturally and socially in the world. Now think about how regardless of childhood experiences, that by-the-numbers mentality has limited society as a whole. There's no space to be creative because the second you do, someone's going to pick on you, someone's going to judge you, someone's going to bully you. So as an adult, you have to make adult choices, and guess what? You get to shut those people out. People who want to bring you down don't get a say; they don't get a place at your table.
Can you explore creativity? And more importantly, can you do this without judging yourself? What is the inner child in you curious about? What is it that you want to know in the world? If you're going to heal your inner child, step into creativity and exploration of every kind. If you're going to get in touch with your inner child, do it without judgment. Think about this: how often as a kid were you curious about something in the world only to have it shut down by adults or peers or the people around you? More often than not, I would guess. You aren’t a child anymore! I say fuck that and fuck them, step into what you are curious about. What is it that you want to explore? I know this very concept of choice and agency can be unnerving. Still, the reality is that you are allowed to do whatever you allow yourself to do!
Every day I think about the concept of Thinking Unbroken and understanding and overcoming childhood trauma and moving into this place where ultimately you become the hero of your own story. For me, this is creativity. This book is me taking the things that I was curious about as a child - building, creating, writing, and making it come to fruition. And look, I get judgment every day. People judge me every single day. I say let them. Fuck em’. There is real power in moving towards the things that you to move towards. They judge me, but I don't judge myself. Can you step into that? Can you look into what it is that you're curious about and not judge yourself?
If you're struggling with how to figure this exploration part out, start with baby steps. Like it's totally fine to just tap your toe in the water and say, “Okay, this is interesting.”
Get curious about your inner child first by asking yourself some questions to figure out what your inner child wants.
l Do I want to paint?
l Do I want to draw?
l Do I want to write poetry?
l Do I want to just go lie in the grass and stare at the stars at night?
l Do I want to climb a tree?
l Do I want to do whatever it is that I want to do?
And then, the most important part, can you do these things you are curious about exploring without judging yourself? That inner voice in your head will say, “you're a grown-up. you're an adult. Do the grown-up things, do the adult things.” Fuck that. Go live your life, go be creative, go explore!
We are told from a very young age to be afraid of everything, and then that notion is reinforced in our home environment. The hardest thing about healing your inner child and childhood trauma is, I think in general, the idea that the world is actually not as scary as we think it is. To know the world as a dangerous place is a truth that you come by honestly. Fear has been reinforced time and again in your experiences. The idea that you should be terrified of the world is a hypothesis that has been proven truth too many times… and I can’t help but laugh because it's my experience as well.
I come from a place where people don't have passports, where they don't leave the neighborhood, where we die on the same street we grew up, where we get arrested going to school, and where we watch drugs and poverty destroy everything around us. One of my greatest achievements is healing trauma and healing my inner child, and doing it through challenging myself to explore. I'm writing this as I'm sitting in Mexico, and for that, I am proud. I never thought I would make it out of my neighborhood, and now I’ve traveled the world and back again. I never anticipated that I would see the world and experience it because I was so fearful. And now, I look at the world through the scope of someone who has explored it because they needed to know what the other side of discomfort is. I can tell you that to push yourself into what you are curious about is real healing. I know with certainty that as I have ventured around the world, I know to be true more than anything that the world is not as scary as people want to say it is. I wouldn’t have known that if I never explore the curiosity that sat in me as a child, wondering what it was like to be on an airplane.
Explore your inner child and what they want, and just go for it! Exploring your inner child may mean getting out of your own neighborhood, which can be very frightening for some people or crossing the state line, getting on a train or a plane for the first time, buying that passport, going to that country, doing that thing.
