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Navigating Anxiety and Triggers: Connecting with Your Inner Child and Inner Parent

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

This week, 'Therapy Begins with Tea' steeps on the connection between anxiety & our inner child and includes a body based check-in to help you work with your inner child, rather than against it.

inner child and anxiety

Therapy Begins with Tea is a weekly newsletter based on the themes that come up in my sessions as a therapist who specializes in imposter syndrome, attachment styles in romantic relationships, and our psychological relationships with money. Each week consists of a 'steep' in thought reflection, an accompanying body based check-in, and tea card intentions for the week to come.

'Steep' in Thought (3-5 min)

coming back from time with family

For those of us who spent time with family (or intentionally didn’t spend time with family) over the holiday break, we often come back from it feeling introspective and, sometimes, even emotionally hungover. It’s a common experience to feel a sense of regression: we find ourselves back in the family dynamics that played out when we were growing up. For some, that feels comforting and nostalgic; for others, it brings up conflicted feelings of loneliness, old wounds, and lack of acknowledgment. Sometimes it’s all of the above.

What is your 'inner child'?

You’ve probably heard the term ‘inner child’ before. According to Jungian theory, our ‘inner child’ is a sub-personality that holds all of the memories, emotions, and wounds that we experienced as a child and it’s frozen in time. It’s the part of us that usually takes over when we’re faced with a challenge. When we’re emotionally activated, in fight-or-flight (or fawn or freeze) mode, most people report feeling a lot younger in those moments, child like.

A lot of what triggers & activates us now as adults stems from past experiences as children. For example, let’s say you’ve been dating someone for a few months, but you haven’t yet talked about where the two of you see this going or what you mean to each other. You’re growing more & more anxious not knowing and not wanting to waste your time, but when you think about sharing how you feel, you freeze: you’re afraid of getting hurt & you’ve learned that it’s just better not to ask in the first place, even if you need to know in order to take care of yourself. “If I don’t ask, then I can prevent the hurt” has become a general rule of yours. Maybe this is a freeze response from the countless times you’ve had to brace for the emotional impact of rejection & censure growing up. This is the inner child activated.

cue the inner parent

But what’s different now is that we’re able to access both: the inner child and the parent-like, adult self. The inner child often stays stuck in the experience of hurt because it didn’t have the agency or freedom to react without further punishment. Now, as adults, we have choices: to share our hurt, to leave, to make boundaries, to soothe & cope with trusted resources. Our inner child cues us in to the hurt, but our inner parent helps us navigate it now as adults.

Try out the full body check-in below to practice accessing your inner parent/adult.

Full Body Check-In (2-4 min)

Inhale in, exhale out. Notice the air come in through your nose, filing up your belly. Slowly push the air out through pursed lips. Your shoulders rise on the intake and they gently fall as you relax on the breath out. Your body is awake & relaxed. You are present and curious. Sit in it for another cycle of breath.

When you’re ready, recall a recent experience of feeling emotionally activated. Where were you? What was happening? Who were you with? You may begin to notice yourself feeling that activation again. Use the questions below to check in with it.

What am I feeling? Where in my body is it housed?

Have I felt this before? How old do I feel when I experience this feeling?

How do I feel towards this (age) version of me?

What does this (age) version of me need right now? Comfort? Communication of feelings? Action?

Where is my agency here? How can I take care of this version of me?

Remember to come back to this check-in if you’re feeling activated.


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