Why is self-awareness so huge? Because without awareness of our patterns we are at the mercy of them. We have no conscious choice, we are just acting and reacting, playing out old trauma.
Mindfulness meditation practices are very helpful in deepening our levels of self-awareness. Mindfulness means “awareness of the present moment with acceptance.” So, when we meditate we are essentially training ourselves to become aware of our internal experience (thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations) without reacting to it. We are cultivating intimate knowledge of how our internal world works.
So beginning the PROCESS of becoming aware is the first step. And it is a process… one that deepens over time with conscious effort and practice at being mindful. Don’t expect it to happen over night.
The 2nd step is learning to become the benevolent parent that you never had. As adults it is our responsibility to heal ourselves and to parent ourselves. Once we begin to see what our wounds are, whenever we find ourselves triggered, we can start to VALIDATE our own pain/emotions/experience. Validating ourselves is crucial, because this is what many of us did not receive as children.
Validation can look as simple as this: Noticing we are feeling _______, and telling ourselves “I know you are feeling ____ right now, and that makes perfect sense given what you have been through. I will take care of you.” Or, “I know you are feeling ______ right now. It is ok. I am here with you.” (Yes, you are talking to yourself. Yes, it might feel weird at first—but believe me, it works.)
Replacing negative self-talk and shaming with genuine compassion for ourselves is where much of the healing ultimately takes place because we begin the process of learning to hold space for ourselves. We essentially become the safe, loving attachment figure that we never had.
This is usually a long process and one that can be helped along tremendously by having safe, loving relationships where we can talk about our process with another person… this can be with a therapist/counselor/coach—which is often best because these people have special training. But healthy, loving adult friendships and/or romantic partnerships can also be very helpful.
These wounds occurred in relationship, so typically—at least in part—the healing also needs to happen within the context of relationship.
Healing our inner-child wounds requires learning to REPARENT ourselves. Everything I discussed above is one part of the reparenting process. There are other things to do as well… self-care is huge.
When you think of self-care go back to the basics—are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating regularly and eating foods that help you feel good? Are you moving your body regularly? Getting some fresh air everyday? Making efforts to find time for things that bring you joy? Making time to connect with people who fill you up, as opposed to drain you?
All of these things are important parts of reparenting (just a fancy term for “taking care of”) yourself.
Boundary work is another big part of healing inner child wounds, and again, awareness is the first step. Becoming aware of our own unique boundary system—how we set, or fail to set, personal boundaries in relationships with family, friends, partners, etc. After we begin to become aware, then we can start looking at what is working for us and what is not… what needs to be changed, etc.
Healing our inner child wounds is a multifaceted process that looks a little different for everyone, but these are a few quick ideas to get the wheels spinning.