The pattern of avoiding conflicts and pleasing others without considering your own needs is typical for someone who was not allowed to say no in his or her family – being criticized, yelled at, or abused in childhood. Bradshaw, an inner child specialist, adds that this pattern might also stem from not having been able to properly complete the toddler phase between 18 months to three years. While still feeling dependent, toddlers are trying to separate from their parents to explore their autonomy by opposing their parents. These interactions are often interpreted as power struggles by parents whose patience is pushed to the edge. If parents do not know how to model healthy ways to handle frustrations and set appropriate limits, children might not be able to test their power successfully. As a result they may end up having difficulty saying no to others or even asking for what they want without feeling great remorse or shame. As adults they might continue this particular pattern without knowing where their behavior originated.
When you are in a relaxed position, ask your inner child to come forward – the child that that holds the original pain of what you are currently struggling with. For example, if you want to resolve your issue of needing to stand up for yourself, you need to connect to the child that is linked to the time you learned not to stand up for yourself. Our subconscious holds “inner children” that are of various ages and therefore a different child may come forward at different times. With a little practice, connecting with your inner child becomes easier and you might receive an image, a sensation, or recall a scenario from your past where you were hurt or needed attention.
Once your inner child appears, do not push or force your inner child to do anything – just observe her and let him or her guide you for a while. Stay with it and notice what is happening as you pay attention. Even though you would think the child knows you, it needs to learn to trust and to get to know you. Often people are not sure what to do or say. Test out what your inner child responds to and value the child’s accomplishments. Say something nurturing and comforting like “I am here for you;” or “It is Okay to say no, to be mad or sad, and to explore;” and “I will make sure you don’t get hurt.” Be patient as all new skills require time and practice.