Things that are said amongst those with eating disorders can include, “I hate my body.” Which can be responded with, “When did you first remember when you noticed you had body image issues and saw that body image injury?” Some people will say, “When my family member made a comment about my body, or when my ballet teacher said something in regard to my weight,” and more. This is the gateway to understanding the complexity of their eating disorder.
The connection with someones inner child is approached in therapy as asking the client, “Imagine your six-year-old self, pull them into your mindset, notice what you’re feeling as you look at this child. How do you feel?”
Sometimes engaging in a conversation with that child and thinking about if you were that child’s parent in that situation can be beneficial. What would you say? Hold that picture of that child. Why? So, when unreasonable expectations come up, there is a foundation of understanding to think back about this child and the ideas about our body and self-worth, which is at the same time when Santa and the tooth fairy are believed. It’s ok to change the beliefs around Santa, but someone may think they can’t change our perception of our body. Beliefs evolve with more information. What have you experienced that kept this idea frozen and what would you want this kid to think instead of having it frozen and intact? Beliefs can change with time, and so can eating disorder related beliefs. Someones body cannot change to fit into an eating disorder related belief, the belief must change. It is important to validate that even though that comment from your family member might not have been the worst you’ve heard, look at the impact it had on you. One match can set an entire forest fire.
All of these therapeutic modalities and resources are beneficial, but for many, none have been quite as impactful as learning how to love their inner child. Negative memories, beliefs, patterns of behavior from someone’s childhood can be deeply stored within ones body. As a result, pain, innocence, a cry for safety, love, and acceptance, can be pushed down and blame themselves for the intense shame of their entire body. You can reconnect with your inner child, listen to your inner child’s needs, and honor your incredible resilience. Try not to demonize the younger version of yourself. Try not to punish your inner child for the shame you may feel or felt towards your body. Harness the compassion your inner child was always longing for.