I'll tell you this: if you're willing to step into the world without fear, you're going to learn how to explore your inner child. I know that sounds weird. And you're probably thinking, "how do those things connect?" But think about when you were young, you would explore everything, your house, your neighborhood, the weird creek in the back yard, the park at night, the fun - whatever that was, you were always exploring and seeking. Then you turn become a grown-up, and you learn a lot of terrifying truths about the world, and you find yourself frozen. Everything points to the idea that you are not allowed to explore the world without being afraid. But my friend, that's just not true. Trust me.
I think about the power of hope and how it can be such a fantastic catalyst for tapping into possibility. Can you explore hope, the idea of hope, the concept of hope, the word of hope? Can you apply meaning to it and how it exists in your life while stepping into exploration?
I think that the word hope, just like everything else I've learned recently, is about exploring. I believe hope is a beautiful catalyst for creating change in your life. Because we need something to hold on to at baseline, we need an idea, we need a concept, we need something beyond us that pushes us to continue to tap into the power that we have inside. And hope is such an excellent catalyst for power not only in healing your inner child but in life. When you measure yourself with the idea of possibility and consider, "Okay, if I have a little bit of hope, then something on the other side of this action, idea, work, concept, will be different.” That’s power!
As a child, the only hope I truly ever had was the hope to make it out alive. As an adult, as I'm healing my inner child and doing the work, the hope that I have for my inner child, that part of me, that lost, hopeless, scared little boy, is the hope of an idea that his dreams can come true. Even today, writing this, all that I ever think about is making my dreams come true. Because why not? I deserve it. And you deserve whatever it is that you want in your life. You have to earn it, but it’s worth the effort. I don't know if all of my dreams will happen, but I hope they will, and I do the work. On a long enough timeline, my hope of eradicating childhood trauma and abuse in the world will see the light. I just don't know if it'll happen in my lifetime. But I hope that it will, so I keep moving forward every single day.
Can you define what hope means in healing your inner child? Can you explain what hope means in your life in general? Can you explore exploration?
Use this space to answer these questions:
I had no idea how to take care of myself beyond the bits and pieces I had picked up from watching other people. I knew to brush my teeth and drink water, but I didn’t know how to set boundaries, say no, or put myself first. For decades I felt this constant battle with myself versus what I thought I was supposed to be doing. I remember the feeling of loneliness that was within me as I stepped further into my healing journey. I was deep into the process and found myself doing everything from EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to Reiki and everything in between. However, I still felt so alone in all of it. And worse, I didn’t know if I was actually taking care of myself. I was desperately seeking companionship and community in the process of healing my inner child while also missing what was right in front of my face. Getting caught up in the day-to-day “I’m on an inner child healing journey” can get both cumbersome and isolating, which leaves much room for ideation.
It was a cold and rainy Spring Portland afternoon. As I sat in my therapist's office, I had a moment of enlightenment that was six years in the making. I told him how much I hated coming into his office every Wednesday and how I hated that I was the one doing trauma work for shit that wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t a volatile exchange, but I wasn’t happy either.
As I sat in the back in forth of my loathing for trauma healing and his patience in being there to welcome my angst, he said something that would change my life.
“You can be depressed and still tend to your garden.” The words felt like a warm blanket, a hug from someone you love, or an ice-cold lemonade; they were the comfort that I needed at that moment.
What I didn’t know until that moment that became clear was that it was perfectly OK to be in the throes of healing and long for the basic comforts that one needs as a human being. That moment sitting across from my therapist was such an essential catalyst for change because, until that moment, no one had told me that I was allowed to be an emotional human being, put my needs first, and live my life.
I recognize that as you are in the process of healing your inner child, that this idea of nurturing yourself feels scary. Nurturing yourself - think about that, have you ever once in your life been told that nurturing yourself is allowed? I’m going to guess probably not. Think about what the word nurture means in healing trauma and healing your inner child - nurture: the process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something. The care, compassion, love, and admiration that you, as a child, did not get are the compassion and the care and the love and admiration and nurturing that you not only needed but deserved and should have had. Today, you have to nurture yourself, there is no way around it, and no one will do it for you. Healing your inner child means that you have to nurture your needs. Ask yourself what do you actually need? What can you do in your life to make it more sustainable, better, or feel more alive? What is it that's going to bring you to the present and in this moment? What do you need? Can you nurture that feeling inside of you to take care of yourself without judgment?
