Who is your Inner Child?

The idea of the Inner Child has been around for a long time in western psychology, and serves a useful purpose in helping emotionally troubled adults resolve personal struggles. Working with the inner child is seen as a vital step by some professionals to aid psychological growth, and enhance the mental and spiritual health of adults.


Who is your Inner Child?

In popular psychology, the Inner Child concept – also called the Divine Child, Wonder Child, the True Self, or simply, the Child Within – refers to a part of the adult personality that houses child-like and adolescent behaviours, memories, emotions, habits, attitudes, and thought patterns. It’s generally seen as an autonomous sub-personality with its own needs, desires, issues and goals. In this sense, the inner child functions independently, and sometimes in opposition to, the more mature parts of the adult personality.

It would probably be more accurate to describe the inner child construct itself as being made up of various parts, so as not to give the impression that the term refers to a single entity. Thus, we can talk of the Abandoned child, as well as the Playful, Spoiled, Neglected, Discounted, Disconnected and Fearful parts of the child.

You might feel you have one or more of the following inner child characteristics:

  • The Abandoned Child– feels very lonely, insecure and unwanted, and craves attention and safety; fears of abandonment accompany the adult person, even in marriage. Busy, divorced or separated parents are often the main reason for the child feeling unwanted and struggling with issues of abandonment.

  • The Neglected Child – shows itself in depressed, lonesome and withdrawn adults. Not having experienced much love and nurturing during childhood, the person doesn’t know how to express it, and believes that they are unworthy of being loved.

  • The Playful Child – an often forgotten, healthy part of the creative adult personality that knows how to have spontaneous fun, and is relatively free of guilt and anxiety.

  • The Spoiled Child – shows up as impatient adults that tend to throw temper tantrums when immediate gratification of needs and wants isn’t readily forthcoming.

  • The Fearful Child – needs to hear continuous affirmation and encouragement otherwise the adult is nearly always filled with anxiety and panic. As a child, the person received a lot of criticism from caregivers.

  • The Disconnected Child – manifests in the adult that cannot trust easily, and stays isolated and uninvolved; intimacy is a fearful and foreign experience, because the developing child never had the opportunity to learn what it means to be close to someone.

  • The Discounted Child –this child was treated as if they didn’t exist and was made to feel invisible and generally ignored; in adulthood, self-belief and positive valuation is virtually absent, and the adult needs consistent loving attention and support to feel validated.

When listening to your inner child, remember:

  • Accept, validate and value all the difficult feelings that emerge.

  • Trust yourself, and allow the adult to be guided by the inner child’s voice.

  • Still the critical voice within, and say or do whatever is important to the relationship (if prompted to hum a lullaby, then do so).

  • Continue to engage the inner child daily or regularly, as it might take a while for her to trust you completely.

Categories: Parenting/Children, Psychology

Tags: , , , , , ,

20 replies

  1. Very interesting as i’m just starting to find my inner child, but how do you understand when that child is controlling you and why you react to him/her?

  2. Hi James,

    A really good question! If you are reacting to your inner child, it is likely to be because his needs were not previously met. He is desperately trying to get this need met, but continues to be unsuccessful because so often as adults we don’t realise it is the child within us who is behaving in such a way. Instead, we might berate ourselves for our mood or neediness because we are adults and ‘shouldn’t’ act in such a way. By recognising it is our inner child, we can be a lot more understanding. How would you treat a needy child in comparison to a needy adult? Very differently. It is the former way that you need to be in order to get your needs met. You need to be a good parent to yourself. A good parent wouldn’t shout at you when you are expressing a need. They would talk to you and try to understand it.

    How do you understand when that child is controlling you? It is usually when you are being ‘irrational’ or experiencing an emotion to such a degree that you can’t see beyond it – you can’t see beyond it well enough to deal with it with your rational mind.

    Good luck with continuing to embrace Little James 🙂

    • Thank you so much. My inner child controls me a lot and I can’t able to handle her these days.
      I knew my inner child’s characteristic is ‘Neglected child’ through your article.

      Regarding this,
      “It is usually when you are being ‘irrational’ or experiencing an emotion to such a degree that you can’t see beyond it – you can’t see beyond it well enough to deal with it with your rational mind.”

      You mean
      We should always be conscious of what inner child is saying ?
      And is our inner child still alive inside of us even they are already got healed?

      I just wondering
      if I got healed my inner child,won’t he exist anymore inside me ?

      Thank you very much in advance.

