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5 Steps to Heal childhood trauma without therapy
Table of Contents
Being emotionally abused as a child can be so traumatic that it’s effects keep lingering in us even as adults. Many of us do not want to go to therapy for various reasons. So, is there a way to heal childhood trauma without therapy? Yes, you can try self-healing. I am saying so because I tried it on myself and want to share it with you.
The emotional neglect definitely caused deep wounds and unwanted effects on me. As a part of my healing journey, I found that these steps really helped me, and I hope they will help somebody else too. I am talking only about emotional or psychological trauma here.
Why should I heal my inner child?
The reason can vary from person to person. My reason was that I wanted to be a better parent to my children. I want to be the parent that I need for myself. Our children are bundles of feelings and emotions. For which they need to act as a container to contain their feelings. It makes no sense when our vessel is full and our kids pour into it. Thus, it can be different for you. Check out this article to learn more about the reasons and goals of inner child healing.
What are your inner child and adult selves?
As we start our inner child healing journey, we will face two characters frequently. One is the inner child that needs healing, and the other is our inner parent, which helps in healing. I prefer to call this inner parent my adult self. So who are your inner child and adult self? More specifically, what part of you are they?
We all face issues and events as we grow up. For some, those moments must have just rolled down their backs. For some, they must have stayed and caused a deep wound. This, when left unattended, will program our nature, causing a pattern of behaviour as we grow up.
Even as adults, when we face similar circumstances, we feel triggered and react impulsively. This reaction is caused by our lost, wounded inner child, who seeks validation and love. This is the part of us that got stuck in the past, leading to a dysfunctional response system. This is the part that needs healing.
Adult self, aka Inner parent
This is the part that has grown up and lived through all stages of life. The responsible adult self is grounded and meant to make reasonable decisions. This higher self is intellectual and has a sense of belonging to itself.
Though our inner child shows up often, our adult self is always there to calm us down. This adult self is going to help heal the inner child. In other words, we are going to reparent that inner child with the help of our adult self. Thus, it is also called the inner parent or the higher self
When this adult self integrates with the healed inner child, our lives will be more authentic, wholesome, and attuned in and out. This can be done through inner child healing.
Steps to heal childhood trauma (without therapy)
Step 1: Know your impulsive reactions ( Use the checklist here)
How often have you reacted in a certain way and later thought, “Why did I do that?” We react to situations in a certain way, which may differ from time to time. But if you find yourself impulsively reacting most of the time, you may need to work on yourself. This is the first step in inner child healing.
Why do we react impulsively so often?
We developed these as coping skills while we faced and grew up in a chaotic, disrupted childhood environment. The hurt and pain we received caused a wound that had not yet healed. This sore wound, when triggered, makes us feel defensive and react impulsively.
Healing this wounded inner child will get you to a grounded state. You will find yourself reacting less and responding more functionally and maturely. For this to happen, you must know your emotional responses, which in turn lets you discover the triggers. As I said, this is your first step towards your inner child’s healing journey.
I have made a free checklist of common impulsive emotional reactions. It consists of around 60 responses. Go through them and check on the reactions you feel like you have developed. It will be overwhelming, but I request that you not judge or condemn yourself. If you are overwhelmed, pause, breathe, and continue later.
Just remember that these are the responses that you have developed to protect yourself. Thus, there is nothing wrong with you having them. You are safer now, and you will not need them anymore. It is time to let it go and instead set healthy boundaries.
Get the free checklist here.
Step 2 : Draw your timeline:
Rethink your past. Your childhood. Your adolescence. Do you have memories that make you feel a certain way? Here I am talking about those specific events that affected you mentally to the point that even now you can feel the pain. We call these events emotional standouts.
Emotionally abused people have standouts popping at them often. It can be a single event or a group of events clustered from time to time. We are going to make a timeline of these events as far back as you remember.
Recall the event that made you feel so bad. What was your age then? Write it down. Was there anything else similar to this feeling that you wanted to write about? If you have to go further back in time, go deeper. Retrieve those painful memories and write them down. Write down each memory and the corresponding age.
Believe me, I went as far back as four years old to retrieve the standouts that occurred to me then. Take as much time as possible, get alone, use paper and a pen/pencil, and write down everything that drains you emotionally since your younger ages.