We are often terrified of the idea that it's okay to take care of ourselves. I don't have another way to put this; if you aren’t nurturing your needs, you're not going to be able to heal your inner child. Because, in effect, you are re-parenting.
The most simplified way to explain re-parenting is to do what your parents should have done the right way. From compassion and love to boundaries and rules, you will have to be the person to take care of you.
If you need to step into healing your inner child, which you probably do, because I think, realistically, we all do, then you need to be willing to nurture the needs that come up as you're in the process. You must nurture the need for self-care, the need for defining your wants, needs, interests, and personal boundaries, and values. I went in-depth on this in my book Think Unbroken: Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma.
All of your needs deserve to be met, and you have to choose to do that through nurturing yourself. At the beginning of coming to the place in your life where you put yourself first, the journey often takes gigantic leaps of faith. The truth is that when you take those leaps, if you are willing, then on the backside, you will see change.
I want you to think about moments in your life that you put yourself first and took care of yourself before others because you needed to. How did that feel? Empowering? We get lost in always putting ourselves second as trauma survivors because that has been our experience until this moment. We have learned through our experiences that we are less-than, which is one of the most unfair truths of abuse. Today, you have a choice to make. Can you be first in your life and take care of what needs to be taken care of?
I go back to the notion of tending my garden, and the thought that sits with me as I reflect is that it is perfectly fine to take care of yourself even when (and especially) when life seems to be smashing your spirit into the ground. My hope for you is that you understand something straightforward in these words, and that is the truth: you are allowed to take care of yourself and still be hurt, sad, angry, depressed, happy, loved, joyful, or any other human emotion that you feel.
What does it mean to you to nurture yourself? What would life feel like if you put yourself first? What is one thing that you can do today to take care of yourself?
Use this space below to answer the questions:
There is nothing that I know better than not being allowed to be me. For most of my childhood, I existed within the space between being a ghost and being invisible. You have likely heard the notion that children are to be seen and not heard. Maybe you experienced this in your home? There was nothing more threatening to my existence than the moment I would break protocol by being myself. Just the idea that I would dare have a thought or opinion would get me slammed to the ground, locked in a room overnight, berated, belittled, demeaned, hurt, beat, or worse. As it is true that everything we experience in life shapes us, then you have to consider that the reality of the events in your life that left you feeling like less-than a human has carried over into this moment.The problem with learning to be invisible is that for a time, it serves us, it protects us, it keeps us hidden from pain and suffering, and that is a mechanism for survival until it isn’t.
The power we hold in coming into our voice is something that I can’t fully express in words. For lack of a better way to explain this, I look at being me as standing up for myself, tapping into my sovereignty. Against what everyone may think, I move towards things that serve me, for me. The part of us held deeply in fear tells us not to show up as we are because there will be ramifications. This mechanism of fear at one point served us to keep us safe. It works well until you recognize that that mechanism impedes your ability to be great or love yourself.
The moment that I gave myself permission to use my voice, stand up for myself, be the person I am, and live according to who I am as a person is the greatest decision I have ever made. The decision to be me came with fear and a lot of it, but at some point, I had to ask myself, what was I really afraid of? And you know what I came to understand? People will always judge you, people will always tell you that you aren’t enough, and they will always be the first to say, “I told you so.” when you fail. And do you know what I say to those people in return? Nothing. They don’t get to sit at my table.
Speaking your truth and healing your inner child is a beautiful experience that I hope everyone who has experienced pain will have. Once you start to step into yourself, this becomes more real; you effectively become more present with the idea that you have an inner child. Your truth helps solidify that newfound understanding of self. I think of these three truths regarding healing your inner child and doing trauma work in general - can you get to the place where you can say, "I love you," "I hear you," and "thank you"?
