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Journaling is one of the most useful self-care and self-discovery tools. However, knowing what to write in your journal and how to use it effectively can be tricky, to begin with.
Writing in my journal has helped me tremendously with inner child healing specifically. Inner child healing is the process of delving into the unconscious mind and unpacking childhood experiences.
It’s a form of shadow work, which means it can be very difficult, but also very rewarding.
In this guide, I’ll be explaining more about what inner child healing actually is, and how you can use journal prompts to uncover the precious and powerful part of yourself that is your inner child.
Inner Child Healing: What’s It All About?
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the inner child, or inner child healing, it might sound strange at first.
However, this is a concept that dates back to the work of Carl Jung and has become increasingly popular in the field of psychology over the last few decades.
The Concept Of The Inner Child
Many people understand the idea of the inner child as a symbolic term for the ‘childish’ side that every person has within them.
For example, you might hear someone explain that their inner child still enjoys a kids’ cartoon they used to watch.
While discovering your inner child might involve doing things that society generally labels as ‘childish’, it’s also so much more than that.
Your inner child is best described as a piece of your subconscious.
From when we are very young, we begin processing (or trying to process) the world around us, including our relationships with our parents, the views and values that we are exposed to, and significant life events.
Things like the relationships you experience, the dynamics of your home environment, and even seemingly small things that happen to you as a child have the potential to impact you emotionally and psychologically throughout the rest of your life.
These things are best understood and worked through in adulthood by reconnecting with that child version of yourself.
While many people seek to heal their inner child in an effort to work through confusion, repressed memories, or trauma (which, of course, can be a very tough process), discovering and healing your inner child can also be a source of great joy.
In fact, it was the opinion of Carl Jung that the inner child is essential to our creativity and happiness in adult life.
Benefits Of Healing Your Inner Child
Many of us go through adulthood with unhealed wounds from childhood, repressing both difficult and joyful emotions because our inner child is either unhealed or buried deep within us.
Doing the work to heal your inner child will help you to experience the most liberating parts of childhood as an adult, including exercising your creativity and expressing positive emotions without restraint.
However, as I mentioned earlier, inner child work is also a form of shadow work. Most of us, even if we’re not fully aware of it, are holding onto emotional baggage and even trauma from childhood.
This means that in many cases, our inner child feels afraid, ashamed, or trapped.
Jung’s theory includes the idea that the inner child has a shadow, called the senex (Latin for ‘old man’). The qualities of this shadow figure include rationality, structure, discipline, and control. None of these things are inherently bad; in fact, they can be very useful!
However, experiencing emotional pain as a child can mean that we end up presenting only as the shadow version of our inner child, without any of the joy or freedom of our childlike selves.
In order to find balance, we need to introduce the old man to the child so that they can learn from and support one another. This aspect of personal growth is one of the key benefits of healing the inner child.
Getting to know and soothing the inner child can also allow us to healthily work through difficult emotions or memories by healing that child part of ourselves that still carries the emotional burden.
How Journaling Works For Inner Child Healing
Journaling is one of the best tools for healing your inner child because in order to journal effectively, you have to really get in touch with your emotions and find a way to express them using words or images.
This promotes introspection and self-awareness, which are both essential for accessing the unconscious mind.
Your journal should also be a very private and personal space, meaning you can express yourself freely without fear of judgment (one of the most important traits of the healed inner child).
Journaling is also a really versatile activity for any kind of therapy. You can use it in so many different ways.
In this guide, I’ll be providing you with some prompts, often phrased as questions, that you can respond to in your journal as a way of getting to know your inner child and connecting that child self with your adult self.
However, you could also use your journal to write a letter from or to your childhood self, write down your self-care schedule for inner child healing, or note down healing affirmations for your inner child.
Inner Child Healing Journal Prompts
As you become more practiced in inner child work, journaling about your childhood and your child self should become more intuitive.
However, on the flip side, there may come a point where you have done so much shadow work with your inner child that you struggle to think of new perspectives from which to explore this connection.
This is where journal prompts can come in useful. The following 30 journal prompts will help to inspire you when it comes time to connect with your inner child through the power of journaling:
1. Think of the most memorable event from your childhood and write about it in as much detail as you can. Why is this event so fresh in your memory, and how do you think it has impacted you in adult life?
2. Write a sentence that summarizes your childhood. Include the emotions you remember feeling.
3. What did you love doing as a child? Try to think of 5 things that brought you joy during your childhood.
4. What were your favorite things as a child? Consider books, foods, toys, or times of the year.
5. Can you think of an activity you enjoyed during childhood that you would like to start doing again? Create a plan for incorporating this activity into your life as an adult.
6. Is there anything you would go back and change in your childhood if you could? How and why?
7. How would you describe your parental relationships when you were a child? Is this relationship the same today, or has it changed? If it has changed, how, and why do you think this is?
How does your relationship with your parents or guardians make you feel today?
8. Describe yourself as a child and compare this description to your current self. Did you have any traits during your childhood that you feel you no longer have today?
