Embracing the Inner Child in Childhood Sexual Abuse Healing

Childhood Sexual Abuse Healing & The Inner Child

Before reading on, if you are currently struggling and need immediate help with suicidal thoughts please contact:

UK National Suicide Prevention

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Childhood sexual abuse healing is a complex and nuanced process bespoke to each and every one of us. There’s not a tick box list of ‘to do’s’ and then you’ll reach the ‘finish line’.

Childhood sexual abuse is a devastating experience that has long-lasting effects on emotional, physiological and psychological well-being.

In childhood sexual abuse, inner child healing takes on an important role as part of a larger bespoke therapeutic process including autonomic nervous system regulation, somatic nervous system regulation, internal family systems (parts work), emotional agility development, mindfulness, breath work, EMDR, and somatic psychotherapy.  Understanding that therapeutic process can be found HERE

Contrary to some beliefs it isn’t a process of regression into being that child again. It’s the process of you as the adult you are now, bringing comfort, nurturing, and safety to the wounded child in you.

The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse

There are a number of definitions of sexual abuse, depending on the context  in which it is approached—for example, the law, helping agencies or therapy.  Regardless of the definition the emotional damage to a child is the same, trust is destroyed.

Throughout this article I’ll be defining sexual abuse from the context of therapy: ‘sexual abuse is an adult involving a child in any activity from which the adult expects to derive sexual arousal’. 

Some abused children do not have their bodies sexually interfered with; instead, they witness sexual behaviour of adults—such as exposure, masturbation or intercourse. This equally damages a child’s trust and is classed as childhood sexual abuse. 

Childhood sexual abuse is a deeply traumatic experience that can shatter an individual’s sense of safety, trust, and self-worth. Survivors often internalize feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion, leading to damaged self-esteem, relationship difficulties, and various mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD. The emotional scars can linger well into adulthood, affecting all aspects of one’s life Read Here about the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse

What is the Inner Child?

The inner child is a “part” of us that lives in the unconscious. The inner child represents the child we once were and the experiences they had.

Our inner child is a representation of ourselves at multiple points in our childhood, and we can have inner children from various ages. Unwounded, this part of us is very much connected to our natural enthusiasm, curiosity, and creativity we experienced as actual children.

Inner child wounds, or attachment wounds, occur when there is either a traumatic event such as childhood sexual abuse, or chronic rupture, to internal safety without repair.

What does the wounded inner child refer to?

The parts of ourselves that were hurt, neglected, or abused during our formative years. In experiencing childhood sexual abuse, deep wounds in the sense of self, trust, and safety are created. The wounded inner child represents those parts of ourselves that have not healed from the trauma of the past. A complex matrix of thoughts, patterns, behaviours, impulses and sensations making up who we think we are is created as a result.

The wounded inner child can manifest in various ways, for example struggling with low self-esteem, feelings of shame, guilt, and worthlessness. They may also have difficulties forming healthy relationships, setting boundaries, and regulating their emotions.

The abused and traumatised child will hold negative beliefs about itself; “I don’t matter,” “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not lovable,” “I’m damaged,” “I should have known better,” “I’m powerless,” “I’m stupid.”

Why Is Inner Child Healing Important in Childhood Sexual Abuse Healing?

As adults, we walk around carrying wounds from our childhood. Many adults feel they’re alone with these hurts and feelings, and so they cover them up because they feel like that’s “what other grown-ups do.”

That’s why inner child therapy for childhood sexual abuse healing is so important in reminding ourselves that we’re not wrong or bad and to heal the shame.

The healing process for the wounded inner child involves
  • acknowledging the pain and trauma that was experienced
  • understanding how it has affected current behaviors and emotions
  • and working towards self-compassion, self-care, and self-empowerment.

Your inner child can be stuck in the past, alone, scared, worried, sad, angry, neglected, and hurt. When you are guided through inner child healing you are activating a connection in your brain that allows you access to parts of you that would otherwise be out of your reach.

By healing your inner child, you begin to create the safety and security your younger selves needed at the time of and beyond the sexual abuse. In doing so, the positive traits of your inner child have room to shine. You unlock your natural gifts, your inner curiosity, and your limitless capacity to love yourself and others.

How do you heal in the inner child in therapy?

As a specialist in childhood trauma healing for the last 24 years, my role firstly is in creating a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals to explore and process their past traumas.

What needs to happen for inner child healing to be successful?

1. Building trust: You need to develop a trusting relationship in therapy, creating a safe environment for you to open up about your experiences and emotions. This trust allows the wounded inner child to feel acknowledged and validated.

2. Identifying and validating emotions: Identifying and understanding the emotions associated with the inner child wounds is essential. By validating these emotions, it helps you acknowledge and accept your feelings, which allows for healing to occur.

