Oxytocin is a hormone that is released when you feel love and safety. Its benefits are stress relief, improved immunity, sleep, relaxation and positive thinking. When a child is neglected by a caregiver, it may prohibit the release of oxytocin among other hormones such as dopamine.
The good news is that there are ways to release oxytocin in the brain, and there are even studies exploring the administration of oxytocin to children to create feelings of trust and safety if deprived in some way.
MeiMei Fox is a New York Times bestselling author, coauthor and ghostwriter of over a dozen non-fiction books and thousands of articles for publications including Huffington Post, Self, Stanford magazine, and MindBodyGreen. She specializes in health, psychology, self-help and finding your life purpose. Fox graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honors and distinction from Stanford University with an MA and BA in psychology. She has worked as a life coach since 2009, assisting clients in developing careers that have meaning and impact. At present, she lives in Hawaii with her twin boys and the love of her life, husband Kiran Ramchandran. Follow @MeiMeiFox
Mary Beth is a mom of 2 and advocate for creating inclusive workplaces that care for their employees through flexibility, empathetic leadership and breaking down caregiver bias. She is the Founder & CEO of WRK/360, an advisory, training, and coaching platform designed to support managers and people leaders to become the empathetic leaders needed for the future of work. As a former SVP in the finance industry, she always valued growing her career and like so many other career-driven mamas, she was surprised to hit the Maternal Wall. Her own experience propelled her to dive deeper into maternal bias, to influence changes to workplace culture and to advocate for a national paid leave policy. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Today, Working Mother, FairyGodBoss, ScaryMommy, and more.
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What makes you instantly upset, angry, or fearful? Can you trace them back to negative experiences in childhood? Perhaps your dad never truly listened to you, so now you feel rejected when your partner is too busy to pay attention.
In general, practicing meditation regularly can help people heal from past traumas. Research from 2017 suggests it may reduce stress and the effects of childhood trauma and improve health outcomes in adulthood.
The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that between 14% and 43% of children experience at least one traumatic event. Of these, up to 15% of girls and 6% of boys will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If you have experienced trauma, consider contacting a mental health professional. There are many effective therapies for trauma to help relieve post-traumatic stress. If you think inner child work could help you, you might reach out to a therapist specializing in this technique.
To name a few, the inner child lens can be found in trauma therapy, Parts Work, Internal Family Systems, EMDR, sensorimotor psychotherapy, somatic work, Gestalt work, art therapy, and story or narrative therapy, notes Phillips.
What is truly special about inner child work is its intention to speak to our inner child through their language, a language that is emotionally based and embodied, rather than expressed through intellectual thoughts and words.
"When you get in touch with your inner child, you can connect with their qualities and experiences at the time," creativity coach Julia Berryman tells mbg. "You can even physically feel how they felt."
Inner child wounds, or attachment wounds, can occur when there is either a traumatic event or chronic rupture without repair. For children, a rupture without repair can look like crying out for help but being unheard by an emotionally unavailable caretaker.
As adults, we walk around carrying wounds from our childhood, whether it's simple or complex trauma, from emotional neglect to physical abuse. Many adults feel they're alone with these hurts and feelings, Phillips notes, and so they cover them up because they feel like that's "what other grown-ups do."
By healing our inner child, we begin to create the safety and security our younger selves have always needed. By doing so, the positive traits of our inner child have room to shine. We unlock our natural gifts, our inner curiosity, and our limitless capacity to love.
We can notice when our wounded inner child appears in our daily lives when you find yourself highly reactive to situations, suddenly feeling very detached or irritated. "Our adult self is trying to manage or control the outside that's making them feel uncomfortable on the inside," Phillips says.
That is why much of reconnecting to our inner child is through engaging in activities that activate our full realm of senses. When we can be fully here instead of thinking our way through situations, we are "tapping into a place beyond the cognitive narrative that is familiar to us," Phillips says.
Remember how it felt like to collect things as a child? Collecting what we find on a walk, on our way to the beach (sticks, rocks, shells), can be a way of reconnecting with our inner child. This isn't for any practical reason, but we do this for the pure experience.
Tiffany Trieu is an inner child advocate, self-trust coach, and community cultivator. She has a B.A. in Design and B.S. in Managerial Economics from the University of California, Davis. She leads one-on-one healing sessions and group gatherings focused around practices like self-parenting, breathwork, visualization, and other embodied adventures.
When we're children, we rely on our parents or other caregivers to provide our basic needs. But as an adult, you need to take care of yourself, which also means taking care of your inner child. The concept of behaving as if there's a small child in your brain might sound silly, but getting to know and caring for your inner child can also be life-changing.
"In inner child work, we discuss a time when the person experienced joy as a child," Dr. Angela Kenzslowe, clinical psychologist and founder of Purple Heart Behavioral Health LLC, tells Bustle. "Maybe they went to a carnival as a child and had the time of their life, but now, as an adult, they believe that's for children and silly and not becoming. So, to honor the inner child, we would encourage a trip to the carnival and allow that pure joy to be experienced again. This would then give the adult permission to once again experience joy in their life."
When you're speaking to yourself, ask yourself whether your words would be appropriate for a parent to say to a child. This exercise will probably help you realize that you need to stop beating yourself up.
Take "a compassionate stance, like you would with a child, toward your own vulnerable and irrational inner battles," Dr. Helen Odessky, licensed clinical psychologist and author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You, tells Bustle. "If you feel ashamed or hurt in some way, rather than dismissing it as irrational, you would first find some compassion for yourself and acknowledge that you do feel a certain way, before deciding on how to move on or proceed. This means that the way you talk to yourself, particularly around sensitive topics, does not involve harshness, shaming, or belittling of yourself, your needs, or your emotional experience."
"Preserving contact with friends from childhood can be beneficial for our inner child because these are the people who have known us for so long, who remember us when we were kids," psychotherapist Dr. Vladimir Musicki tells Bustle. "So usually, it is much easier to have a sense of silliness and playfulness with them than with the people whom we met as adults."
"This activity can help you reconnect with your inner child and remember the emotional quality of being a child," says Musicki. "You can write about how adult life has been stressful for you, how easy is to forgive your inner child, and what you are planning to do in order to spend some time with your inner child. In the beginning, it might seem weird, but after a few sentences, people usually forget about the social restraints which hold them back and get inspired to write a long letter!"
None of us are born adults. We have to learn everything as we grow. Children do that in two, incredibly effective, ways: experience and play. For adults who want to keep learning and growing, joyfully, to thrive in a fast-changing world, it might be time to reconnect with our inner child.
No one's life is perfect though. For some, reconnecting with the childlike learner might also require facing some more difficult emotions. Sometimes we learned lessons as a child that get in the way of open learning and adaptation today. That's where inner child work comes in.
Where is the line that separates an adult life from childhood? And not just a number or an arbitrary age of majority. After all, we're always growing. The balance shifts when we stop playing. At that point, we spend little time imagining what could be and focus on what our experiences dictate. 2b1af7f3a8