"I love you" is so important. Because if you're not going to say it to yourself, who will? And I know that is so hard to get to that place, especially when you feel like you've never been deserving of love, or love was taken away or stripped from you, or on the backside of love, there was always some kind of consequence or penalty or payment, and worst of all you may had to earn love in some way. I believe that you have to earn love in inner child work, and many people will disagree with me on this, and that's fine. But I believe that you do have to earn love for yourself. But let me be very clear, the love you are earning is the love with yourself, for yourself, by yourself. Earning love for yourself means doing the right things right by going inward, creating it, and earning it. My experience was very much in being stuck in this place that I hated myself. And you may relate to that. You may be reading this right now and saying, "I fucking hate myself." I get it, and I’m sorry because you deserve more.
You have to speak your truth of love into yourself and the world. I think about bringing light into this inner child work, and this isn't woo-woo, but it's true; you have to put your love into the universe. Darkness surrounds us all the time, especially when we are in this awfully negative mindset. When we feel depressed, anxious, hurt, suicidal - I get it, I have been there, I have worn every one of those hats. If there is something awful one can say to oneself, I assure you I have said it.
Now, I wake up every day and put my feet on the ground with gratitude. And I think to myself how much I love myself, for all the effort, all the work. Healing your inner child through saying, I love you isn’t easy. I know it isn't easy, and in fact, it's so incredibly hard to get to the place where you say I love myself that most people quit before mouthing the word I. I love my inner child. I love everything about who I am as defined by me. You have to self-define what love means. Only you get to carry the power of that definition. And with that power, you get to step into understanding yourself in a way you never have, which is not only simultaneously beautiful and empowering.
To be able to sit within your inner child and say I love you is you taking your power back! I think, without question, you can create self-love, but you're going to have to earn it. Creating self-love may start with compassion, but it may also start with doing hard things, building yourself back up, holding yourself accountable, going to the course, taking the class, doing the work right, whatever that thing is, you may have to show up for, or maybe not, maybe you already are in that place where you love yourself, and you love your inner child, and that's beautiful. Speak that truth into yourself every single day! Not sure how? Stand in front of a mirror, and look at yourself and say, I love me. I love myself. Speak your truth - I love you, I hear you, I see you. Mirror work in healing your inner child can play such a pivotal role in this self-love process.
Stepping to self-love is important because we often ignore our needs. We find power in coming back to nurturing our needs. You have to speak aloud about the things you need, want, you're interested in, and what you're curious about. Put your power into the universe, and then write it down. Take a piece of paper and write down what it is that you need. Speak that truth. Create that reality. What is it within you that needs to come out? Stop holding it in. Suppose you want to heal your inner child. In that case, if you're going to step out of this trauma, you will have to acknowledge your desires, needs, interests, personal boundaries, goals, and hobbies. Whatever it is, you're going to have to speak those aloud. You're going to have to put it into the universe because the more you do, the more it starts to become comfortable. And the more it becomes comfortable, the more you begin to own it. And the more that you own it, the more it starts to become who you are. And eventually, one day, you're going to look in the mirror, and you're going to say, "Oh, I'm the person that I always thought I could be."
The truth about getting to the place of loving yourself is that it's odd at first. But finding peace with who you are can be started with taking action and thanking yourself for doing the work. Say thank you to your inner child, to the current you, to the adult you are in this moment. Say thank you! This shit is fucking hard. No part about this life, about this journey, about healing, about overcoming trauma, about becoming the hero of your own story, about anything we do to make our lives better is easy. Healing your inner child is not a walk in the park, and if it were, you wouldn't be reading to this right now, and you sure as hell wouldn't have made it this far without some serious effort. So, thank yourself, acknowledge yourself, give yourself accolades, and more importantly, especially as you're healing your inner child, give that inner child thanks. Say, “Thank you for surviving, thank you for finding a way to be resilient. Thank you for showing up, even though it was so challenging. Thank you for trying to make it every day. Thank you for doing all this hard shit that you shouldn’t have to do.” There's power in these statements about gratitude, my friend. I'm telling you to own this moment. There is so much beautiful power in the idea of thanking you. Thank yourself is an acknowledgment of the reality that you've been through some hard shit. And you deserve to be grateful to yourself for that.