3. Reconnecting with the inner child:  Guiding your reconnection with your inner child through various therapeutic techniques, such as guided imagery for example, is important in helping you develop a compassionate and nurturing relationship with your younger self.

4. Processing and re-framing past experiences: This allows you to release the emotional pain associated with those events, supporting you to gain new perspectives and reframe your understanding of past events. Ultimately this promotes healing, empowerment and growth.

5. Developing coping strategies: Learning and practicing healthy coping strategies. By developing new coping mechanisms, individuals can respond differently to triggering situations and break free from patterns rooted in their wounded inner child.

6. Integrating healing into daily life: Integrating healing into your everyday life, being provided with tools and techniques to continue the healing process outside of therapy sessions is essential in empowering your inner healing progress. This includes setting healthy boundaries, self-care practices, and learning to nurture and care for your inner child on an ongoing basis.

7. Autonomic Nervous System Regulation:

The autonomic nervous system plays a crucial role in inner child healing. When we experience childhood traumas, our autonomic nervous system, which controls our automatic bodily functions and responds to stress, can become dysregulated. This dysregulation leads to

  • ongoing anxiety
  • hypervigilance
  • difficulty managing emotions as adults.

By rewiring the autonomic nervous system, we can address this dysregulation and create a sense of safety and calmness within ourselves.

This process involves practices such as deep breathing, mindfulness, vagal toning and body-based exercises that help regulate the nervous system’s response to stress and trauma.

Through autonomic nervous system rewiring, you can break free from the grip of unresolved childhood traumas and create a foundation of stability, resilience, and emotional well-being. It allows the wounded inner child to find healing and integration, facilitating a greater sense of inner peace and self-compassion.

Getting to Know Your Inner Child Image of adult with inner child

We all have an inner child, who represents our childlike aspects (both magical and challenging) as well as our personal memories, hopes, joys, desires, and needs from childhood.

What are some ways to get in touch with your inner child to find out what it’s needing from you right now?

  1. Bring awareness to emotions: Childhood sexual abuse healing can bring up strong emotions, like anger, resentment, sadness, rage, emptiness, depression, grief, frustration, longing, confusion, regret, fear, anxiety, and bitterness. Be gentle and kind with yourself—only do as much examination of the inner child as you can handle in the moment. Take breaks, and seek support from people who support your safety. On the other side of uncomfortable emotions is greater peace, understanding, and acceptance.
  2. Acknowledge patterns lingering from childhood: Oftentimes even the things we don’t like we keep recreating because they are familiar. For example, if there are abandonment issues from childhood, you might sometimes choose relationships, both personal and professional, where there’s a good chance the other person will bail on you. Or you might project this fear of abandonment onto people who really deserve a chance to be in your life.Simple awareness of difficult childhood patterns recreated in adulthood can do wonders to shift these patterns and create something healthier.
  3. Acknowledge and give yourself what you didn’t receive in childhood:  You might look back and wish you’d had more attention, unconditional love, playful adults, protection, belonging, security, resources, guidance, freedom, acceptance, encouragement, acknowledgment, or anything else. Acknowledge what you have missed and bring understanding as to how you can meet those needs as the adult you are today.
  4. Build supportive relationships: Finding support from trusted individuals who can provide empathy and understanding is essential. Victims of childhood sexual abuse often struggle with trust issues, making it crucial to seek connections with people who prioritise your safety and well-being. By surrounding yourself with supportive friends, family, or fellow survivors, you can continue to heal and grow.

Healing the inner child is crucial because it allows you to address and heal the emotional wounds and traumas that you have experienced during your childhood.

By acknowledging and healing these wounds, you can cultivate self-awareness, self-compassion, and inner strength. Healing your inner child enables you to break patterns of self-sabotage, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and foster more fulfilling relationships. It also empowers you to nurture and care for our own inner child, providing the love, validation, and support that may have been lacking during your formative years.

Ultimately, healing the inner child allows you to reclaim your authentic self and live a more fulfilling and balanced life.

If you’re considering taking the next step on your journey to healing your inner child get in touch on my free consultation call to talk through confidentially and without obligation how I can help you Click Here

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I’m Helen Ferguson and I’m an Integrative Trauma Therapist specialising in childhood, complex and sexual trauma. Guiding adults and children in their recovery and healing for the last 24 years I’m honoured to have been a part of so many people’s journeys.

With expertise ranging across Psychotherapy,Somatic Experiencing, Internal Family Systems, EMDR, Inner Child Healing, Sexual Abuse Recovery, CBT & DBT, I create bespoke therapeutic packages of support for anyone of any age needing to recover and heal from the trauma and overwhelm they’ve experienced in life.

As a teacher and trainer of multi-disciplinary professionals in the health and social care field I am passionate about educating people in the ways in which we can support people who have experienced childhood, complex and sexual trauma.