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Introduction to Growing Down

Introduction to Growing Down

Growing Down - Tools

for Healing the Inner Child

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D. &

Constance M. Messina, Ph.D.

Introduction to Growing Down: Tools for Healing the Inner Child

When a person talks about INNER CHILD HEALING the first question which arises is: What are you talking about? This is fair since Inner Child is a term which means a lot of different things to different people. For our purposes here Inner Child means the person inside of yourself whom you have ignored for too long resulting in your having low self-esteem and feeling conflicted about putting too much attention on your own mental health.

Why the Term Growing Down? Why a Tools for Healing the Inner Child? 
To ensure a greater sense of recovery from low self‑esteem, the metaphor of an "inner child" is utilized here so that you can direct your emotional work on that inner part of you, your inner spirit or inner voice which you have for too long neglected, ignored, or forgotten. The inner child is the emotional part of you which you may have stuffed or hidden when you were young. Rather than having the full array of emotions or feelings of childhood you may have been a "little adult" who grew up too fast for your chronological age. Your emotional life may have been stunted as a result of this "growing up" process. 

In order to begin to feel "good enough" you must be able to feel the full array of feelings and not just the "black" anger and "white" happy ones. You may not currently believe, feel or act in ways which promote your healthy self‑esteem. You may not like you enough to take care of yourself. The metaphor of "inner child" allows you to take care of someone smaller, more fragile, and needier than you - the little child within you. If you can't take the time to make the "adult you" feel "good enough" maybe you will be willing to help the "child you'' feel better. 

Where will you gain the strength to take care of the inner you? In the 12 step programs of recovery it is our belief that our Higher Power provides the spiritual strength it takes to take care of our inner children. It is through the joining of our inner spirit with the spirit of our Higher Power do we gain the serenity and peace needed to free the pain, hurt, sadness, and grief inside of us. By working with our Higher Power we are able to let go and hand over our negative feelings, memories, and images so that we can replace them with positive affirmations, visualizations and actions which help us move forward in self‑esteem. 

Growing down is the term we use to symbolize the movement back to a feelings enriched life. In this new life we experience the joy of being alive, living one day at a time with no fear or dread of the future. In this growing down we awaken our creative spirit so that we can again enjoy playing, having fun, and relaxing. Growing down is a way in which we can prevent burnout of the spirit which can lead to relapse of the negative behavioral consequences of low self‑esteem. Growing down is a set of activities which helps us to let go of our premature “idealized adult view” of life so that we can again see life through the eyes of a child imbued with hope, enthusiasm, and excitement. Growing down is a way to learn to “live” again rather than just exist. Growing down is a set of activities to change the “sick adult” ways of thinking, feeling, and acting into a “healthy child” way.

Growing Down Special Dedication

To Charles Panepento

 "Some people come into our lives
and go quickly.
Some stay for a while
and leave footprints in our hearts
and we are never the same."

 The author of these words aptly describes the influence of Uncle Chuck on our two lives. He was surrogate dad, father-in-law, grandfather and cheerleader to our family. His infectious laughter, sense of humor and comic wit touched our "inner children" so dearly throughout our lives. It is fitting that we dedicated this book on healing the inner child to a person famous for this joke:

Why did the mouse leave home? ... 

Because he found out his father was a rat.
We love you Uncle Chuck and miss you. May your spirit reign within us through our Inner Child work.

Organization of the Book


Chapter 1 is a self‑assessment to help you rediscover the inner child you have for too long forgotten, ignored or abandoned.

Chapter 2 is the definition of the Inner Child for you.

Chapters 3‑12 cover specific issues which will assist in the healing of your inner child:

            Chapter  3 Anger

            Chapter  4 Feeling Feelings

            Chapter  5 Shame and Guilt

            Chapter  6 Self‑Forgiveness

            Chapter  7 Unconditional Self‑acceptance and Self‑love

            Chapter  8 Self affirmations

            Chapter  9 Mirror work

            Chapter 10 Reparenting

            Chapter 11 Invisibility

            Chapter 12 Boundaries

Chapters 13‑19 present specific "child'' activities you can perform to give vent to the child within you:

            Chapter 13 Visualizations

            Chapter 14 Having fun

            Chapter 15 "Child'' play

            Chapter 16 Body Movement

            Chapter 17 Children's Games

            Chapter 18 Creativity

            Chapter 19 Children's books

Chapters 17, 18, and 19 provide references to tools, books, games, and tasks which enhance your growing down work.

Chapter 20 is the CHILD System of the SEA's Program.


This book is to be a reference text to supplement the other books in the Tools‑for‑Coping Series. It can stand alone as the manual for treatment programs whose primary focus is on healing the inner child. This text in Growing Down  can be used one day workshops on inner healing. 


It is our hope you will find Growing Down a useful tool for your inner healing and self‑esteem growth. Best of luck in your use of this work.

Jim and Connie Messina
Inner Child Health Workshop Materials

Songs to Use in Inner Child Healing Work


What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong: 


That's What Friends are For by Dionne Warwick & Stevie Wonder:


You are the Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder: 

Children's Books to Use for Inner Child Healing  


The Little Engine that Could by Walter Piper. Grosset & Dunlop, 1978:


The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. Double Day Publishers, 1922.


The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein. Harper & Row, 1981:


The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Harper & Row, 1964:


The Tree that Survived the Winter by Mary Fahy. Paulist Press, 1989.