What is it that you are thankful for on your inner child healing journey?
Use the space below to write what you are thankful for:
I kept coming across people who spoke about writing a letter to my inner child. What nonsense, I thought. Why would I do something so silly? The very idea of writing a letter to myself felt asinine because, well, to be honest, I don’t know. I did know that if all these people were saying it worked, then maybe I needed to get out of my own way. I made a choice about not wanting to be vulnerable with myself before understanding the power that stepping into the unknown can have. As you are reading this, you may be wondering why it is healing to write a letter to your inner child.
I’ll be forthright here. It wasn’t until I actually made a declaration to myself one evening as I sat listening to an audiobook on healing childhood trauma that I would finally just write the damn letter to myself that I discovered its power. I don’t think I have the words to convey the inner struggle I faced with writing this. Sitting to write this letter to my inner child was worse than pulling teeth. In fact, I’d rather doing anything else, but I made a choice. Part of healing my inner child was holding to and following through on my decisions, so I had to.
As I wrote, line by line, I felt a sense of intense anger and frustration. Much like that day in my therapist's office, a sense of “why the hell do I have to do this?” came over me. I was mad about having to do another healing trauma exercise that I didn’t want to do. But I did it because I said I would. I kept a promise to myself, which in hindsight was more difficult than the actual writing.
Once I finished, I read the letter back to myself. The lines were filled with words that conveyed both my anger and frustration and my hope and admiration for my childhood experiences. I felt a sense of hope and pride in those words. As I had many times before, I also promised myself that I would protect my inner child because if I didn't, who else would?
Today, as I reflect on that evening and the words on that piece of paper, I am proud of myself for doing one of the most uncomfortable things I had done to that point of healing. And I did it because I asked myself what am I willing to do to have the life that I want to have? Ultimately, we are faced with having to follow through on our promises to ourselves. On the backside of those promises, more often than not, something beautiful comes, like a tool that we can reach for in our darkest hour.
Write yourself a letter and a promise because there will be a time when it might save you. Writing your inner child a letter is a tool; realistically, that's what it is. It is a tool that you will leverage in the moments you need to power and strength to get you through obstacles and roadblocks. You may be asking yourself, "Well, what kind of letter do I write to my inner child? What kind of promise do I make to my inner child?" The letter's content is for you to decide. It can be a combination of all the things you have been reading about or totally different. Ultimately, it's about creating something practical that is a leverage tool for you to have in those moments of doubt.
One of the things that I always have my one-on-one coaching clients do is that they write this letter to themselves at some point. In their journey with me, they're going to have to write a promise to themselves, something that undeniably cannot be broken, period. I have them write letters to themselves because I know the power our own words can have when we need them.
I've done this work myself. And I have a letter right now in my hand, and I keep it on Google Drive, so it's always there when I need it. And it's there as a leverage point and tool for those moments in which I feel weak. That letter to my inner child at one point was such a practical tool that I was reading it regularly. Then I would revamp it because I’m always growing, healing, changing. In the process of change, I'm always looking at how I make my letter to my inner child more in tune with what I'm going to need next?
