The concept of early childhood conditioning allows to add an extra, super necessary level to our journey of holistic healing. In order to feel whole (again), we have to take care of this current life as much as our Spirit and Soul. We will realize that they’re not separate, and our thriving will not be possible if we focus on just one or the other.
Table of contents
What is early childhood conditioning
-The importance of the early years: the Royal Foundation
What is an inner child?
Self healing from trauma and self reparenting
Childhood conditioning in my own healing journey
What is early childhood conditioning.
‘Early childhood conditioning’ refers to the stimuli children 1 to around 5 years old absorb from their caregivers, which shape an unconscious set of behaviors, beliefs about the world and the Self, throughout their whole lives.
It is linked with the idea that pretty much every human being (since they are someone’s son or daughter!) is affected, to varying degrees, by the experiences and environments they were exposed to as little children.
The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood defines the impact of the early years in the following terms:
While it is true that some individuals are offered the luxury of a fairly positive childhood, which allows for an emotionally stable, adult existence, it is worth noting that everyone is affected by some type of trauma deriving from childhood conditioning. Why?
Because trauma doesn’t need a big, tragic occurrence to happen, form and manifest.
In fact, if we normally associate the term ‘trauma’ with significantly violent events, what we are sharing here is a new theory of trauma, as highlighted by Dr Nicole LePera in her groundbreaking first book How To Do The Work.
It seems to involve every human being, as pointed above. It speaks to that all those people, like you and me, that had a pretty decent life and yet cannot help but feel emotional discomfort, injustice, loneliness somewhere inside of them.
This new theory of trauma grants a chance to give ourselves much needed grace through compassion, acknowledgement, and healing practices.
Once we become aware that something is truly undermining our ability to function properly (read: regulating our emotions, engaging in social interactions, appreciating ourselves, etc…), we have an incredibly miraculous opportunity to incorporate the issue of early childhood conditioning into our healing journey. With it, the possibility of self healing from trauma.
We go about it by getting familiar with + investigating the concepts of inner child and reparenting oneself.
If you’re wondering: ‘
What is an inner child?’
‘What is self reparenting?’,
Don’t worry, we are going to learn a little bit about those, too.
I am not a doctor nor do I work in the health field. I am sharing what I learn day by day along with what I have treasured through my very own life. I am lucky, though, to have come across Dr LePera’s work, together with that of other incredible professionals who are generous enough to break down such complex concepts and let anyone access them in the digital world, for free. Their contribution to collective healing and well being is humbling.
The importance of the early years: the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood.
The early years, and the subsequent childhood conditioning, play such a crucial role in the emotional development of our human kind. So much so that they have taken center stage in the United Kingdom recently with a dedicated royal foundation for early childhood. The issue is very close to Katherine Middleton’s heart, not only because she’s a mother, as she has repeatedly pointed out.
The foundation was established in 2021 although it represents the culmination of a longer interest and commitment by the Duchess of Cambridge.
The Duchess of Cambridge has spent time looking into how experiences in early childhood are often the root cause of today’s hardest social challenges such as addiction, family breakdown, poor mental health, suicide and homelessness.
[…] she has seen over and over again how often these problems can be traced back to the earliest years of someone’s life
You can read more about the institution at the official page: Early Years – Royal Foundation You will find useful information on the research that has been commissioned with the aim to provide useful, practical resources for parents (from pregnancy throughout actual, ‘early’ parenthood).
What is an inner child?
By answering this question, we shed light on a huge tenet of childhood conditioning. We are going to draw on Dr LePera’s research and conclusions, as presented in her book.
“… we all have a childlike part of ourselves. This childlike part is free, filled with wonder awe, and connected to the inner wisdom of our authentic Self.
The same inner childlike part of us, when not acknowledged, can run rampant in our adult life, often reacting impulsively and selfishly”
Actually, if you stop and think for a second, you may realize that your most frustrating moments, those that come in circle, are made of reactions. Wild, uncontrollable, saddening, furious, paralyzing, fear-filled reactions.
The tricky thing is, trauma doesn’t pop up as a precise, vivid memory (at least for most of us with seemingly normal childhoods). It surfaces as a reaction.
The reason for this being that — I’m paraphrasing Dr LePera — our inner child goes on to live life as an adult while bearing the weight of that same trauma that caused childhood conditioning in the first place. Better put, in her own words:
“Wounds that are the consistently unmet emotional, physical, and spiritual needs from our childhood expressed through our subconscious that continue to impact our present self”.
How do these unmet needs impact our present Self?
Well, many of us don’t feel seen, heard, valued enough. We tend to feel more alone than we are, so we end up turning the unconscious, unresolved wounds around on our partners, or the closest people to us — childhood conditioning at its finest, I’m sad to admit.
You may have had decent parents or acceptable parent figures. You were often cautioned against whining, complaining about your circumstances because “there are people out there who are suffering, for real”.
