Soothing the inner child

In the past few articles — and I hope this hasn’t been confusing — I have tried to describe how we can help heal the damage to our self-esteem and recover our lost selves, while we are still with the sociopath or after we’ve left the sociopath. The most important thing is mindfulness; the awareness of what’s going on in your body and mind in the presence of the sociopath.

We get triggered and react emotionally to their manipulation, blame, abuse and dismissive behavior. In fact our brains and nervous systems get what is called “hijacked” by the emotional reaction, and our rational thinking is not available to us. The reaction makes us believe what we feel — e.g. we are wrong, we are lacking, we are defective.

For example, Jill speaks to her partner Brian about the fact that he got home very late the night before and she couldn’t reach him. This worried her that something may have happened to him. Brian gets angry at Jill for not appreciating the fact that he has to work so hard and that she worries too much and always assumes the worst. Jill is internally taken aback, but admits she’s a worrier and that’s why it would be important for Brian to call her to let her know if he is delayed for any reason. This is a very reasonable request of course. Brian becomes more irate, saying she acts like she doesn’t trust him, and he can’t be bothered with her stupid worrying and her attacking him for just doing what he needs to do to provide for her and the children (effectively manipulating the focus off of him and onto Jill). Because of his anger, Jill might feel confused, questioning if she is too untrusting, bothersome, not treating him with respect. She might then feel guilty or ashamed of herself for being needy or unappreciative, since he is acting so extremely hurt and offended.

Being mindful

If Jill is mindful she might notice she felt like the little child who, by her parent’s angry reaction to her, made her believe she wrong or bad for needing something from her parents. A child will always believe that they are at fault, and that if they repress their need, and try harder, they may win their parent’s love. The alternative would be to understand that their parent is just not capable of giving them what they need to feel loved and safe which of course would be terrifying for a child. The parent’s rejection would cause the child to feel unworthy, abandoned, ashamed, inadequate and that her needs are not important. She represses herself a little, diminishes herself, and loses herself. Does this sound like a familiar pattern in your interactions with the sociopath?

If you pay attention to your Inner Child “showing up” (being triggered), you might notice that you react to the sociopath in the same way you reacted to your parent. Do you fight back to try to win the sociopath’s love? Do you withdraw and crawl into a ball? Do you, in a sense, numb your need for love and nurturing? Just like with an unavailable parent, none of these options work with a sociopath who is incapable of or unwilling to nurture you. The good news is that this can be an opportunity to heal those childhood wounds, and to stop being reactive to the sociopath’s victimization. You can learn to give your Inner Child the nurturing s/he never got. You, in a sense, can become the nurturing parent.

Parent yourself with exercises

Here are some exercises you can do to nurture your Inner Child, which will help you heal and build strength over time:

Heart Meditation: Close your eyes and focus on your breath. As you breathe become aware of the love in your heart. If this doesn’t come easy, think of someone who really loves you and fill your heart with it. Let your heart expand with this love. Then let it spread throughout your entire body. In your imagination hold your Inner Child in your arms close to your heart. Let the love radiating there go into the child and fill the child with love. Tell your child: “You are lovable, you are safe, you are beautiful, I can protect you.” (Add anything that feels right.)

Self-Soothing: This may sound strange to you, but when you feel the wounded child, after a victimizing interaction with a sociopath, it can be very soothing and affirming to curl up with a stuffed animal or a doll, or a real pet, or wrap yourself in a blanket like you did as a child. You acknowledge the childhood wounds and feelings (abandoned, isolated, lonely, ashamed, unworthy, etc.), painful as they are, that s/he just triggered, instead of joining the sociopath in repressing, dismissing or judging your feelings. As you connect to your experience as a child and let those feelings through, you connect to yourself. Then, you heal the wound a little and recover some of your lost self. You can soothe and validate your feelings, as a good parent would. [A great resource to help you do this is “Finding Your Inner Mate” hypnosis CD, which you can purchase at There is also a good one call “Meeting Your Inner Child”.]

Let the Rage Out: Either shortly after experiencing the above painful emotions or later, you may feel rage. A child is ultimately powerless to get parents to love and nurture him or her, and that powerlessness causes, often unexpressed and repressed, rage in the child. You probably will at some point in interactions with the sociopath also feel rage at your powerlessness to get him or her to respond with caring. Since it’s useless to direct your anger at the sociopath — it never gets heard — find ways to let it out, like vigorous exercise, screaming and yelling somewhere private, hitting and/or kicking something neutral (try kickboxing!), journaling. Connecting to the rage of triggered by the sociopath, connects you to your Inner Child, and letting it out gets your “fight” up. This is good! You’ll need it to protect and take care of yourself going forward.

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Wow! This article resonates on many levels…but first, great and helpful suggestions/techniques, thank you!

Ironically, ex-spath always said I never had a problem with *his* behaviour, no, rather I was “reacting” to him as if he were my father–that my inner child was being triggered but it wasn’t his fault, it was my poor damaged inner child responding to behaviours, etc that really weren’t happening in the present. So, spath used inner child concept as another tool to both bash me with and exculpate himself from any “bad” behavior. (Again, “it wasn’t me–you’re reacting to me as if I were your father! I’m not your father! You can’t ‘see’ ME…how sad”) And since he was a sociopath, there was a great deal of “bad” behaviour. He was also a clinical psychologist–he was often quite convincing.

Ox Drover

GREAT ARTICLE Mary Ann!!!!!!

I have been using “Mindful based stress reduction” (MBSR) meditation techniques to help me through the triggering and stress of my son’s upcoming parole protest and it is helping me so much. I am so much more aware of that “inner child” and what she is feeling and fearing!

The problem with me at least is I have not been practicing the techniques that I KNOW will help, and have slid down into the abyss because I allowed myself to get distracted from healthy practices.

