By Nancy Minister, Therapist, Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows
If you have ever done any work at The Meadows—either in an inpatient program or in our Survivors I workshop — you likely have had some experience getting in touch with your inner child.
So, how is that young part of yourself right now?
Go ahead: close your eyes and take a deep breath.
Feel that child’s energy.
Are they content? Restless? Sad? Scared?
Experience the warmth and love that you have for him or her in your body. Take a moment to provide for their needs, which could include anything from reassurance to a promise to go for a walk later.
Your child may need for you to go ahead and feel any feelings of fear, pain, or shame so that you can get in touch of where those feelings are coming from and address them.
Reconnecting In the Survivors II Workshop
One of my favorite things about facilitating the Survivors II Workshop at the Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows is helping folks to revisit their relationships with their inner children. The child part of themselves that they rescued in Survivors I probably feels happy, safe, and loved; but, it may be helpful for that person to also connect with an inner child from a different time. Having gained a greater sense of themselves, they are often ready for more trauma work.
Sometimes people return to The Meadows for Survivors II to address adult issues such as ongoing or past relationship problems, traumatic experiences, or addictions. Often, they need another layer of healing from childhood abuse or relational trauma.
Because of my passion for inner child work, any way you slice it, the Survivors II workshop is going to include some connection with that inner child. Yours could be a fearful, sad, and wounded child or an adapted child that is rebellious, angry, or shut down.
By checking in with your inner child in a deeper way, you can learn more about the wounding—the feeling energy and the messages that you still hold inside. Often, the connection people make with their inner children is very sweet.
We use various modalities to get in touch with the underlying source of the issues that people come to address. For example, your homework at the end of the day might be an inventory, a letter, a collage or other art project. The aim of the homework is usually to get in touch with your underlying feelings and the age at which your trauma issue underneath those feelings was set up. Rescuing the child and releasing the feeling energy tends to bring much-welcomed relief. It’s fun for me to be creative and match the homework with the person’s goal for the week.
I have had this blog post in my mind for a few months now, but my own inner girl has not been happy with the idea of me writing a blog. She is scared, having had some social trauma as a teen. Even as those fears come up, I breathe and allow my functional adult to affirm that I have boundaries and I can protect myself (and her). What do I need protection from? It turns out it is my own thoughts that “make-up” all kinds of crazy things about betrayal, judgment, and shame.
Change Your Reality, Change Your Brain
What is truly exciting about this work is that it is validated by neuroscience. We hold relational and survival experiences in our limbic brain in the form of implicit, procedural memories. When we go back in time and access the feelings and experiences of hurting, neediness, abandonment, rejection, fear, or worthlessness, we are retrieving them from that part of our brain.
As we heal by letting go of the feeling energy and then re-parenting that child part, we literally change the neuropathways in our brain. Focused attention on loving that child part of yourself creates new neuropathways. This means creating a felt experience of warmth, love, protection, even physical nurturing by—yes—hugging a pillow.
So, check in again… How is your inner kiddo right now? If you’re finding that he or she could use a little extra nurturing, it might be time to join me for the Survivors II workshop. For more details, call 800-244-4949 or contact us through the Rio Retreat Center website.