Archive | People Pleasing

Does Your Mouth Have a Mind of Its Own?

March 2016

What comes out of your mouth in relationships with those you love?  Do you use sarcasm, placating, bluntness, anger, explaining, silence, name-calling or do you give a perpetual apology? Perhaps you use passive-aggressive gestures that speak volumes … such as rolling of the eyes, slamming of a door or shaking your head.

Understand Relational Pain from your Brain’s Perspective
If you believe that “the past is the past” and it doesn’t impact you today — that’s coming from a very logical/rational area of your brain.  The amygdala controls and rules over your emotions — and it doesn’t believe that the past is the past.

The amygdala is part of the limbic system within your brain.  You have two small amygdala — they are the shape and size of an almond.  They are the powerhouse that stores painful memories and feelings from the past.  Much of it is in your unconscious.

Your responses (anger, irritation, frustration) become fused together with certain emotions (sad, alone, hurt, rejected, hopeless) within the amygdala. When you are hurt today — the amygdala attaches meaning on your hurt of today based on your hurts of the past.

The speed at which the amygdala processes is 5-6 times faster than your logical, rational thoughts.  Anger, irritation, frustration, blame, placating and silencing yourself … kick into gear before the logical portion of your brain even knows there’s a problem.

When you have been hurt or disappointed by people throughout your life (mom, dad, sibling rivalry/teasing, childhood friends, grade-school bullies, high school sweethearts, insensitive teachers/coaches, previous divorce/affairs), the amygdala stores those smells, sights, sounds, tastes, feelings to that painful memory and person.

When you automatically and repeatedly use the same responses over and over — you might begin to see the negative impact on your relationships:

  • Pulling away from your spouse increases the feelings of hurt/alone and rejection.
  • Moving toward your partner with defensiveness or irritation destroys relational connection, increases relational ache and drives loved ones away.
  • Drawing closer by appeasing/placating, solidifies your feelings of not being heard  and can boom-a-rang back at you since your partner doesn’t ever really know what you need.
  • Putting up walls guarantees your relational needs won’t be met and increases your own feelings of being alone, hurt and misunderstood.
  • Seeking out comfort from another person (friend or lover) to soothe your feelings – robs you from repairing the relationship with your loved one and feeds the relational sickness.

The Solution
Awareness of how you respond is the first step to changing it.  It means slowing everything down when you begin to experience a strong reaction (irritation, frustration, “not this again!”, shut down).  By slowing yourself down, you allow time for your logical/rational brain to catch up and realize that you have more choices in how to respond in that moment.

Giving your partner the same response over and over — puts your relationship on a perpetual merry-go-round that feeds the downward spiral.

A different response from you — gives a greater chance for a different response from them.

Easy?  No.  Worth it?  Yes.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

~Albert Einstein

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Can You Stay Sane While They Still Drink?

April 2015

When I work family members that have loved ones who struggle with addiction – the most frequent question I hear is, “How can I make them stop drinking (or using drugs or gambling or cheating or etc.)?”

You might ask yourself,  “What’s the magical thing that I need to say to them – what threat, what ultimatum?  Should I be mean – should I be nice – do I sweep it under the rug – do I get in their face?”  Perhaps you’ve even done all those things – and none of them work in the long-run.

If you have an alcoholic in your life, you likely understand that life with a practicing addict is generally quite chaotic at times, which might also be tempered with really good times.

What can you do to get off the roller coaster?  Accept you are powerless over the addicted person and detach from them.  You cannot control people, places or things.

Detachment with love means caring enough about others to allow them to learn from their mistakes. It also means being responsible for your own welfare and making decisions without ulterior motives, such as the desire to control the alcoholic.
Detachment with love plants the seeds of recovery. When you refuse to take responsibility for other people’s alcohol or drug use, you allow them to face the natural consequences of their behavior. If a child asks why daddy missed the school play, you do not have to lie. Instead, you can say, “That’s a good question. You’ll have to ask him.”

Detachment means giving up outcomes. Your job is the effort, not the outcome. Leave the outcome to God. Do your part and let go of the rest. You will begin to experience peace.

Detachment with love is not selfish.  It is freeing — and it is love.

Detachment is a choice.
Unconditional love is a choice.
Giving up control is a choice.
Being afraid is a choice.
Choosing to be peaceful is a choice.
Choosing to act, and not react, is a choice.
Trusting your loved ones to live their own lives is a choice.
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Do Your Relationships Stumble?

