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Nurturing your Inner child - Neglect

Updated: Mar 4, 2023

Inner child work as a form of therapy has been around for a century. The essence of this process has begun to move from therapy to self-discovery. After all, the child-like part of us exists in each one of us and radiates our playfulness, fun and laughter, lightheartedness, as well as our spontaneity and creativity.

Our child self is often concealed in our adult persona and expresses itself only in certain scenarios. The best option is to embrace our disowned part in its beauty, purity, innocence. Re-parenting makes us centered and grounded, mature and compassionate, lively and confident, genuine and whole.

In this blog let us look at one aspect of inner child ‘wound’. Neglect in childhood is something many of us can relate to. From unintentional acts to abandoning newborns, the extent and effects of deprivation can be deep and often longstanding. The mental makeup of the child, coping mechanisms and the environment in which they interact play a crucial role in how it shows up in adulthood.

Inner child work does not make parents bad people but acknowledges the effect of parenting with a mature and compassionate eye. Once healed it becomes easier to see where parents' behaviour came from. Nothing can be done about the past, but we can nurture our present day needs mentally and emotionally until the emotional gap fills in.

So let us take a deeper look at

Why does neglect affect us? Why are we neglected?

A tiny foetus is nestled comfortably in the warmth of its mother’s womb for months and then finds its way out of this cozy cocoon into an almost unfamiliar surrounding. Although tiny, a baby has awareness and consciousness that has already been interacting with the surroundings.

Innumerable research in Neuroscience and psychology has proven that the little brain is absorbing everything that happens around it like a sponge. In its vulnerable state the baby has needs for nutrition, rest and sleep, safety and security. The warm coziness that it experienced in the womb cannot be replicated but can be extended in the form of love, comfort and safety.

As the child grows from infancy through toddler stage its needs are changing. The most important need in childhood is emotional that translates to the need to be seen, heard and valued as they are. Reality has been far from this truth, because each one of us has been told that we are not good, we don't look good, we are incapable, our efforts are not worthy, we don't deserve, we are not doing it right. We end up interacting with the world from this place of incompleteness and we are looking for something or someone to fill that gap.

The unmet emotional needs of our past lie unnoticed and unattended beneath the rubble of accepted behaviours, expectations from the outside world and our unconscious need to cater to them. As a child, we are observing the ways of the world around us and come to conclusions that work in our best interest to be seen and heard as good. We gradually lose our inherent sense of goodness and resort to the accepted norms of goodness and righteousness. We lose our connection with the child spirit in us, sometimes fully and at other times partially.

To cope with this loss and to feel wholeness we tend to fill our lives with people, things, activities that keep the balance. The inability to strike this balance can show up as loneliness, depression, addictions as well as workaholism, exhibitionism, gossiping, eating disorders, sexual liaisons, multiple relationships etc. We often tend to deal with the outward consequences and not quite give attention to the real underlying factor.

There is no explanation needed to see why we experienced deprivation. We were brought up by children whose needs weren't met. We have been inheriting emotional depravity and passing it on to the next generation.

Signs of childhood neglect

Neglect seeks attention in innumerable ways, from strategic to strange and often negative. Every time someone comes up in the news for the wrong reason it is for one reason only. The child in them is seeking love but the adult compensated from a wounded perspective.

The bigger the neglect the bigger attention we seek through negative ways. Working parents, alcoholism in homes, mental and physical abuse, manipulation and sarcasm, mentally or physically ill parents, joint families, untimely death in the family, irresponsible parents, households that take care of chronically ill family members, poverty, and homelessness are some situations that leave young children unattended, ignored or uncared for.

While the outward signs of emotional deficit may be seen in childhood itself, they are often noted as misbehaviours that are corrected for social acceptance. Left unattended the inner dearth could become pronounced in adulthood in one or more ways like these.

  1. An underlying neediness in interactions

  2. Stubbornness and inability to understand another viewpoint

  3. Impulsive in nature and attempts to dominate

  4. Anxiety and panic in new and different situations

  5. Sadness and desperation as a continuing emotional trend or stoic and emotionally numb

  6. Seeking refuge in escape, denial and faking happiness

  7. Awkward socializing, no socializing skills, poor communication

  8. Frequent or uncontrollable emotional outbursts

  9. Disruptive behavior to slow or stop one's own progress and other's

  10. Feels neglected, unseen, uncared for

  11. Criticizes and blames others

  12. Seeks attention to unhealed emotions by telling stories that evoke sadness, anger and helplessness in others.

  13. Seeks attention at wrong time from wrong people

  14. Over-giving and pleasing behavior to feel accepted

  15. Manipulative and controlling behavior to fulfill one's own needs often at the detriment of others

  16. Neglect key areas like personal hygiene, food, clothing, family, work

  17. Uninterested in taking responsibility for oneself

  18. Relationship with unavailable people or endures toxic relationships

This list is only indicative of adult behaviours that can be traced back to being disregarded in childhood. This is not an exhaustive list either. If you find yourself ticking one or more, don't panic, compassionate help is within you.