  3. Great post Nicola. My inner child eats too much cake and biscuits:))))

  4. i can be impatient and i notice im some what of the neglected and fearful child characteristics .i know whenever i split from a relationship i feel hopeless like i can’t or wont be able to ever have that.Or that love just isn’t for me so i tend to isolate myself alot ..any suggestions as to how to become parent the inner child and deal with the emotions of the inner child every time they surface .Im new to this whole inner child thing

    • Hi Josh, it is great that you recognise your impatience with your inner child, as well as that you are aware of patterns in how you deal with relationship break-ups.There will be times when doing inner work is challenging, especially when the inner child overwhelms us with all kinds of deep-seated emotions, which will be the case when you feel abandoned and isolated.This is when the meaning of embracing the inner child comes to the fore. During these times, mindfully holding these feelings and observing them within the self is a good start to being a good parent to your inner child. Mindful observation means paying attention to the emotions and sensations as they emerge without evaluating, questioning or trying to make sense of them. It also entails accepting all of the emotions, surrendering to them in the present moment, as painful as they are. In addition, try not to isolate yourself. If you have difficulty being a good parent to your inner child during these times, you need others around you so that they can help parent your inner child. Even if you only spend short periods of time with people, it will help.

      Good luck, Josh.

      • i notice it at work to alot like ..its like a feeling like someone tugging on my arm or trying to distract to me from being present..ive been kind of battling a bit with trying to quit alcohol .how do notice when its my inner child acting up?is the inner child our restless soul ??.am i fighting with what/who i really am ?

    • This certainly sounds like your inner child, Josh. If you are trying to quit alcohol, it is possible that your inner child is starting to experience the thoughts and emotions that the alcohol used to hide. Keep at it though. Don’t get angry with your inner child – provide him with some time and attention, even if that is writing down a conversation with him to see what is bothering him.

      It can seem like a battle, Josh, and in many ways it is – however, as you become more comfortable with Little Josh, the battle will reduce.

  5. I recieved this message the other day, From a dream interpreter I was told to connect with my inner child. How do I do that.

    Hi girls,
    I don’t want to freak anyone out, because this could be nothing, but when I have a dream like this, it often means something. In other words, please don’t think I am a weirdo for telling you this.
    I just woke from a vivid dream where a man handed me a note torn off from the corner of notebook paper. On it was written “Ali Stolpe” with a picture of an orange fish below – kind of in a Japanese or old style of the way fish are drawn. It made me cry (in this dream I was one of you sisters – either Ali or Angela) because the name reminded me of someone close to me – maybe a child – that was missing.
    I went searching for the child in an orchard, or it may have just been an old back yard with lots of trees. I have the impression this orchard used to be neglected and overgrown, but now is newly trimmed and cleaned up.
    There were lots of large rock crystals above and below the dirt. They were sort of the pale orange hue of a Himalayan salt crystals.
    That was it. Nothing more before I woke up.
    This dream could be a “heads up” or a clue to something, I don’t know. Again, it could mean nothing. However, when I don’t listen to my dreams, I nearly always wish I had.
    I hope you don’t think I am a freak for telling you this!

    • Hi Ali, thank you so much for sharing this and sorry for the delayed response. I don’t think you are a ‘freak’ at all and I have a lot of time for dreams – I think they have meaning. Out of interest, what does this dream mean to you? Have you had any more?

  6. I am extremely pleased to meet my inner child just recently and have found a place where He is safe and yet through this meeting i have been able to see how extremely talented he is in his world. Most pleasing is his willingness to trust me and come with me outside the visual sphere he has lived in TRAPPED until i found him. I encourage you to find the scenerio that most fits your lost child and there to share a sweet meeting that for me is being all positive. I have changed my abandonment for friendship. Sweet friendship and sharing for losses perceived due to adolecent

  7. Thanks for the post, it was really interesting.
    I’m doing my final project for my MS photography, and subject is inner child and my emotions.
    I’m researching about inner child and I’m so confused now, I really appreciate your help. I really like this subject and really want to work on myself, as I think I have so many conflicts with my true self.
    I should mention again that I study photography not psychology, so my knowledge about psychology is zero, and I don’t have to go too deep in it, as long as I get the general idea its fine.
    As I research by now, some believe that we are in conflict with our inner child and we try to hid or ignore it according to our rules and what is bad or what is good. For example if we are angry, we try to mask the angriness and show that everything is fine, while our inner child is very angry inside us.
    The other view is that the inner child is the one that dictates us how to behave according to her pattern which is made through her past experience and whatever she is comfortable with it. So there is no confliction between the inner child and us in this view.
    So what do you think, which one is more accurate, or it depends on the emotion or behavior?
    And also, as I want to cite this post on my research, could you please tell me the references you used, so I can use it as part of my research, because I really like it and gave me some nice ideas for my photographs.
    Many thanks

  8. Hello Nicola,

    I was doing something similar to inner child work, without knowing it was called “inner child work”. But it’s extremely fascinating to discover more of myself that I didn’t know about.

    I have some questions about the inner child:
    1) Does it have the same personality as our conscious self?
    2) It is more accessible in dreams and in hypnosis?

    Many thanks!


  9. The idea of the inner child was s revelation in the therapy I have been doing for c PTSD. My therapist gave me the poem called I found my inner child today. It touched me deeply. Since working on this, I am starting to feel more integrated as a grown up. It’s difficult to explain. I’ve a long way to go but this was a watershed moment.

  10. Hi Latoya,
    It is called My inner child by Kathleen Algoe. Let me know what you think.

  11. I think that was not quite the right title outs called My child within.


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