February 2015

I often see at least one of these characteristics as interfering in relationships:

  • Do you frequently go along with what other people want and disregard your own needs?
  • Do you make decisions based on pleasing others?
  • Do you stay in relationships too long?
  • Do you use sarcasm as a way to express your dissatisfaction with someone?
  • Are you always trying to make people happy?
  • Do you get silently angry with others because your needs aren’t met?
  • Are you afraid to assert yourself?
  • Do you occasionally lash out in anger?
  • Is the thought of conflict scary?
  • Have you been told you are too clingy or dependent?

If you have any of these self-sacrificing, conflict-avoiding or people-pleasing tendencies, you may be attracted to people who are controlling or enjoy that you focus more on them.   They may also be attracted to you because you let things go their way and you might even push their bad behavior under the rug.

However, this can be an unhealthy mix.  You are likely to get tired of your partner always getting their way or tired of their behavior. You may resent losing your autonomy and start withdrawing or become passive-aggressive.

Stephanie was dating Brett.  He was strong, confident, and easily took charge. Brett knew what he wanted and Stephanie was happy to go along because it pleased him.  This contributed to his falling in love with her. They married and everything went well for a few years.

Then Stephanie began to resent the fact that he made all the decisions in their lives. She wanted to begin a family and he wasn’t ready to have children yet. She tried to go along with Brett’s wishes so she stuffed her own feelings down deep inside.

This was such an important issue for her that eventually she became angry with frequent outbursts and threats of divorce. She didn’t even realize what was happening, blamed him for being so controlling and started to withdraw from him emotionally.

Brett was confused and responded with equally combative statements, wondering what happened to his supportive wife. He never asked her how she was feeling, in a loving and supportive way.  She never asked him for what she needed with compassion and honesty.

Their walls went up and the room grew cold.

Their pairing had started out well but it floundered.  She was stuck in a conflict-avoiding and people-pleasing pattern while he was stuck in a controlling pattern.  This destroyed their love for one another.

As in the case of Stephanie, even when you are trying to please your partner or avoid conflict or suppress your own needs, those negative emotions will eventually surface and tear you apart inside.

The resolution?  Self-awareness of when you are giving too much of yourself away and assertiveness to speak for your needs, wants and desires:

  • Be in touch with your needs.
  • Ask for what you want.
  • Set limits and boundaries with people.
  • Explore your fears as to what might happen if someone got to know you from the inside.
  • Give yourself compassion and self-love so you feel solid even if you aren’t in a relationship.

In order to get there, you will need the courage to face your fears and develop confidence in the right to have your own thoughts/opinions.  It takes practice but you can speak to others with love and respect for what you need.

Speaking out with anger, bluntness or sarcasm — doesn’t count.

You can unlock a whole new world of being a self-respecting, authentic and genuine person in your relationships.

People will love you for it.

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The Gift of Saying “No”: Moving out of Co-Dependence

December 2014

Is someone else’s problem your problem? Are you overly responsible for a friend or loved one – their problems – their behavior? If you’ve lost sight of your own life in the drama of tending to someone else’s, you may be codependent.

Signs of Codependency

•    Have difficulty saying “no”.
•    Inability to set and enforce boundaries with people.
•    Try to please people and resent it later.
•    Have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility for another.
•    Experience hypervigilance around other people’s emotions.
•    Wonder why people don’t do for you what you do for them.
•    Feel like a martyr, victim or benefactor to your partner.
•    Feel worthy and valued when you are in a crisis.
•    Get angry when somebody doesn’t take your advice.
•    Focus on others with unawareness of what you want/need.
•    Mistake codependency as love and caring.

Your codependent behavior likely started out as self-protection.  You might have come from a background where things were out of control.  As a child, perhaps the only defense you had was keeping an eye out for trouble, becoming invisible, or becoming the “little helper.”

Breaking the Cycle

  1. Say No To Being Overly Responsible: The first step is to accept the reality of the problem and take responsibility for your part in the dynamic. Muster up your courage and say “no” to being responsible for another adult.  It’s not your job to run around with a safety net to rescue them.
  2. Say No To Obsessing about Other People’s Problems: It means trusting that the other person has the ability to take care of their own life.  “Guilt” is not your badge of honor to wear when someone does not take responsibility for getting help for their problems.  Speak honestly about how their problem is impacting you — then walk away. Let them fix it.
  3. Say No to Being Attached to Other’s Harmful Behaviors:  Develop a support system through healthy relationships with others and a God of your understanding (or higher power) – to detach from others’ harmful behaviors.  You can still love the person without liking or enabling their behavior.
  4. Say No to Letting Others Cross Your Boundaries:  Practice finding a place of calm inside of you when your loved one gets angry or protests after you set a boundary with them. Boundaries are a loving hug.  Children need boundaries and so do adults whose behavior is negatively impacting you.

