Home Featured Connecting with your inner child in trauma recovery
let your inner child have some fun, as an adult

Connecting with your inner child in trauma recovery

by Matt Pappas

Periodically in my healing journey from trauma, I get these “light bulb” moments. Something that hits me, the light goes on, and suddenly I make a connection to something that I’ve always known or done but didn’t know why. I had another one of those moments here recently, in fact just the other day as I’m writing this.

I’ve always had a problem connecting with my inner child in a positive way. I’m quiet fluent in connecting to that little dude in a negative way though, since I blame him still for much of my past trauma. So the light bulb moment I had has to do with me not being able to cut loose, be silly, and have fun. That is directly related to my inner child and the lack of fun I allow him to have.

I get that we shouldn’t blame our inner child. It wasn’t their fault because they were young, too innocent and naive. They couldn’t understand what trauma was and certainly not at fault for trusting someone they thought was trustworthy. Yes I totally get that, but I haven’t made peace with him yet in that way. Hence, the realization of not allowing him to have fun.

I am part of a Facebook group of survivors, and together we share, validate, and heal together.* In my group, one of the survivors recently shared a picture of herself playing with bubbles at a local street fair where she lives. It pictured her smiling, laughing, and just enjoying the innocent and wholesome fun of blowing bubbles with a big wand. This is something most of us have probably done in our younger years. Heck, I remember doing it myself. Bubbles were cool right, and they still are!

I tried to picture myself doing that now, and while I have done it in my adult years, that picture just hit me like a truck with the realization of why I don’t cut loose and have fun more often. My inner child doesn’t deserve that. He’s the reason I went through that abuse. He’s the reason I was bullied in school. He’s the reason that I was withdrawn, miserable, and kept to myself for so long. I  still do today, probably more often than I care to admit.

That’s what I tell myself consciously and subconsciously every time I remember my trauma. I see that little kid being abused, molested, lied too, and used by a neighborhood kid that he thought was the coolest person ever. That kid who was pushed around, name called, and emotionally beaten to a pulp in school because of how I looked, talked, and struggled in class.

So is it any wonder now that I don’t get silly and goofy and do fun things very often? It might seem like a no-brainer to you, and I suppose it probably should to me too. I never put two and two together until just recently though.

I have been known to bust out my air guitar and air drums pretty regularly while driving, but I’m not sure that’s really attributed to having fun. Did ya catch that minimizing I just did there…dammit!

I do enjoy doing fun things, and there’s something to be said for just acting like a kid again when the opportunity presents itself.  To play in a creek and get soaking wet, or jump in a big puddle after a thunderstorm. Speaking of storms, how about going outside in a rain storm and building a dam at the bottom of the driveway just to see how big deep of a puddle you can create? I remember doing that. Of course now I’ll probably get ridiculed because, “hey kid you could get struck by lightening”. Times were so much simpler when I was a kid…but I digress.

So like, what about it then? What’s so wrong with seeing how big of a bubble you can make, or riding some crazy carnival ride and screaming like a kid while you laugh your head off? The short answer, is nothing. In fact, it’s a good thing. It’s been proven that laughter is very beneficial to us both emotionally and physically.

You might even call having fun a form of self care. In fact, it is absolutely self care! If it makes us smile, be happy, and feel good then why not!

Obviously as an adult we can’t act like that all the time; we have responsibilities to attend to both for ourselves and our families. However, it would seem that I might just do myself a world of good to let loose now and then. Hey, maybe I could schedule time to be silly! Wait, does that even make any sense?

If only I can let that little dude inside of me actually have fun more often, this healing journey might just a little bit easier to handle.


*If you’d like to join a Facebook group to heal in safe community, contact me!

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Sheryl Burpee Dluginski June 17, 2016 - 11:18 am

Hi Matt, I’d like to join that FB group you mentioned. Also, a couple of things that have helped me reconnect with my inner child during my healing process: 1) Reading children’s books out loud to her at night in bed. This is something that was never done for me, and I was sad about that. So as part of re-parenting my inner child, I went into a bookstore and let “her” pick out a few books. Just that process was powerful because I had to really sink into that child-self to feel which books appealed to her. It was hard at first, but ended up being really fun. And reading to her felt wierd at first but also ended up being really fun.
2) To this day, I sleep with a teddy bear, as a way to honor her, and let her know that her needs are important to me. And also, just because it feels comforting.
3) After therapy, I often reward her for allowing me to speak about the abuse she went through and allowing us to heal from it together. Common rewards are: an ice cream cone. A few minutes at the park near my therapist’s office to swing on the swings and hang on the monkey bars.
You get the idea. And when I’m anxious, I talk to her, ask her what she needs to feel safe and taken care of, and then do my best to do that for myself.
Maybe you will find some of these suggestions helpful. There’s no right or wrong way. Trust yourself and your own healing process.

Matt June 17, 2016 - 1:37 pm

Sheryl, thank you so much for those awesome suggestions! I can’t tell you the last time I read something in bed in the realm of a childrens book. Probably not since my kids were little I would imagine. Those rewards you mentioned are a great idea; the ice cream cone or maybe an italian ice. I used to love going for sundaes when I was a kid, or chasing down the ice cream truck that came through the neighborhood.

I appreciate your thoughts so much, thank you! I will contact you this weekend about the FB safe group.

edit, just sent you an email a few minutes ago 🙂

Don June 19, 2016 - 8:43 am

It makes sense. I think I do the same thing. (okay, that’s a short reply from me)

Matt June 19, 2016 - 10:52 am

Might be the shortest reply ever man..LOL. I’m glad though, seriously, that you can relate to this. I don’t write about OCD that much; not for any particular reason though, but it’s amazing how much we can all relate to each other no matter what our struggles.

Don June 19, 2016 - 10:57 am

And for me – I thought I had healed some of these layers and as I read the words you write, its like – uh, hello again… there’s still a small speck you haven’t looked at. That’s the survivor journey… just when you think the road smoothed out, you see the pebbles.. Its okay… I keep pushing myself forward and one reason I like your blog, because it helps me look at those things – that sometimes I might overlook and dismiss.

Shattered in Him November 4, 2016 - 11:30 am

Wow. You are speaking to some hurts in my heart. Thank you.

Abbie October 3, 2017 - 9:32 am

I’d like to join the FB group. Thanks!

Matt Pappas October 5, 2017 - 5:16 pm

Sure thing Abbie, just drop me an email and we can get the process started 🙂 matt at survivingmypast dot net


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