In this blog post, we’ll be discussing how to heal from childhood trauma by using the Inner Child and the Witness principles.
We’ll also be talking about what to do if:
1) You cannot feel your body in a practical way.
2) You cannot connect to your emotions in a meaningful way.
These two obstacles can block you from your Inner Child and Witness, and ultimately stop you from recovering from bingeing.
- First we’ll talk about childhood trauma.
- Then we’ll talk about The Witness
- Afterwards the Inner Child.
Finally, after we discuss the Inner Child, we’ll outline three basic steps you can start taking to feel your body, face your emotions, and heal your Inner Child. These steps will help you to ultimately witness your pain, heal it and stop bingeing.
And yes, I know talking about inner pain wounds is tough. But if you’ve been stuck in bingeing for decades, then something has to change!
What is Childhood Trauma?
As outlined in Body Keeps The Score, a book with over 30K 5-star reviews, childhood trauma exists as pain within our bodies because of the way we are treated or mistreated by caregivers and society at large.
This is not the same as being physically hurt in the present moment. Childhood trauma is pain nonetheless, even if nothing is directly hurting our bodies at the moment.
For example, MRI studies have shown childhood trauma activates the same centers in the brain as being burned physically!
From an Eating Enlightenment perspective, childhood trauma needs to be healed in order for us to heal from binge eating disorder (BED).
How do we heal childhood trauma? We heal this pain through awareness, or witnessing.
The Witness becomes aware of the pain that exists within our bodies subconsciously.
This ‘witnessing’ helps us to naturally begin to heal from childhood trauma and binge eating.
However, how do we become Witness to our internal pain in a way that is meaningful and effective?
Pain can be overwhelming or chaotic at times. Or we might not know how to feel our body or emotions, because it has been so long since we have been aware of feeling what happened in childhood!
If we are unable to handle or connect to our inner pain, then we cannot bring this pain in a healing way to The Witness.
This is where Inner Child work comes into play.
What is the Inner Child? How do you work with the Inner Child?
The Inner Child is an energetic part of our being that has been, or still is, wounded from childhood trauma.
Inner Child work is where you give stories, characters and context to your inner wounds based on your personal memories.
By creating narratives and characters, you re-organize how the pain is stored in your brain.
By re-organizing your inner pain differently, you can manage this pain and ultimately bring this pain to the healing waters of The Witness.
Inner Child work prepares you to Witness your inner pain directly, and this witnessing then automatically begins healing your pain and your relationship with food.
Please note: you must actually write words out onto paper or an app. Writing is the activity that re-organizes your brain, not thinking. It’s the writing, the expressing of what’s inside, and translating this experience into the physical world through text, that is healing.
What if you are blocked from feeling your emotions or pain
If you can access inner pain, then you can give stories to this pain and witness it.
But what if you are blocked from feeling this pain? What if you are not conscious of this pain in the first place? How can you heal from childhood trauma if you cannot work with it?
A long time ago I had very little connection to my body. I had no clue what emotions were or even that I was carrying pain in my body subconsciously!
How can you do Inner Child work if you cannot even feel your body, let alone pain?
Let’s now transition to a basic three-step framework you can use to start connecting to your body and your emotions and begin the healing journey.
1) Start by writing down why you want to binge, before you actually binge. This will give you direct access to your emotions.
This simple technique is the single most important technique to stop binge eating.
Again, you cannot heal from childhood trauma if you can’t spot it, or know it in some way! This technique will enable you to do this prerequisite step!
Write down an answer to this question before you actually binge one day, like while you are having food cravings but haven’t given in yet:
Why do you want to binge?
If you are too hungry that’s understandable. But oftentimes you binge even when you aren’t hungry! Here are some examples:
- Out of punishment
- Because you made one error
- Just lost control
What is happening in these circumstances?
It’s like you are possessed. Feeling out-of-control and trapped inside yourself, unable to escape.
This feeling is exactly what it feels like when we can’t access our inner pain. We haven’t given context or stories to the internal wounds that exist within us.
These inner wounds then take control over our bodies and make you binge to alleviate the pain of those wounds!
That’s why we feel out of control! We have this pain within us that needs to be expressed, seen and felt.
Left unconscious, the pain takes over and makes you eat to dull the pain.
By writing before you binge, you can spot the inner pain beneath your normal level of awareness.
When I was first healing my relationship with food, I had trouble stopping myself sometimes. And if I couldn’t stop myself then what would happen?
I’d go on a full-blown bender for days until my body physically shut down. That’s right!
It wasn’t me controlling anything – it was the Inner Child running the show because he felt trapped inside himself, without any safe outlet or support system through which he could express his internal pain safely.
So I know how difficult just ‘writing’ can be at first.
But, if the binges are unbearable then you have to start somewhere!
Just write down what your pain feels like right now, and why it’s so painful for you.
When I first started writing down my feelings before a binge, I was surprised with how much relief came immediately when I would just get something down on paper.
It was like I could let go of the pain for a moment even though it never went away fully. But just by writing something down about my experience, no matter how difficult or brief, there would be relief in that moment when I was done!
Write down why you want to binge, before you do!
This is the one technique that will stop your compulsion and give relief immediately.
Normally you get swept up in a binge or food cravings. But when you write down before you eat, it’s like you are pausing and taking out a magnifying glass.
By writing you can ask yourself: what is happening in these moments before a binge?
Try to see if you can write down what you are feeling, in your body, before you binge.