As I write, I'm thinking about mitigating the risks of childhood trauma and the ramifications that came along with abuse. By having this tool in my belt, during those moments in which this challenge of healing childhood trauma is the most difficult or I'm letting myself down, or I'm not showing up, or in The Vortex, I take out that letter and read it. I read that letter to my inner child because it is a catalyst as a reminder and a kick in my own ass that reminds me, "go and do the fucking things that you said you're going to do. Stop letting yourself down, stop being a fucking loser!” these are my words. Let me be super clear; this is how I talk to myself because this is what I need to pump myself up. If this isn't your vibe, and you need to be the most courteous and kind person ever to your inner child, please do that. I have done that work, and I am in a different place now. So let me be clear, I need a kick in the ass. I don't need a hug most of the time. Of course, I will always take a hug because I'm super comfortable with the idea that that is okay in my life.
My letter to my inner child is about motivating myself; it's about in that time when I need that intrinsic push to go further, to go harder, to continue down the path, in the times where it's hard, where it's rough, where it's difficult, where I want to give up, where I'm mad at myself, or I am angry at the world, where my emotion starts to take over, or whatever it is, that letter is there for me. And I read that letter to my inner child as a way of healing. This healing your inner child work is a continuum. Healing is a process, and growing despite abuse is going to take the rest of our lives.
Create your letter to your inner child, write it, and put it somewhere you can access it when you need it. If it's about forgiving yourself, if it's about stepping into hope, if it's about creating goals and a game plan, whatever that inner child letter is, write it and put it somewhere because you will need it. This needs to be a letter that you physically create. You have to write this.
Part of that speaking the truth is writing. If you do anything I have suggested in this book, please do this. Write your inner child a letter on paper first, then copy it over into your Google Drive or wherever it's accessible, or put it on a note on your phone. The location doesn't matter. Just put it somewhere that you can have it when you need it. And then when you need that moment, when your inner child needs love, when you need to step further into healing when you feel like your back is against the wall, go and read that letter. And I promise you, I promise you - it will change where you are.
Use this space to write your inner child a letter of power, strength, hope, trust, forgiveness, thanks, gratitude, or love:
For a very long time, I was paralyzed by the idea of mediation as a form of healing my childhood trauma. It felt terrifying to be alone with my thoughts. I would tiptoe into the practice of meditation on occasion. Still, I would more often than not I would feel more anxious and scared than when I started.
About five years ago, I was in a random Holiday Inn in Salt Lake City, Utah, having my third panic attack of the day. These panic attacks would come from nowhere and cripple me. For days I would be perfectly fine, and then, suddenly, the world would start caving in on me. As I laid on that dirty patterned carpet reminding myself that I wasn’t dying, I had a moment of clarity. “What if I could force my brain to stop this?” I thought to myself.
I picked myself off the floor, reached for my phone, and googled “how to stop panic attacks meditation.” I clicked the first video that came up. What happened next blew my mind, literally. I put my earbuds in, listened to the thirty-minute guided meditation, and discovered something extraordinary about the human brain. Adaptation for survival is its only goal. As I listened, I understood that I could, at least to some extent, control my brain - a thought I had never had before.
I listened patiently as the proctor told me to imagine that I was walking down a brick path to a lush green garden. He told me to feel the sun on my face and to smell the flowers. He guided me to lay in the grass and to breathe. And then he said something that caught me off guard that I still carry with me. He said, “allow the panic attack to happen. Stop trying to control everything. Let this pain escape you.” Talk about a holy shit moment!
What he said felt spot on because I understood that I had been holding on too tight. For years I had been white-knuckling life at every turn. Even when my life was a disaster, I was holding onto that steering wheel for dear life. In hearing his words, it became clear that sometimes, you just have to let go.
I keep diving deeper into guided meditations and eventually started guiding myself once I learned to exists within myself. This took years of practice, and now meditation has become a daily routine. The fantastic thing about meditation is that it works, but it does take time. As I write this, it has been years since I sat in that hotel listening to that panic attack meditation, and I can count on two hands how many panic attacks I have had.
Meditation became another tool for healing my inner child because I realized that if I could apply mediation to panic attacks, it must work for other areas of my life, and I was right.
