Holistic Depth Psychotherapy - Nicole Ann Ditz, MA CMHC

Trauma and Treatment of the Inner Child


N Ditz

"The inner child consists of all our childlike feelings, instincts, intuitions, spontaneity, and vitality. It is naturally open and trusting unless it learns to shut down for self-protection. It is emotional and expressive until condemned for being what it is-a child. It is playful until it is crushed for being childish. It is creative until ridiculed for its expression. We can bury it, distort it, handicap it, make it sick, but we canít get rid of it."

~ Lucia Capacchione

Developmental Trauma & The Inner Child

I work only with chronological adults as a psychotherapist. The adults I see tend to be high functioning and intelligent people with problems arising in their personal and professional lives that are a manifestation of having been raised as children in dysfunctional, alcoholic, abusive or neglectful families. The vast majority of my clients, to varying degrees, carry deficits from their childhood histories experienced as versions of emotional pain within their current adult embodiment. Frequently, they enter therapy with little to no awareness of the invisible umbilical cords connecting their adult selves to the raw underbelly of their childhood experiences from which their present distress was conceived and born.

It is well known in my field that our developmental experiences have an immense impact on the formation of our personality structures. It is also common knowledge that our adult sense of self and relational capacities are profoundly shaped and influenced by the quality of our primary attachment relationships throughout infancy, childhood, and adolescence. There are innumerable ways that early attachment relationships can both grossly and subtly impair and derail the child's healthy psychological, cognitive, emotional and social development even when parents provide adequately for the child's physical needs. The damages incurred during child development bleed into and disrupt the integrity of the adult psyche, thus compromising both the personís overall experience of well-being and his ability to live exuberantly from her true self. The absence of a secure primary relationship frequently results in the person experiencing a lack of self-worth and empowerment as well as a variety of adult insecure attachment styles that impede the formation of healthy relationships.

The word "abandoned" translates to the concept of being forsaken or deserted, discarded and rejected. Jungian analyst Gilda Franz describes the etymological roots of the word "abandonment" as being related to the idea of "not being called" by the gods and a resulting feeling of ultimate aloneness. The emotional abandonment many of my clients experienced during their formative years is a result of having parents who were not able, due to their own problematic histories, to provide adequate or "good enough" parenting needed by their children to facilitate healthy self-development. A lack of appropriate emotional attunement can lead to various forms of developmental trauma during the child's psychological evolution. The torch of suffering thus gets passed on and branded into the visceral psyches of dependent offspring.

Child-wounds are gradually inverted and crawl underground to burrow in the internalized children of my adult clients. These developmental wounds, often accompanied by sequelae of complex post traumatic stress, become gradually hardwired into the brain and memory systems of the individual and create distorted internal working models of self, reality and relationships. Symptoms of developmental trauma are extremely wide spread and can impact every level of the adult personís Being both overtly and subtly. They run a very wide gamut from emotional dysregulation and pervasive anxiety, to depressed and dissociative states, difficulties with attention and focus, somatic problems and pain, relational distrust, relational avoidance or dependent enmeshment; chronic shame and low self-worth, and the often unconscious formation of a false self structure. Adults with a false sense of self frequently compromise their own true desires and needs in order to comply with the external expectations of others. Their misguided, often unconscious, hope is one of earning approval and eventual self-worth. Tough psychological hides accrue thick defensive scar tissue over the developmental years to protect tender sores and characterological holes from further exposure and violation. In the darkest and loneliest of caves, the inner children crouch: saddled with the heaviest burden of sorrow, fear, hurt, shame and longing within the personís entire psychic constellation.


N Ditz

"Perhaps the most universally disowned self in our civilized world is the vulnerable child. Yet this child may be our most precious subpersonality, the one closest to our essence, the one that enables us to be truly intimate, to fully experience others, and to love. Unfortunately, it usually disappears by the age of five."

~ Hal & Sidra Stone

The greatest challenge for me as a therapist is reaching past the labyrinthine and cold spaces of time, complex adult armoring and dissociation to invite the child parts -comprising varying ages and bearing different emotional complexes- to the light of present consciousness. When beckoning forth the inner children, I am sometimes met with mountains of silent resistance, subterfuge, and web-like adult defense structures. Eventually, however, I can often spot a child sub-self peeking out surreptitiously through very subtle shifts in body language: limbs may start wiggling or huddle together tightly like orphans seeking warmth, hands and feet can spontaneously flap their wings, facial muscles melt or stiffen while catching curveballs of emotion, voice takes on a higher pitch and faster cadence or becomes waiflike and whispery, eyes may search me beseechingly and grow wide as saucers, teeth flash or grimace like a wild animal, a grin may sprawl across the face sloppy as a child's early drawing, shoulders collapse as though carrying the elephantine heft of ten generations of familial pain.

There is more vitality to the person's embodied self when the child shines through regardless of how aggrieved or despairing he or she may be. A palpable sprite of energy whisks past on agile toes across the land between us. The air seems to moisten and warm several degrees, ushering in an early and unexpected spring. The person's features appear sharpened and clarified as if boiling storm clouds have scudded past clearing a once slushy sky. The word "inner child" does not even have to be spoken out loud for me to begin contacting this aspect of a person's core. Until the child parts feel safe enough to emerge to the surface and speak directly to me, it is healing enough for them to sense in their own instinctive skins that they are seen with my heart-eyes, unconditionally accepted, and benevolently "called".

Nicole Ann Ditz, MA CMHC, Holistic Depth Psychotherapist

Voice Mail: (401) 573-6396  Email: info@holisticdepththerapy.com

Serving Rhode Island and Southeastern Connecticut