Order the events agewise, starting with the youngest and ending with the oldest.
Now you have created your timeline.
Age of wounding
Now, look at your timeline.
- Which of these emotional standouts keep coming back to you often?
- Which triggers you the most?
- Which gives you so much pain?
- Which do you feel that you need to sort out?
This gives you the cause of the unhealed wound caused by the emotional abuse. Note the age of that specific event. This is your age of wounding.
What do you mean by that?
When you are emotionally abused, resulting in a wound during childhood, your inner child freezes with time. You grow up, mature, are responsible, and are an adult. But the wounded part is stuck in time at a particular age.
This makes you act childish sometimes. This childish behavior is the manifestation of your age-frozen inner child, who is still in the pain of the wound. And that doesn’t have to be stuck at a single age. There could be multiple ages of wounding. And the important thing is to pay attention to each age and stage and heal them one by one.
Step 3: Talk to your inner child
The next step is to converse with that inner child. Talk with that 5-year-old boy who was unheard. Talk to the 13-year-old who was bullied.
How do I converse with them effectively?
By writing letters to and from them.
Yes, this is a two-way conversation between your inner child and your responsible self.
First, become your inner child. Drop as young as their age of wounding (that you picked up in your timeline). Let the child speak. Use the exact words and emotions of the child version of yours. This could appear to be blaming, ranting, crying, self-sabotaging, etc.
Let it be real and raw. Let it flow onto the paper. Write as if no one else could read this. This is only for you. Don’t be judgmental or try to downplay your situation for the sake of others. You may feel uncomfortable and sometimes end up feeling down. It’s okay. Take a break, but come back.
Next, write a reply to this letter from your inner child. Start with dear little… This letter should be from a responsible adult who is grounded and calm. Your letter should focus on accepting and validating your inner child.
Talk as if you are talking to a friend in need. Tell them that you will be there for them, whatever happens. Tell them some action plans that you can make to be prepared for triggers. Tell them that you will protect them no matter what happens. Talk as a loving parent, providing comfort for your inner child.
Writing these letters creates a bond between your inner child and your adult self. It builds trust in your inner child as a responsible adult. This makes you feel whole and better after a series of to-and-fro letters. Your inner child will start to feel heard and validated. This unfreezes their wounds. Eventually, this results in less impulsive childish behavior and more of a calm and grounded response from you.
Step 4: Set healthy boundaries
This is the final step, and I call it the maintenance step. You may find yourself writing many letters up until a certain point, when you feel validated, heard, and healed. But, setting and standing up for your boundaries is going to be a lifelong practise. This is to protect yourself from being abused again and again.
Setting healthy internal and external boundaries helps us heal broken relationships. Also, they help us develop better future relationships, including with ourselves. Check out this article to learn about the importance of boundaries. Check out this article to learn how to set healthy boundaries.
Step 5: Ask for help
Yes, I am saying to ask for help from a professional therapist when all of this is too overwhelming. You do not have to suffer alone. Some may find it easier, while others cannot find the light. Lose the stigma and hesitation and talk to a therapist. Seeking professional help is always going to be the best option. This is mandatory if you have undergone more than emotional trauma and are having symptoms of PTSD. Check out this super informative article for more on healing severe childhood trauma.
How long does it take to heal from emotional trauma?
I want to make it clear that healing is a long journey. And the time for recovery depends on various factors, like the individual’s temperament, the degree of trauma experienced by them, their current living conditions, and whether they have support from a therapist or professional or not. It is important to be aware that healing, whether by yourself or with a professional, takes time. It is important not to expect quick fix results.
On my side, I feel way better than I did before, and it took me over a year to heal. This does not mean that I never feel triggered. Now, I have the tools to handle how I respond to those triggers. I have learned to police my thoughts and repair my actions.
This is an exercise. That said, any form of exercise needs repetition to reap its benefits. The same goes here. With all healing exercises, you need to repeat them as long as you feel the change and progress. Thus, practice, practice, and practice. If you find yourself reactive again, it’s okay to come back and start again. Focus on the issue in your timeline that needs even more healing work and support.
- Healing your lost inner child by Robert Jackman – Recommended book for healing childhood trauma
- Homecoming by John Bradshaw