I think about the power of our subconscious and how it often drives our decisions, and how we don’t recognize that we have control over it until we acknowledge that we have control over it, and how that control we have to relinquish control feels like a truth that needs to be shared with the world.
No question meditating is, in fact, an inner child healing work. Meditation can vary for you in how it works, but I want to share the way I think about approaching the practice for inner child healing. I step into meditation with intention and purpose. I say to myself, "If I'm going to step into meditation around inner child work, then I'm going to do it intentionally because I can use this tool to make my life better." I do it like that because I want to know exactly what's happening when I'm stepping into that moment of presence within myself. I take myself into a place of comfort because looking inward can be scary.
If you've happened to listen to the Michael Unbroken podcast long enough, you know one of the very early was was about the experiences I had with psilocybin and healing my inner child, and in this moment of doing this hero dose of psilocybin while in a float tank, and coming to this moment of recognizing that I was going to be the protector of my inner child. That experience of using plant medicine for healing my childhood trauma was a catalyst for this lovely moment of change in my life. Still, that moment was preceded by years of meditation. I wanted to get comfortable within my own thoughts. I wanted to know that place of peace and calm and quiet, which can be terrifying for many people, especially when you've experienced trauma. And so you baby step your way into it like you do everything else in trauma healing. There is no reason to deep dive into the unknown when it comes to creating an understanding of who you are. Can it be helpful? Sure. But, you can also start off with a little patience and grace.
After years of using mediation as a tool for healing my inner child, I know that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. Meditation, like everything, is a practice, and if you can practice for 30 seconds, or one minute, or five minutes, or twenty, then see what happens. Meditation for healing trauma is not about the destination; it’s about the practice and the challenge of learning something new about yourself through doing something uncomfortable. Meditation can be, "Can I be present with myself for one minute, no distractions, no phone, no email, no text, no music, no nothing, just the peace and quiet within myself by myself?"
When healing your inner child, meditation can help you get to that place where you find the confidence it takes to do the hard things. I think people rush this meditation thing way too quickly, and it's problematic. I wouldn’t go scuba diving without having never been in a pool. Does that make sense?
With patience, you will find the confidence to get closer to that threshold of opening the door to tapping into the inner child during meditation. As you slowly get more aware and more cognizant of yourself and your subconscious, you will have a better framework and understanding of how deep you can go down the rabbit hole of yourself. I know that sounds like some Matrix shit if you have never tried meditation, but trust me when I say that there is power in this. And as you're in it, what will happen is that you will find the way to start speaking to yourself - that inner child - in a way that is nurturing and compassionate and healing and loving and kind. And then one day, maybe, I don't know, because everyone's journey is different, you'll come to this place where you're making a declaration, “I will protect my inner child, I will protect myself, I will be the hero of my own story.” That was my experience. That's how I got to that moment with psilocybin. By taking this intense dive into becoming comfortable with the silence of self-discovery, I have comforted my subconscious inner child.
When am I healed? is the number one question I used to ask myself. “How long do I have to do this trauma healing shit?” is number two.
I felt so lost in the process of healing because I just wanted it to be done. Why couldn’t there be an ending to all this? It seemed like every time I learned more about my inner child, the science of trauma, or the power I was discovering, the more that I came closer to understanding the truth that this journey doesn’t end.
In one sense, knowing that this trauma healing challenge is a lifelong venture is freeing because I can adapt to knowing that this work is a part of who I am now. On the other hand, it fucking sucks. Am I right? I would love to be entirely free of all of this, but I don’t know if that moment is in the cards. That’s not to say that trauma and my past rules everything around me, but instead, it’s merely to say that on most days, I don’t get to pretend it’s not there.
I found that along with the truth's power, this is now my life came to a sense of compassion for myself unlike I had known. The compassion for my inner child and my trauma experience was laid with the foundation that I had accepted my fate for lack of a better term that I am a warrior. It almost feels dark writing that, but the truth is that that acceptance is freeing.
