“Children not loved for who they are do not learn how to love themselves. Their growth is an exercise in pleasing others, not in expanding through experience. As adults, they must learn to nurture their own lost child.” – Marion Woodman
How does this modality link to our eating habits? The way we look after our bodies, and the way we nurture and nourish ourselves originates from childhood.
The first time I did inner child work, it was on a meditation app a few years ago. I was guided into a serene, calm clearing in a forest where I was supposed to meet and talk to my 5-year-old self and tell her how much I love her and care about her. I couldn’t do it; the voice in my head said: “She doesn’t deserve to be loved.” I knew it wasn’t my voice, but it took me many months of practice to be able to talk to my inner child. I was feeling like a failure for not being able to be kind to my younger self. On the first few occasions I tried, I had to imagine my young nephew to be able to complete the exercise. As time went on, the process became easier and more natural.
The biggest breakthrough for me happened when I read about the Death Mother archetype. I realised that the inner voice a lot of us have is the critical voice of the Death Mother. This is the voice that keeps judging, that believes that everything needs to be measured/judged, that things are either black or white and the voice that keeps telling you that you are not good enough.
Despite the general belief, inner child work is not just about giving a hug to our own younger self while meditating. That is just one way of doing the work and some people find it useful, even liberating to visualise that cuddle and say those encouraging words to themselves. At the core of that work is our self-talk or inner critic.
The way we speak to ourselves was learnt in childhood; we tend to use similar phrases and voice that we heard from our parents as children. Most people have a much harsher inner voice than the way they would ever talk to people. The things we say to ourselves, we would never even dream of saying to others. This type of inner child work is more about learning to self-parent.
Becoming aware of and catching that harsh inner voice is just the beginning. We need to learn how to be the parents to ourselves; the mother or father that we would have needed as kids but for various reasons we didn’t. Most of our parents did their best with the knowledge they had available to them at the time, but maybe they couldn’t meet our needs the way we would have needed.
As grownups, we get the chance to change our inner voice and become the parent to ourselves that we would have liked. (I find it that this comes more naturally to women once they become mothers, they can develop a kinder inner voice, a voice that they tend use with their own kids. Definitely see this with my sister.)
This is a method that I find transformative with most of my clients who suffer from the harsh inner voice that is generally followed by feelings of guilt and shame and often a binge eating phase.
To find out more about how to do inner child work, watch these videos below: