Hello, my loves. Today we’re going to cover some stuff about inner child work.
We haven’t really spoken much about inner child work here, because it’s something I teach in my program Connected Woman. I’ve always wrestled with how to approach discussing inner child work in a way that doesn’t cover exactly what I go over in Connected Woman, so today, I’m actually going to talk about my experience with inner child work.
And if this discussion resonates and you want to learn more, the doors to Connected Woman are now open, so you’re welcome to join us there.
If you aren’t familiar with Connected Woman, it’s the program to join if you want to change how you do relationships with other people, but most importantly, the relationship you do with yourself.
It’s my favorite thing. I don’t want to pick favorites, but…fuck it. It’s my favorite. And if inner child work is a thing you want to get into, it’s a great place to start.
So, let me start this whole inner child work discussion by telling you about my experience with inner child work, including how I discovered it.
Inner child work is such a basic concept now, but five years ago, I didn’t even know what an “inner child” was.
If you go back and listen to my very first podcast episode, you can hear the whole story of how I went to the MindBodySpirit Festival with my partner at the time, got broken up with, and ended up crying on my kitchen floor about how this always happened to me and nobody loved me, blah blah blah, followed quickly by…oh fuck, am I the problem?
So I realized that I was actually the issue there. Then I went on Facebook, saw a post about a yoga and meditation retreat, and long story short, I ended up in Thailand a few days later.
We had daily yoga and daily meditation, but we also had daily workshops, which was incredible. As part of those daily workshops, we would do a lot of internal work, which included one-on-one sessions. During one of these sessions, this woman told me, “You have a very wounded inner child.”
Now, I had no idea what the fuck that was. I was like, “Am I pregnant? What do you mean, inner child? What the fuck is an inner child?”
I don’t know if inner child work was popular then and I just wasn’t in the right circle, but I know that inner child work is very popular nowadays. So it’s probably hard to imagine having no idea what that is, but I really didn’t.
So she’s telling me that I have this wounded inner child, and she gave me this song to listen to. I can’t remember the name of it for the life of me, but I listened to it on repeat, and I would weep as I was hearing this song.
After that experience, I took that concept of inner child and inner child work and decided I needed to know what it was.
There are a million definitions for what the inner child is. To me, it is the most innocent, most tender, most vulnerable part of us.
When we have these deep needs—love, safety, belonging, attention, validation, reassurance, to be seen, to be heard, all of that—that’s our inner child.
Now, people teach this differently, but I see there being multiple inner children within us.
So you have an infant, a five-year-old, a ten, twelve, thirteen, sixteen, eighteen-year-old…you see what I’m saying? You have all these different stages of your childhood inside you.
For me, inner child work has been a journey of connecting with these different parts of myself.
When I first started to do inner child work, I would always go to my inner child between four and six. That felt really easy for me, because a child at that age is so innocent and pure.
I mean, come on. How could you ever blame a five-year-old for anything?
What was more challenging for me to get in touch with was my inner ten-year-old or thirteen-year-old or sixteen-year-old, because that’s when you start to have some conscious awareness of what you’re doing.
I was a real fucking brat as a kid…rightfully so. Well, not rightfully so, but I didn’t know any better at the time, right?
I didn’t have a terrible childhood, but there was stuff happening. There was a lot of conflict in the home. (Which happens in most households, unfortunately.)
I didn’t have the tools available to work with that. I didn’t know how to handle those emotions, so I would be very bratty. I would act out. I would be very angry. So when I started doing inner child work with those versions of myself, there was a lot of guilt, shame, blame, disgust, and distaste. I just looked at that version of myself and thought, “How could you act like that?”
It’s been an ever-unfolding journey of learning to see the innocence in all parts of me and having compassion for my inner child at every stage.
It is so important to do inner child work. The way that I do it is through visualization, journaling, and self-connection. It can truly be as simple as putting my hand on my heart and saying, “I’m here. I’ve got you. I love you. What do you need?”
When was the last time you even asked yourself, “What do I need?” Think about that.
For most people, if I were to ask you right now, “Hey, what do you need?” you’d probably answer, “I don’t know. Nothing.”
That’s the answer for most people. They get stuck in “I don’t know” or “Nothing” because they don’t have a frame of reference of actually tuning into their needs.
The first step to inner child work is actually tuning into what you do need, because how can you communicate what you need if you don’t know what you need?