Saying no is a muscle that can be exercised and strengthened over time.  Keep practicing and you will find it easier.

Feel like you need more support? Al-Anon is a great place to start.

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Resentment is like drinking poison & thinking the other person will die

May 2014

Perhaps you have had an experience where someone hurts you, intentionally or otherwise, and you deny your emotions by shoving them into a box, labeled “I’ll deal with this someday.” However, someday never comes and all the stuff in the box transforms into icky, sticky resentment that begins to burn a hole in your gut.

Letting go of resentment is a 3-legged stool:

1.  Practice forgiveness
You cannot control what other people do, but you can control how you react. When you practice truthful living, self-expression, and forgiveness, resentment simply has no place or power in your life.  The ability to wholly and truly forgive is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give yourself.

Forgiveness sets you free.  When you forgive, you stop letting your past dictate your present. When you embrace forgiveness, resentment ceases to exist.

2.  Express yourself

To deny your feelings is to deny truth. What kind of life are you living if it is not grounded in truth?

All emotions are good – meaningful – and are meant to be expressed.

When someone hurts you, you have a responsibility to express your pain.  You also need to take ownership for your side of the street that might have lead to some of your own hurt feelings.  It is your right to express that pain in an effective, healthy manner.

3.  Communicate with love
It takes strength and courage to express your pain to the people who hurt you. In doing so, you expose your vulnerable side—the very part that you want to protect and keep safe.

The next time someone hurts you, try telling them how you feel. For example, “When you ignore me, I feel unappreciated.” Choose the right words and tone.

Set a boundary from a calm and balanced frame of mind without a shaming/blaming agenda. For example, “I won’t talk to you on the phone if you’ve had more than 2 drinks.”  That boundary is simple and straightforward.  Then, stick to it.

Your main motivation for expressing your feelings and setting healthy boundaries is to live life without resentment or regrets.

Where there’s less resentment — there’s more love.

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People Pleasing Hurts Relationships

November 2013

People Pleasing has a nice sound to it.  But, people who are stuck in this pattern – don’t typically feel good.  Do you put energy into catering to other people’s desires/wants while ignoring your own?

See if these statements apply to one or more relationships in your life:

  • I want what they want.
  • I avoid speaking my mind.
  • It is hard for me to express my feelings to that person.
  • I have a tough time saying, “No”.
  • I try hard not to show anger.
  • I want to just get along with others.
  • My goal is to please that person.

If you have a People Pleasing pattern, you may try to become what others want you to be. You may not be consciously aware that you are doing this.  Ask yourself if you are trying to please others  to avoid certain reactions – such as anger or rejection.

Patty’s husband tells her that he is upset that she hasn’t put more time into planning their upcoming trip. Patty immediately feels bad and tries to figure out how to make him happy while juggling the kids, chores and a job. She never considers whether or not his demands are reasonable  – or whether there is room for compromise.   Her only thought is: How can I get him to stop being upset with me?

If you have pleasing tendencies, you may be attracted to a person who is controlling.  This relationship might work for a while.  But, you may also become irritated and passive-aggressive after you realize you’ve lost your voice in the relationship.

If you are married to a People Pleaser, ask yourself:  Am I being bossy?  Am I telling my spouse what to do?  Do I shut my partner down when they try to express their needs?  How do I react when they disagree with me?

If you want to break your People Pleasing pattern:

  • Evaluate boundaries:  Learn how to identify unacceptable treatment from others and set limits.
  • Look at your fears:  You might be afraid that someone won’t like you or you will be rejected if you don’t go along.
  • Practice saying “no”:  Try saying, “No thanks”.  Or, “That’s not what I want – here’s why.”
  • Be assertive:  Don’t walk away from the conflict too quickly.  Ask for more discussion the next day, if you did withdraw.
  • Work towards balance and compromise:  Whenever there’s disagreement, aim for a solution that will meet both desires so there’s cooperation – not pleasing.
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