Getting in touch with your inner child is a process. There are both terrible and wonderful things that the child needs to tell us about childhood feelings. Much of what the child needs to tell us is buried in the unconscious. We were scolded or told to “forget it!” Our needs and hurts were made unacceptable and shoved into the darkest recesses of our minds. It’s often not easy to find out what’s been so long hidden and made untouchable, unthinkable.

Art and other creative activities are great ways to access unconscious material. Whether it’s making a visual representation of a monster that came in a dream (thus giving it shape and validating the experience) or messing around with clay to see what emerges, art provides a medium that goes beyond words and allows more metaphorical, less logical, processing.

You can use pastels or crayons and just start out messing around—scribbling, making shapes, drawing anything that comes to mind. Listen to any intuitions that come about color, shape, texture. Or you may start with a feeling you already have (sadness, anger, joy…) and see how the child inside you wants to express it.

I use art both to attempt to represent things I’ve “seen” inside—as images, mythical figures, colors and shapes—and also as a free-form way to see what might come. When I attempt to show something I’ve seen inside, it almost never comes out the way I see it, but I might get something that comes close. In any case, the trying brings me closer to it, and I get to see how it changes as I work.

When I begin drawing without an image in mind, it’s scarier for me. What will happen? Is there anything there? It’s just messing around, a waste of time. The critical voices come up, and I need to stave them off by saying, “This doesn’t have to be great, it’s just for me.” “I set aside a half hour; just leave me alone that long,” and so on. Color may start me off—does this mood feel like green or purple or orange? A gesture or physical movement—zig-zags, spirals, loops, or the need to fill in a whole area. Once there is something there, it often calls for something else—a pink feeling to offset the gray, an enclosure for the wild zig-zags, or a wilder color to accent them and make them harsher.

Sometimes your art work may tell you something directly—Oh! I guess I was angry—look at those zig-zags. Other times you might not get a clear message, but have sense of satisfaction that something was expressed.

Over time you may develop a set of symbols or patterns that have special significance for you. And remember—this is not art to be judged by anyone else. It’s just for you and the child. The other great thing about it is that it can be fun.

Author's Bio: 

JANE ROWAN is a survivor of childhood trauma and betrayal, and is passionate about sharing her healing experiences, including Inner Child work. Her memoir-in-progress about her healing from sexual abuse is tentatively titled Writing on the Water.

This article is adapted from Jane's booklet Caring for the Child Within--A Manual for Grownups , a short guide to nurturing your Inner Child, available through her website.