A comprehensive-guide to healing our inner child—a concept from @the.holistic.psychologist.
TW: Trauma, Familial Relationships
Update: It was recently brought to our attention that Dr. Nicole LePera has recently taken some actions on social media that are not in line with the values of Powerful Latinas Rising. We do not condone her actions and will continue to work on providing anti-racism educational resources for our community.
Why are so many adults such reactive beings? We throw fits. We act against our own health. We sabotage friendships and relationships.
We lack overall understanding of why we are who we are: Trauma.
More often than not, we understand trauma to mean a tragic, dramatic, or catastrophic experience that can cause damage to our psyche and can inhibit our ability to function “normally.” What we fail to comprehend is that trauma can occur from minor distress too, especially when experienced during our childhood. It is typically the cause of our self-destructive patterns and reactions during adulthood.
Experts call this state of being, “the wounded inner child.”
According to Dr. Nicole LePera, popularly known as @the.holistic.psychologist, these traumas can be a result of prolonged periods of neglect, being misunderstood, not being considered, being conditioned against our true nature, or other unmet needs.
So who is responsible for these deep wounds? Was it our caregivers’ fault? Psychology experts believe it is no one’s fault and that we were simply victims of our environments. Many adults are not consciously aware of their own patterns, including parenting behaviors. They are simply imitating their parents’ behaviors. There is an inherited disconnect between our behaviors and awareness of what triggers them. As adults, it becomes our responsibility to do the work required to break these generational cycles of trauma and heal these wounds.
So how do we become more conscious beings? How do we heal the wounded child?
It is not an easy task and healing will not happen overnight. But with some helpful tools, you are capable of imparting new behaviors on your children and end the generational cycles of trauma that were imprinted on you.
Dr. Nicole LePera’s “4 Parts of the Reparenting Process,” are:
- Emotional Regulation
Some of us were never taught healthy habits. For example, habits like going to bed early enough to get a good night’s rest, spending 15 minutes outside enjoying nature, or going on daily walks. But more so, we were not taught to follow through with the commitment we are making to ourselves, whatever that commitment may be. In many Latinx households we are told that nuestra palabra (our word) is everything when the commitment is made to others, but rarely when the commitment is to ourselves. In fact, we are taught that self-sacrifice is honorable. However, this often creates inner distrust and the expectation that we will not show up for ourselves becomes normalized. Dr. Nicole LePera suggests we break this habit by making small promises to ourselves and following through on them. Your promises have to be realistic. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure. Most importantly, remember to be consistent. You can start by promising yourself to drink at least three cups of water per day. Or write in your journal for 10 minutes three times per week. Even throughout any discouraging thoughts, follow through to rebuild that trust in yourself.
Our responsibilities vary and so do our schedules, but it is essential that you show up for your body. “Sleep, nutrition, movement, and connection to nature is so important to keeping your physical health balanced,” says Dr. LePera. The mind and body are interconnected so the way you treat your body will have a major influence on how you react to situations, especially emotional reactions. Using your practice with discipline rituals, you can incorporate more self-care acts. The reminder to do this for yourself may feel exhausting or unnecessary at times, but in the long-term results you will witness your own improvements. These self-care acts can really improve emotional function and help you gain memory and mental clarity.
This part of the process really impacted me. Even though it may sound silly, “How does one make joy a self-parenting task?!” the main thing to comprehend is that so many of us didn’t grow up experiencing joy regularly. Being the eldest daughter of two immigrant parents, I had the responsibility of caring for my siblings while they worked day in and day out. My parents worked so hard that I never had the opportunity to see them pursue hobbies that brought them joy. As a child who was often parentified. I was imitating their interaction with life and had little interest in playing or discovering my own interests. Stressful upbringings and high levels of toxicity in the home are not prime examples of joy, nor can they help us recognize the absence of it. It is essential that as adults we take time to make connections with things and people that bring us moments of happiness! Let the inner child in you play and experience joy regularly. Our caregivers deserved it and so do we! Try riding a bike, playing an instrument, painting, singing, try something new, anything! But whatever you do, don’t give up on your search and continuous fulfillment of joy.
While it is necessary to seek and create constant joy for ourselves, that does not mean we will not experience lows in this process. This last part is very important because it can help us be emotionally resilient all while teaching us how to be less reactive and more self-aware instead. Dr. Nicole LePera advocates for meditation and observation. Through them we can learn to recognize our thoughts and triggers before reacting to situations. This, in turn, creates more intentional actions on our behalf. If you had a hard day caused by factors outside of your control and have self-detrimental thoughts like, “I should have done this differently” or “I am so dumb, why didn’t I see this coming,” you are reacting. However by acknowledging those thoughts—which are common thoughts that several of us have on a bad day—you can redirect and redefine them in a more comforting and understanding manner. By recognizing your thoughts and feelings, you can adjust and adapt your thought process and focus on solutions rather than fixate on factors that are uncontrollable. You deserve more grace. Practice being kind to yourself. Even (and especially!) when the situations, people and their reactions are outside of your control. More on that topic soon!
Healing is an act of resistance against societal systems and cultures that condition us to remain unaware. When you make the decision to show up for yourself and your inner child, you are actively choosing to empower current and future generations because they are all observing, learning, and imitating. You are not alone in this healing journey. Search for mental health professionals, support groups, and even virtual communities that are ready to support you throughout this process.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to substitute or provide medical advice. If you are feeling symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions, please consult a mental health professional.