It isn’t what we KNOW that helps us, it is what we DO that helps us to heal and keep that level of healing constant.

Thanks for a great reminder about taking care of ourselves and nurturing that little child inside us all.

Thank you Mary Ann.
It is the inner child that made us vulnerable to the spaths. When I found myself in my parents’ home after running from my spath, I suddenly had a moment of clarity. I knew that the spath had just taken over where my parents had left off. The abuse from the spath was just another “octave” of my parental abuse. They were both controlling, they didn’t care about me, the only saw me as an object. I was dehumanized by them. And I had allowed it because it seemed normal.


Mary Ann, I want to thank you SO much for opening the discussion on the “inner child” work. Identifying this concept in connection with “shame-core” was the most pivotal epiphany for me – it explained everything about how my choices and decisions had been based upon fear and shame, throughout my lifetime. It was the starting point for me.

I also appreciate your suggestions on soothing the “inner child.” This is a fantastic topic, and I very much appreciate your opening the door on this!

Brightest blessings


Oxy, where does one pose questions for Donna or Dr.leedom etc. that they might react to on lf. as an example I peeled my onion as it were, like most. from the outside in. and finding each layer at differing degrees of “scariness”. in any case, i found that the core in some cases was less scary than some of the outside layers. in other cases the opposite. so in fact i was able to search out things in my childhood and occasionally when i bring them forward, i find that they had differing effects on me later in life. i wonder if this could help us if we find a layer that hangs us up. kind of a reverse pac-man move as it were???
sincerely, rgc


I am finding that i have many onions by the way.

Ox Drover

you can contact donna at donna @ lovefraud dot com

RGC we all have I think lots of layers to our onions and healing is a CONTINUING process not just a “one and done” thing. A JOURNEY not a destination if you will.

The more I learn the more I realize how LITTLE I REALLY KNOW. The more questions I answer, the more questions I have.

It is frustrating sometimes to keep on working at healing and STAYING in a good state of peaceful mind, and sometimes I “back slide” just like anyone can do if we don’t keep WORKING at staying healthy. Lately I have let myself back slide with stress, and not done the things I KNEW to do, but just didn’t DO. I am still working on pulling myself up out of the abyss by my own bootstraps and while I am doing “better” than when I was in the PITS I’m still not back to where I was before I “back slid”

I have started to DO what I KNOW is good for me, but like any “illness” (physical or mental or emotional) even when you start to heal, to recover, you take some time to do it and while you recover you are not as strong/healthy as you were previously, and there can also be some residual deficit left over from an “illness” so it behooves us to keep working and keep ourselves healthy.


Dear Mary Ann,

i think you are spot on.
right on the money, girl!


John Bradshaw had a very positive way to connect with your inner child (and actually I thought of it before I knew he had this method!) Not patting myself on the shoulder…it was the truth.

I took (and Bradshaw recommends) finding pictures of yourself as a small child (even as an infant). While gazing at the pictures of you way back then you can change the inner dialogue to love, support, and nurturing. You can tell the pictures you love them (which is you!). You can negate and even obliterate the toxins infused by parents, relatives, in-laws, neighbors, teachers, and a host of others.

Tell that picture of you as a baby that you are ENTHRALLED with him/her. Keep a picture of yourself on a desk or bureau top in your home. Shower love on the infant in the picture. Let him/her know that he/she (you!) are worthy of all the best life can give!

This is not at all narcissistic. This is positive affirmation of you as a worthy human being….it is “good” self-love!

Ox Drover

Babs, I think ANY idea which helps us to connect to that “inner child” and to nurture her is GREAT!! Another method along this line is to sit in a chair facing another chair and talk to “her” as if she were sitting in the other chair.


This article is very helpful to me when I am dealing with my husband who is a spath. I now realize what is happening to me when it comes to my emotions and now will try a better way with dealing with them . I am just beginning to learn all I can about the spath and for years I couldn’t understand why my marriage was so full of chaos and emotional abuse deceit and fraud I also didn’t understand why my husband continued to bug my phones have me followed put spyware on my computers and use the children to manipulate and control my behaviour usually I thought it was all my fault or i was being paranoid, trying to get him to stop would be disastrous and I would end up enraged depressed or terrible confused and anxious I did read all of donnas books and other books on it when my doctor told me my husband sounded like a sociopath I am horrified and trying to get over these feelings of finally realizing the truth . My spath still wants to stay married and continues to make my life hell I truly hope I can find my way out

Hopelesshousewife – Welcome to Lovefraud. Please don’t be hopeless, and gather your strength – maybe you won’t be a housewife either. At least not to the disordered husband. We have lots of information here that can help you. Understanding what is going on is the first step towards breaking free.

Living with a sociopath;especially one that bugs every aspect of your life,ISN’T A HEALTHY WAY OF LIVING!You may feel that you have everything under control,but there’s no way of controlling the chaos the spath causes!It’s like trying to hold water(without the cup)!

For your Dr to tell you that your husband sounds like a sociopath,there is definite concern there;I take it that it wasn’t a casual conversation!Before I left my husband,I was realizing the toll it had taken on me physically,mentally & emotionally.I made an appt with the NP that I always see at my dr’s office.I asked her if it was possible to have my husband committed to a nursing home.She said that unless the patient was willing,the answer was NO.It would be necessary for me to make the decision to leave.I thought to myself,”How?!How will I ever have the strength?!” Two days later,as I was choking on rice,he called me a “drama queen”.I very calmly laid my bowl of rice in the kitchen sink and walked out the door…and kept walking despite his calling out to me that he’d never do that again!However,afterwards,he was knocking on apt doors and calling my name out…caused such a ruckus that we were evicted!HE IS IN A NURSING HOME NOW!And I have an apt.

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