Healthy identities are formed during childhood through validation and love. Depriving the heart of validation and love is like depriving the body of oxygen. It literally stops the development of our emotional and relational maturity, and that causes us to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. All emotional pain and all spiritual strongholds are ultimately based in damage to our identity.
Most identity damage occurs before age 20. It happens when something makes us feel we are not loved, we don’t have value, or we aren’t enough to handle the demands of life that are in front of us. When childhood circumstances (stress, trauma, unmet emotional or developmental needs) cause one of these things to feel true, our emotional maturity stops developing. However, instead of stopping all emotional development, our minds form a compartment that holds the damaged identity along with the pain and beliefs from that childhood experience. This results in what is sometimes called an inner child, a part of me, or a side of me that can come out.
Inner children are parts of you that are stuck in the past and still experience the world through their childhood wounds. Inner children are less mature, so like children, they bring strong emotions and inappropriate or unhealthy behavior into our adult lives when they are triggered. When active, the inner world of the part temporarily influences or takes over our responses to an event. The coping mechanisms developed by inner children can have a moderate to severely negative impact on our lives and relationships. We call these compartments parts, fragments, broken parts, or inner children. We feel the the impact of our parts, but we do not consciously see them.
Forming compartments (or parts)
Most compartmentalization happens before age 20, and most of that happens before age 12. To compartmentalize, all that is needed is for us to feel consciously or unconsciously that we are unloved or loved less, are of low or no value, or are not enough for the demands of life that are in front of us. The trigger point for this is different for each person. For example, two children get locked out of their house. One calmly rings the doorbell to get mom and dad, but the other hides in the bushes feeling unsafe and unprotected. After some time, the second child wonders why dad and mom aren’t looking for him and why he isn’t important enough for them to come get him. When these beliefs feel real to the child, a part can form who remains stuck in the past as the child grows.
Emotional pain is also caused by negative beliefs about self. Since parts are formed by these beliefs, they carry the pain that caused them to form for as long as the part remains unhealed in the person.
Biblical healing for the heart
The Bible calls these parts a broken heart or a double mind, which literally means a mind that is fragmented into separate expressions of thoughts, emotions, and will. Fortunately, God is not silent about the broken heart nor the fact that Jesus came to heal it. Jesus’s promise to bind up the brokenhearted (Is. 61:1) ensures us that healing brokenness is well within the reach of the cross and the truth the Holy Spirit came to give us. The main issue is knowing how to reach the parts of the brokenhearted. As they are healed, each part will progress to our current adult level of emotional maturity, allowing us to engage life in stable, emotionally mature relationships with Christ and others.