We want to be really gentle with this. We want to go slow. We want to have compassion with ourselves, because it can be a total mindfuck to realize that you have needs that weren’t met or still aren’t being met.
In fact, in a previous run of Connected Woman, I actually shared that it had only just landed for me that I didn’t get my needs met as a child.
That sounds insane, because I’d said so many times before on my podcast that I hadn’t gotten my needs met as a child. But this was the first time it actually landed on a somatic level in my body, and I realized, “Fuck, I didn’t get my needs met. I needed attention. I needed care. I needed patience. I needed someone to sit with me and say, ’It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling.’” And I didn’t receive that to the level I desired to receive it.
Of course, my parents are beautiful people, and they did the best that they could. But it’s really important that we don’t stop at acknowledging that.
Our parents did their best…and that doesn’t mean they met our every need.
So while we can acknowledge that they didn’t intentionally fuck us over, before we can really do inner child work, we have to first validate the experiences where we didn’t get our needs met for ourselves. Otherwise, we can’t move past them.
You can’t transcend a shadow until you accept that it’s there. You can’t transcend a wound until you accept that it’s there. You can’t transcend being a victim until you accept that you have been a victim.
When we don’t do inner child work to heal these wounds, they show up in our adult relationships in really unhealthy ways.
For me, those wounds have shown up as self-sabotaging, withdrawing and withholding my love, not being receptive to my partner’s needs, being very self-absorbed, and just plain being a bitch.
There was a fear there that if I wasn’t demanding, if I wasn’t self-absorbed, then I wouldn’t get my needs met. And that was my inner child taking over.
Now, the inner child’s needs in and of themselves are so pure. But the way that we go about trying to fulfill those needs when we haven’t integrated our inner child and haven’t done the inner child work is really unhealthy. It can end up being very destructive.
The way that most people relate to their inner child is through a toxic, unhealthy lens, and they blame her for a lot of their behavior.
This is something I see all the time in Connected Woman. People go, “Well, I’m scared to connect with my inner child, because she’s been so destructive in my life.”
The truth is, that’s not the inner child. It’s the behaviors that manifest from this little one not actually getting her needs met. So we need to stop blaming her for the behavior.
This is where we talk about reparenting, because you actually have an opportunity to reparent yourself through inner child work.
It’s common to have an attitude of, “I don’t want to fucking reparent myself. Why should I have to? My parents should have done it for me.”
Yes, they should have. And if they could have, they would have. But they probably did not have the capacity to do that, because they were not parented in the way that they needed to be parented.
This cycle can go on and on and on and on. We’re all doing the best we can with the resources that we have, and you can either continue the cycle or reparent yourself out of it.
This is an opportunity for you to completely change your lineage by reparenting yourself through inner child work. And if you have children, this is where you get to fucking change the game for your children as well.
This is not an easy task. But this is something that you get to do.
You don’t have to do it. You don’t fucking have to do inner child work. You don’t have to read books. You don’t have to do Connected Woman; you get to. That’s a really big change in perspective, right? You get to be the one who has the capacity to do this kind of work, and that’s beautiful.
So that’s what I want to say on inner child work.
You can connect with your inner child in so many ways: visualization, meditation, journaling, placing a hand on your heart, etcetera. There’s one practice in Connected Woman that I take you through, and every single person who does that practice says, “That was worth the entire fucking investment.” And they still do it to this day with different parts of themselves.
I’m not going to give too much away, but it’s very powerful. So if this is something you are wanting to really dive into and integrate within yourself, along with ego work and nervous system regulation and understanding men and boundaries and triggers and patterns and reactivity and all of the things, then Connected Woman is the space for you.
Join The Connected Woman, a 12-week shadow work course for women who want to go from feeling anxious AF about their love lives to feeling confident, secure and having unfuckwithable self-worth: https://michellepanning.com/the-connected-woman
Ready to do the work? You can find all courses, masterclasses, and more right here: https://michellepanning.com/all-offers
I get it, girl. I’ve been there too. For years, I was going through the same experiences with men over and over again that left me feeling confused, anxious and pissed off.
I silenced myself in dating and relationships because I was terrified of being judged, rejected and abandoned. It all changed when I went through a break-up and thought “enough is enough. I cannot continue to repeat the same relationships with different men! Something HAS to change!”