Ok, so… What are we going to do with our hurt?
We don’t want to make a big deal out of it, sure.
However, it doesn’t magically go away either. Or hurt any less.
The following words are probably my favorite way to answer the question: “What is an inner child?”
Self healing from trauma and self reparenting
Ideally, we should all have the means to go to therapy and find just the right therapist for our needs. I’m afraid it is not the case for many adults (hurt inner children included.) We lack the knowledge to make the right choice, and the cost of the sessions prevents many from even giving it a try.
Mental health definitely needs to become a priority in the agenda of our first world states.
If we don’t go to therapy.
If we are waiting to find the best therapist or coach.
How can we get started on our own?
How can we sort through the internal chaos?
How can we even attempt (self) healing from trauma?
For starters, you have to become aware of the fact that you hold an inner child inside. It needs to be seen for the first time in decades. It needs recognition, it yearns for your loving attention. Don’t rush this step.
The next stop is an actual practice: self reparenting. It takes time, patience, compassion, commitment. Like your inner child, it yearns for loving attention. You need it.
When we reparent, we begin by learning how to identify our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and then we practise noticing the conditioned way we’ve gone about attempting to get those needs met.Dr Lepera, How To Do The Work
What happens in self reparenting is, we attempt to heal that wound by giving ourselves what we weren’t given as children.
We try by means of small consistent, compassionate actions. We want to remind ourselves — constantly — that we need to address ourselves “as if we were speaking to a child in pain“, LePera explains.
She then identifies four pillars in the work that is self reparenting.
- Emotional regulation, that is the ability to navigate the gamut of our feelings and emotional states;
- Loving discipline, that is committing to practicing one small action we love consistently, as a way to build a sense of inner trust and reliability;
- Self-care, as in “supporting your needs and valuing your worth”, quite far from its online, glamorized declination;
- Re-discovering our childlike sense of wonder, through play, curiosity, creativity.
You should bear in mind that self healing from trauma / self reparenting isn’t going to be either a quick fix or a final solution.
It is about tending to our Self with a degree of love, compassion, conscious attention. Soothing practices for the Soul and the spirit. I’ll never get tired to stress this.
Childhood conditioning in my own healing journey.
I am starting this conversation on trauma-informed healing, or early childhood conditioning, because of my personal experience.
I reached a point in my adult life when I realized had no other choice but come to terms with the fact that I address issues originated in this lifetime. Introversion being one of them, childhood conditioning being the second and last one to be examined.
I long believed spirituality would be enough to replenish my soul.
In the long term, though, it became apparent that working with energy and metaphysical ideas alone would be unfruitful unless I were ready to acknowledge that early childhood conditioning was heavily affecting my adult Self.
It wasn’t an easy task. Why?
Because, unless you’ve been through some pretty harsh abuse or neglect, you tend to dismiss your stuff as not that meaningful, not as important as really tragic events. No matter how much you’re hurting, you don’t dare demand the attention and help you deserve.
Not to mention that such a level of self discovery forces us to unearth uncomfortable memories and emotions, all of which are connected to the people we’re supposed to care the most for. It becomes a process of deep vulnerability and exposure, even though only to our own eyes and heart.
Nonetheless, I share this with you because it has been both the toughest and most freeing. I have felt lighter and freer with each piece of trauma that was lifted off my chest and heart. Peace was re-established, hence that quiet empowerment and sense of quiet confidence that could only settle in once I addressed healing holistically, for real, for good.
Let me tell you something I was long in denial about: the weight and quality of your roots determine your well-being for life.
However, there don’t seem to be too many ‘beginner-friendly’ resources on childhood conditioning out there. At least, there weren’t when I needed them.
Not until 2019, when I came across the work of Dr. Nicole LePera and slowly found validation of what my heart had know with absolute certainty for years. You matter, your life matters.
Through her Instagram account, Nicole has educated millions of people on foundational concepts, allowing her readers to gain powerful knowledge. Enough to initiate a journey of self healing which touched thousands of people, finally ready to commit to their inner child and peace.
I consider myself very lucky: on my journey to holistic healing I have come across a wealth of resources as well as fantastic coaches who turned my life around. Anyway, an important piece of the puzzle was still missing. One that I was in denial about, like some of you I’m sure.
It was my childhood conditioning. I wasn’t familiar with the concept, the ways it affects practically anybody, nor did I know anything about the life-transforming power of self healing from trauma.
Yet, on an instinctual level, I knew that my hurt — read: anger, resentment, longing for peace, inability to express myself — was valid, worthy of being listened to. By myself in the first place.
Of course the healing didn’t happen overnight, and it’s never really over. However, I started a super intense process of self discovery on top of the spiritual journey I had undertaken years before. It turned out to be challenging and painful, but never not worth it.