I wish I knew about this book by John Bradshaw years ago. This book was written in 1992 and I feel like most inner child therapy books or programs these days just copy bits and pieces from John's methodology. Most practitioners just refer to inner child as some younger version of yourself who was dependent and didn't get the love that you needed. The issue with that is that childhood is over many years and lots of different things happen over the course of those 10+ years. John does a great job of breaking down childhood to different stages and specifically addresses our different needs at each stage of childhood.
Until we do the original pain work, our future will always be contaminated by the pain from our past. For example, a person who never learned to trust confuses intensity with intimacy, obsession with care and control with security. Also, a witness to violence is a victim of violence. Acting out, or reenacting, is one of the most devastating ways in which our wounded inner child sabotages our lives.
When a child is wounded through neglect or abuse, his boundaries are violated. This sets the child up for fears of being either abandoned or engulfed. When a person know who he is, he doesn't fear being engulfed. When he has a sense of self-value and self-confidence, he doesn't fear being abandoned. Without strong boundaries, we cannot know where we end and others begin. We have trouble saying no and knowing what we want, which are crucial behaviours for establishing intimacy.
When our inner child is wounded, we feel empty and depressed. Life has a sense of unreality about it; we are there, but we are not in it. This emptiness leads to loneliness. Because we are never who we really are, we are never truly present. And even if people admire and hang on to us, we feel alone.
The frustration of a child's desire to be loved as a person and to have his love accepted is the greatest trauma that a child can experience. Parents need to give their children time, attention and direction, not use them to fill their own need. Use is abuse.
The wounded inner child is filled with unresolved energy resulting from the sadness of childhood trauma. One of the reasons we have sadness is to complete painful events of the past, so that our energy can be available for the present. When we are not allowed to grieve, the energy is frozen. Something that is actually trivial or quite innocuous is reacted to with intense emotion. This is a case of responding to what isn't there on the outside because it is still there on the inside.
These are the stages of childhood that we need to reclaim:
Infant Self: 0-9 months old
Toddler Self: 9 months - 3 years old
Preschool Self: 3 years - 6 years old
School-Age Self: 6 years to puberty
Adolescence: 13 years - 26 years old