Addiction occurs when we have traumatic experiences or destructive thought patterns that we avoid instead of confronting directly. One of the keys to recovery from addiction is connecting with our wounded inner child. Incorporating inner child work into our recovery plan can help us answer critical questions about the sources of our addiction. It also can help facilitate deep healing.
What Is an Inner Child?
One’s inner child is real in the symbolic or metaphorical sense. He or she is a composite of the memories and baggage we accumulate during our formative years that fuel emotional difficulties in adulthood. This symbolic youth usually occupies an unconscious part of the adult self, where many psychological problems originate. When we ignore this child, they try to draw our attention to the hurts and traumas that still haunt us.
How Is the Child Within Us Connected to Addiction?
Addiction often comes from the subconscious state of being, brought about by being exposed to trauma, violence, abuse, and neglect in early childhood. We rarely understand the full impact of these early experiences on us as kids. We usually don’t realize that it stays with us as we grow up. However, that child inside remains, even if figuratively, and is still hurting.
A neglected inner child who’s hurting from early traumas tries to get our attention by triggering destructive behaviors and patterns. Instead of dealing with early adverse events head-on, some of us turn to alcohol or drugs for relief and to dull the emotional pain. Addiction happens when one depends too heavily on these coping mechanisms, no matter how destructive they are.
Inner Child Work and Recovery
Many addictions stem from wounds that harmful childhood events inflict. Therapy is crucial in helping people with addictions to recognize the negative thoughts and behaviors they learned as children. In working through these issues, they learn to “re-parent” the child within and to heal.
Some therapies involve working with the inner wounded child to help individuals face the issues that trigger their addiction. One type of treatment is chair work, in which the therapist asks the client to sit facing an empty chair and visualize someone they know sitting across from them. The client has a conversation with the imaginary person and discloses their thoughts and feelings. Perhaps the fictional person is a parent, and the client tells them what they needed as children but didn’t get. The client might also reverse roles and take on the persona of the parent or relative to re-parent and nurture the wounded child.
Counseling can help a person with addiction come to terms with and overcome negative childhood experiences. People can learn to recognize how past events have influenced their self-destructive behaviors. Moreover, learning to heal one’s inner kid can help people struggling with addiction to meet their overlooked emotional and psychological needs. We never outgrow our inner child, and it’s important we keep in touch with this link to our past.
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