What is an Inner Vow?

If you can’t change your behavior, even when you really want to, it may be that you have made an inner vow. An inner vow is a determination set in the mind and heart to protect us from pain. It is a promise that we make to ourselves, and it often involves the use of words like “always” and “never.”

Do you find yourself having these types of thoughts?

  • Why can’t I commit to a relationship? I really want to be married.
  • Why can’t I trust my spouse to pay the bills? I want to take that responsibility off my plate.
  • Why can’t I relax when the kids are at their friend’s house? I trust the parents and want them to have fun.

Here are some examples of inner vows:

  • I will never let anyone touch me like that again.
    • The pain you were protecting yourself from: sexual abuse
    • The long term result: inability to be sexually intimate even when you want to be
  • I will never open up my heart again.
    • The pain you were protecting yourself from: abandonment and rejection
    • The long term result: inability to maintain relationships even when you desire to
  • I will always take care of myself.
    • The pain you were protecting yourself from: neglect from a caregiver
    • The long term result: inability to accept help from others even when you want help
  • I will always protect my children
    • The pain you were protecting yourself from: being unprotected by your parent
    • The long term result: inability to let your children take risks or go to someone else’s house even when you trust that they’ll be safe

Inner Vows are Sometimes Difficult to Remember

We often make inner vows in the heat of the moment and then forget all about them once our circumstances change. Children sometimes make inner vows that follow them into adulthood. A person may remember the circumstance that hurt them, but forget the determination (vow) they made to protect themselves.

When we recognize an area of our lives that’s particularly resistant to change it is helpful to think back to when we were children and try to pinpoint when a specific fear began. Even though we mature physically and emotionally as we age, the inner vows we make as children remain locked in place. That is why they are so difficult to recognize.

Inner Vows Stay Hidden Until Triggered

Inner vows sometimes lay dormant until something triggers them. When a child makes an inner vow, the consequences of it may not be evident until adulthood. For instance, if a young girl is teased by her brothers she may say, “I hate boys; I only want girls when I’m a mommy.”

She may forget all about this until she marries and begins to have children. Now that she has matured she may desire to have a son but finds that she only has daughters. Of course this may strictly be a matter of genetics, but it couldn’t hurt to deal with the inner vow if the memory of it comes back.

Here’s another example: a child determines that he will never quit a job because his dad quit and it left the family in a difficult financial situation. Then, as an adult, the man cannot quit his current job even though there is a better job available to him. He completely forgot about the vow he made and can’t understand why he can’t move on without feeling fearful.

If you want to know more, read on.

Digging to the root of your inner vows may be painful, but it’s also quite hopeful. You can’t change what you don’t recognize, and renouncing a vow you made as a child or as an adult is not difficult to do. Don’t worry about being unable to remember.

There’s help for that too.


How to Renounce Inner Vows