If so, what do you think prompted the change, and how do you feel about it?
9. Is there anything you would like to say to your childhood self? If you could spend time with your child self, what would you think of them, and how would you interact with them?
10. Did you have any role models, mentors, or idols as a child? Who did you look up to most, and why? Did you have any of their traits as a child, or do you have them as an adult?
11. Who were you closest to as a child? Describe this person. Do you still feel the same way about them today?
12. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you fulfill that ambition? If so, are you glad you did? If not, why not, and do you wish you had?
13. Did you ever feel ashamed as a child? Why? Did anyone or anything in particular catalyze this feeling in you? Do you carry shame with you as an adult?
14. Did you have somewhere you would consider a ‘safe space’ when you were a child? If so, where was it, and how did it feel at the time? How do you feel about it today? Do you still consider it your safe space, or is it different?
15. What behaviors did you engage in when dealing with big emotions as a child? Did you feel free to express your feelings, or did you feel you needed to suppress them? Why?
16. Which affirmations would you choose to say to your younger self if you could? Why, and what emotions do these affirmations bring up?
17. Is there anything you feel grateful for in your childhood? If so, what? If not, why do you think this is?
18. When you hear the word ‘childlike’ or ‘childish’, what thoughts or feelings do you experience? Do they have positive or negative associations?
19. In which situations or environments do you feel like you act the most ‘childlike’? Do you think you know why this is? How do you feel about that?
20. Do you identify with the traits of the archetypal inner child, as described by Jung? Which ones, and why, or why not? Do you feel like there is anything stopping you from connecting with this perception of the inner child?
21. Think of the traits Jung associated with the old man shadow figure. Do you identify with these traits? Which ones, and why do you think this might be?
22. Did someone in your life let you down when you were a child? What happened, how did it make you feel, and have you felt able to move past it?
23. Think of a time when someone hurt you as a child. What happened? Have you healed from that experience, and does it affect you in any way today?
24. Were you afraid of anything when you were a child? Do you still carry those fears with you? How have your fears changed since childhood?
25. Creativity is one of the traits of Jung’s inner child. How could you bring more creativity into your life and nurture this trait in yourself in adulthood?
26. Think about the concept of forgiveness. What did you think about forgiveness as a child, and how do you view it now, as an adult?
27. Hope for the future is another trait of the archetypical inner child. Is there anything you are hoping for now? Can you think of a way to make that hope a reality?
28. Do you feel safe in your adult life? What could you do to soothe and nurture yourself so that you feel safe?
29. Structure is a trait that the old man, the shadow of the inner child, possesses. It is important to have structure to balance the freedom and exploration of the inner child.
Is structure something you find difficult in your adult life, or do you feel overly reliant on it? What steps could you take to either add more structure to your life or decrease your reliance on it?
30. What does self-care mean, in your eyes? Did you have a concept of self-care as a child? How could you improve your self-care routine in a way that nurtures your inner child?
There is no one-size-fits-all process for inner child healing. Using journaling as a tool to heal the inner child can look very different from person to person.
However, the prompts in this guide can be used by anyone, at any stage of healing, to better understand the inner child and hold space for them in adulthood.
Choose the prompts that resonate with you the most and work through them at a pace that feels right for you. Remember, above all, to be kind to yourself, including your inner child, in the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Working with a qualified inner child therapist can be very helpful, as it means you will have someone with knowledge and experience to guide you through the process and help you to unpack any emotions that come up along the way.
I do recommend working with a therapist if you can, especially if you experienced trauma during your childhood.
However, I also know that not everybody has access to therapy, and not everyone feels comfortable disclosing personal elements of their childhood to another person.
In either of these cases, using the journaling prompts in this guide will be a good way to get in touch with your inner child in your own time.
Many of us are not consciously aware of the wounds carried by our inner child because they were inflicted so long ago, or because we don’t take the time to introspect on the subject. However, a wounded inner child often manifests in adult behavior.
Behaviors that suggest your inner child may be wounded include fear of abandonment, feelings of inadequacy, excessive self-criticism, people-pleasing tendencies, trouble maintaining boundaries, intense feelings of guilt, and fear-driven conflict avoidance.
Inner child healing can feel overwhelming for a variety of reasons. Many of us have suppressed our inner child for so long that getting in touch with them feels strange and uncomfortable.
Additionally, if your inner child is holding onto traumatic experiences, or if delving into your childhood brings repressed memories to the surface, you may find yourself feeling frightened, upset, angry, or any combination of difficult emotions.
Even if healing your inner child is a largely joyful and liberating process for you, experiencing that joy and freedom so intensely can be overwhelming in itself.
Sitting with strong emotions will often be a part of inner child healing, but it’s important not to invalidate your own feelings and needs by forcing the process too much. After all, invalidation is one of the biggest core wounds of many inner children.
If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed for any reason during the inner child healing process, it is totally okay to take a break and practice self-care until you feel ready to return to the work.
The great thing about journaling your healing journey is that everything will be written down and ready for you to come back to.