You might think you ‘screwed up’ or you ‘better eat this cookie before you start a diet tomorrow’. But those are thoughts, not feelings.
What do you feel in your body? Are you feeling nervous?
- Tight? Hot?
If you are wanting to binge, then deep down there are painful, unpleasant bodily sensations that are present.
Once you have written down the unpleasant sensations you feel before a binge, then you can begin the Inner Child work.
2) Imagine what your younger self or a loved one would be feeling and needing if they felt what you are feeling now. Imagine their pain.
Try to recall a time you were younger and felt what you are feeling now.
If you are currently feeling nervous or upset before a binge, then try to recall a time when you were younger when you were feeling nervous or upset.
You can do this for any emotion, like despair, stress, or anger too.
For me, I can go back in time and imagine myself when I was say 8 or 9 years old.
I can imagine my younger self feeling sad, stressed or despairing.
Form a picture in your mind of you when you were younger, feeling the way you do now.
Now imagine this person is sitting in front of you:
You, when you were young, are now sitting right in front of you.
This younger version of yourself is feeling exactly how you are in the moments before a binge.
Begin talking to this image in your mind, and let it speak back to you. Use your gut intuition here.
You can start by asking your inner child questions (bonus points if you can ask in a sweet and simple way!):
- It seems like you are feeling anxious right now, is this correct?
- What would you like right now little one?
- Is there anything you need sweetie?
Then simply listen to your imagination. How does this younger version of yourself respond to your curious, empathetic questions?
If this image in your mind doesn’t respond the way you’d like it to, that’s ok. Be patient.
You are rebuilding a relationship with your youngest self. It takes time to build trust.
Your Inner Child has lost trust in you because you’ve ignored its needs for so long.
You haven’t been able to hear your Inner Child’s needs so maybe you can try to explain this to him/her/they.
Offer words of kind, affirmations, and acknowledgment to your Inner Child
Be sure to name and acknowledge the emotions your Inner Child is experiencing.
I know this may seem crazy, because you’re talking to a mental image right now, but this mental image comes from within you.
It’s you. It’s part of you.
(If you are familiar with Parts Therapy, we are integrating different aspects of your personality here!)
Say to your Inner Child:
- It’s ok to feel upset, anxious, etc …
- I see that you’re feeling sad right now. It’s ok to feel that way.
- This is really uncomfortable for you right now. That’s a bummer. Let’s just try to stay calm and see how we feel in 5 minutes.
- You are beautiful and strong
- I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you in the past, but I didn’t know how, and now I am there for you.
3) After talking and connecting with your Inner Child, who is a figment of your imagination but still living within you, allow yourself to simply Witness your feelings.
- After you have settled down …
- After you’ve written out what you are feeling in your body…
- After you have journaled out a conversation with your Inner Child …
- After you have pictured the pain of your younger self …
- After you have offered words of acceptance, acknowledgement, validation, empathy, compassion …
- After your Inner Child has responded …
See if you can bear Witness to the inner pain.
See if you can just hold this pain in mindful awareness.
No need to make the pain go away.
Notice if you start to think or want to organize things.
Most likely, a huge defense mechanism of yours will be thinking instead of feeling.
Notice how thinking takes you away from the pain and out of your body.
You start thinking about all these things you have to do, all these ways of perfect eating, and then line of thought distracts you from the pain.
But thinking doesn’t heal you. You just get caught in thinking, instead of dealing with the pain directly.
Instead, just witness.
What happens if you just witness?
What happens if you relax your body and allow yourself to stay with these uncomfortable feelings?
Can you lay down and relax and just stay in your body? Is it possible to simply be present?
If the pain is too much, it’s ok …
Really try to ask your Inner Child what they need, what they would like to try instead of food to deal with this pain …
The key is to let the Witness dissolve or lessen your internal pain, which takes about 5-15 minutes
The whole point of doing all these steps is simple:
- Internal peace
- Feeling safe
- Feeling connected
- Feeling joy
- Feeling compassion
- Feeling lighter
Literally, lifting the burden. Feeling lighter – emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and totally.
This is how you know you’ve participated in a healing moment.
After bringing the pain …
Seeing the pain …
Accepting the energy of the pain …
Connecting to the pain …
Witnessing the pain …
The healing feels so good.
Healing from childhood trauma is subtle often. But it feels so good too.
You’ll feel appreciative. You’ll feel somehow better.
The more often you practice healing in these three steps, the more this stuff sinks in and becomes your reality.
As you heal from within …
You can naturally hear your body and what it needs.
I know this is hard to imagine if you have trauma in your body …
But your body is wise.
One of the main principles of Intuitive Eating is that your body can naturally regulate it’s hunger, just intuitively!
I am a huge fan of Intuitive Eating, I just find that people first need to connect to their body and heal their inner trauma …
Then they are totally prepared to just naturally become an intuitive eater.
In my experience becoming a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and working at an eating disorder treatment center which emphasized intuitive eating, people glide into intuitive eating. They are working on their pain, healing it, transforming it.
All of a sudden they’ll start to say things to me like, “And my hunger cues today, they were telling me to eat, and then I noticed I was full and so I stopped eating. It was really easy.”
Heal from Childhood Trauma Summary
What if there was a way to heal from childhood trauma? And what if that solution wasn’t therapy or medication, but instead healing the wounds through self-compassion and mindfulness?
This article is about how you can heal your pain just by using The Witness and Inner Child techniques. With these principles, we hope you are able to heal yourself of any past pains so you can stop binge eating for good!
If you heal these wounds, eating will normalize automatically.