Today, as I sit within the understanding of who I am in hope and courage, despite my childhood trauma, I feel an overwhelming emotion of pride for being on this journey when the easiest thing to do is quit.
Honoring your journey in healing your inner child is about recognizing yourself for the effort you put into your own life. Recognizing yourself calls back to nurturing yourself, speaking your truth, writing the letter, meditation, exploring, forgiving yourself, and understanding. Honoring the journey, to me, is about continuing to show up every day, just going for it, just learning, and stepping into it. Owning, thinking, healing, growing, and everything in between is the work. Honoring your journey is about looking at it from an unbiased perspective and saying to yourself, "Yeah, I'm in this right now. This is happening. This is my life. I have control over this moment. This is my choice. I am the one in power, not them. Not the past, not 25 fucking years ago, right now, at this moment, I am the hero of my own story." That's what honoring your journey is, and recognizing the truth of this moment is ultimately how you show up for yourself and your inner child.
You may recognize, at this moment, even by being here right now, reading and owning this, that you are in the journey. Honor that truth. Own it. Recognize that even in the moments you step back, and in the moments where you fuck up, and in the moments when things aren't what you thought or excepted them to be, that you are still on this journey. This is a forever thing. When you understand healing trauma and healing your inner child is a game of patience and that there's a possibility that there is no end is when you start to take your power back. Understand something, every day, you're in the healing work; this is the journey, this is the moment, this is your life.
What can you honor about your journey?
Use this space to write what honoring yourself means to you:
My friend, thank you so much for being a part of this, for stepping into healing your inner child, for being willing to do the work, for looking at life through the scope of someone who wants to be better because they want to be better for themself. I honor you, and I celebrate this inner child healing journey because it's hard. I'm sorry that we have to do this. I'm sorry that we have to have this conversation. I’m sorry that I have to write this book and that you have to read it, but I’m proud of both of us for being here. We are cleaning up the garbage in our front yard, and because of the work that we are doing, we are taking steps to end generational trauma and heal our own inner child. I wish that we could connect in literally any other way you could imagine. But this is our truth. This is our journey.
We are in this together.
Know this, as you are healing your inner child and as you are working through trauma, you are not alone.
Though trauma may be our foundation, it is not our future.
Until next time…
Your review would mean the world to me if you would take 2 minutes and leave a review about this book wherever you purchased or borrowed it from. I would love your genuine and honest thoughts about this book to learn how to become a better author and so that we as a community can come together to create better information for other trauma warriors on their healing journey.
I am here to support you on your journey to health, healing, happiness, success, love, longevity, and everything in between. You are not alone on this mission.
Podcast: Listen to The Michael Unbroken Podcast on iTunes and Spotify
30-Day Trauma Healing Challenge: www.HealTraumaCoach.com
Michael Anthony is the author of the best-selling book Think Unbroken and is a coach, mentor, and educator for adult survivors of child abuse. Michael spends his time helping other survivors get out of "The Vortex" to become the hero of their own story and take their lives back. Michael hosts The Michael Unbroken podcast, teaches at Think Unbroken Academy, and is on a mission to create change in the world. For more information visit: www.ThinkUnbroken.com
Think Unbroken: Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma
Think Unbroken: Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma is not only a guide to helping other Trauma Survivors find their way out of The Vortex, but it is also the cornerstone to how I changed my life. I am, in essence, a product of my product, and I believe that Think Unbroken is the key to taking the first steps in overcoming the effects of childhood trauma.
This book will expose you to possibility through mindset, palatable understandings of self, and a step by step guide to discovering out how to place the first piece of the puzzle on the table.
What you will find in Think Unbroken is not just my story, but a reflection of the possibilities that can become a reality when you understand that Mindset is Everything. Childhood trauma took everything from me, but I took everything back, and so can you
Available at www.ThinkUnbroken.com and wherever books are sold.