Ways to heal neglect, abandonment and deprivation

Having noted the signs of a neglected child within us, let us see how we can restore our connection to genuine love and joy that we were born with .

1. Distinguish between child self and adult self

Begin to notice your mature behavior and your childish behavior. There are times when we understand others, make calm decisions or manage a situation. Then we also have unreasonable fears and expectations from us and others. Once you begin to notice the difference in the energy between your adult self and your needy child-self your process of reparenting has started. Observe yourself when you are squabbling, finding other’s faults, defending yourself, pleading, being submissive, seductive or pushing away others. Sometimes you are afraid or anxious and lie or pretend to your loved ones.

Seeing the adult in you and a helpless or confused child heals layers of emotional debris that may have started to fester. From your mature adult perspective see your child self with love. As the child part of you feels loved, you may start seeing the younger selves that operated from this wounded child

2. Deep listening

Take time out to understand your needs. What needs are met and what needs are not met. Make note of who or what satisfies your different needs at different times and in different ways. Bring your awareness to your heart space and listen in silence. What desires still remain unfulfilled? Remember, desire is the fuel for life. Our desires evoke the flow of life-force energy and is the basis of evolution.

3. Feeling is healing

As you introspect your deeper thoughts, you may touch upon painful memories, hurtful words, or unbelievable behaviour from others. Re-living is relieving. We are stronger than we think we are. Our heart is the strongest powerhouse pumping love uninterruptedly. Sometimes the heart has to break for it to heal. It is not the heart that breaks but the beliefs we have built as reinforcement to protect it. Take it one layer at a time, one breath at a time as you let your shame, guilt, helplessness, fear or anger come to the forefront.

We are often afraid of our own emotions and bury unpleasant memories. If we comfort ourselves with the space to feel our emotions, we relieve eons of suppression and inability to feel. Feeling truly is healing. If the experience feels shocking, unbearable or confusing for a long time, do not hesitate to take professional support.

4. Positive self-talk

Harsh words and big NOs that we heard while growing up, have an unconscious way of settling into our psyche. Tell yourself everything that you always wanted to hear. Without embarrassment and inhibition speak to yourself tenderly and you'll be surprised to see an eager child that finally feels seen, heard and understood.

5. Be there for yourself

Experiences of neglect, abandonment or deprivation can lead to dependency as well as being on high alert mode. No matter what, your loving presence is the greatest gift that you can give yourself. No one understands you better than you do. Your needs, desires, comfort and satisfaction are first known to you than anyone else. Be your cheerleader in success and difficulties. Deprivation heals through your comforting, soothing and loving presence. When you know what you want, you can work towards it.

6. Self-discipline

Your inner child can open a pandora’s box of unexpressed emotions, desires, needs and child-like behaviour. Set a good routine for fun , creativity, work, socializing, rest and follow them diligently. For a while see the needy part of you as a child itself until the separation eventually dissipates. Inner child healing can make you a responsible adult.

7. Explore new opportunities

Your inner child loves to explore new arenas of life. Your wonder and curiosity is a fertile space for lifelong learning. New artforms, crafts and places are naturally nurturing to your inner child. Creativity is a child’s innate tendency that is curbed as we grow older. Furthermore you meet new people, build self awareness and confidence in this process. To stay young in the mind, explore fresh possibilities.

8. Practice self-love

To enjoy fulfilling relationships we must fulfill our own emotional needs first. Without basic happiness we have nothing valuable to offer. Inner happiness comes from loving ourselves no matter what. Soften your heart and lighten your feelings when you think of that conflict or work deadline. How we treat ourselves determines how others treat us. So be kinder to yourself and love your younger self a little more than your favorite people. Care for the life that is right here within you, because you are the most important person in your life. Forgive yourself for the errors that you think you made, accept your accomplishments and shortcomings wholeheartedly, and see your follies with compassion.

What is the healed response?

To sum up, inner child nurturing is a continuous process and leads to a happy, creative and unique individual that has so much to offer to the world around them. As we nurture our inner child we realize that every situation has another side. Extending the compassion that comes from loving oneself is deeply authentic and pure. A greater self-awareness sets in and we understand that we are all looking for love in the wrong places. All along, the elusive something that we had all been looking outside was actually a little child that was longing for a peaceful home, or to be seen and valued, or to feel important.

Knowing that you will not abandon yourself under any circumstance kindles an inner strength and resilience that you may have never known before. In caring for your emotional needs, you cultivate a genuine ability to nurture oneself and others. Life has a powerfully loving way to answer your deficits, but first you must fill yourself emotionally.


About Anuja

In her coaching and mentoring sessions, Anuja applies two approaches that bring results. "We are spiritual beings on a human experience. We create our life with our thoughts. " She believes that we are guided by an unseen energy (or energies)

Her work across ethnicities, gender and age encourages people find their inner happiness, zest for life, creative thinking and tap their unlimited potential. Past Life Regression, Inner Child Work, Breathwork and Tapping are some of the techniques she practices.

She facilitates workshops on various life topics and gets invited to varied platforms. Apart from coaching, training and blogging, she is also passionate about cooking and travelling. She is currently writing her first book.

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