An adult exposed to trauma, violence, misuse and neglect as a child is more likely to drift towards substance abuse or suffer from mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphic disorder in the later years. Health care providers often cite that maladjusted and dysfunctional adulthood is the consequence of childhood victimization.

Adults who have been neglected or abused as a child usually put their “inner wounded child” to sleep, while they carry on with their day-to-day activities. While they seem normal most days, there are times when the wounded child comes to the fore and wreak havoc on their mental health. Unresolved childhood psychological issues have a tendency to erupt all of a sudden. They are like the many-headed Hydra, of the Greek mythology that raises a new head every time one is cut or put to sleep.

The “wounded child” is a term given to the psychological baggage that a person carries with assets in early childhood victimization. The wounded inner child makes a person extremely vulnerable to criticism and prone to fits of anxiety, depression and guilt. Without being aware, the trauma spills into adulthood and the person adopts maladaptive practices to soothe the inner child. For example, a woman who has seen her mother being battered by her father could find herself drifting into unsteady relationships with men with narcissistic tendencies. Or she could form the opinion that all men are abusive and, therefore, unworthy of being a mate. Either way, both the patterns of behavior are disruptive and could significantly impair the way one views life.

Therapies to treat childhood trauma

With regular therapy, it is possible to find the root cause of the trauma. Some of the best therapies for treating the inner child are as follows:

EMDR: The trauma of childhood abuse can manifest as flashbacks, sweating and panic attacks. It could be highly debilitating and could end up isolating an individual. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), much in vogue nowdays, is used commonly by psychiatrists for relieving the pain of trauma. EMDR therapy engages both the right and the left hemispheres of the brain.

Chair work : In the empty chair technique, the patient is asked to sit across a chair and question a relative or a parent about their unresolved issues such as shaming or neglect, etc., which reflected in low self-esteem and confidence in adulthood. Alternately, the person could also be asked to reverse roles and sit in the chair. The empty chair therapy has much in common with another hugely popular therapy – gestalt therapy. Thanks to the chair therapy, many adults have been able to express their inner feelings and open up to healing. Because of this therapy many patients have been able to talk openly about their aversion, their delusions, and finally their disgust at the way they were manhandled and treated as a child. Confroning such feelings and letting them out in the open, helps the process of healing and also help gain a new perspective on how one is functioning.

Schema therapy: Children who grow up in an environment of abuse and neglect exhibit poor coping patterns. Antisocial personalities, self-destructive tendencies, distorted opinions about self are common in such adults. Schema therapy which incorporates elements of cognitive and attachment therapies is known to be extremely effective in reaching out to the inner “wounded child.”

Healing leads to a fulfilling life

A person who has understood that the root cause of his seemingly irrational behavior is an unresolved childhood trauma is more empowered than one who is not. Childhood traumas, affect both the adolescent's and the child's health. It is also responsible for low self-esteem, alienation and a host of anxiety disorders that could manifest in one's adulthood, if not resolved on time.