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Alan G. People-pleasing isn't really people-pleasing

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Aug 3, 2016.

  1. EileenS

    EileenS Well known member

    Sara cynthia, you are NOT too old to change. I'm 60 and I have changed enormously with my people pleasing anxiety avoidance over the past 2 years. Amen to Alan Gordon for his words, they're perfect. Others here have said how to change, but I'll recap:
    - recognize and admit you do this.
    - recognize where it comes from (reflect, journal)
    - recognize the present day scenarios that keep triggering your reaction and feelings of anxiety, replaying your learned response.
    - understand how you really would like to respond in these situations and practice having this response.
    - stay with the anxiety when it comes up, don't label it bad or try to suppress it. 'Walk away' from the situation if that's appropriate, but don't run away as avoidance. Each time you do this step it gets easier. Think of it as an exercise or little test.
    Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat......
    -Go easy on yourself; don't feel guilty no matter how many times you have to repeat this process. We've been practicing the other way a very long time. You will notice results.
  2. sportychick

    sportychick New Member

    Hi Sara, I'm new here and just happened upon this thread. I never realized why I was a people pleaser until I read this forum! Oh my! I'm 59, and I am determined to learn some new tricks here. These forums are so helpful. You're not too old for change. We can do this! I'm in! are you in?!
    EileenS likes this.
  3. Ace2289

    Ace2289 Newcomer

  4. Ace2289

    Ace2289 Newcomer

    You just described me to a T.
  5. Danielle Szasz LMFT

    Danielle Szasz LMFT TMS Therapist

    Here's a video I made this past week that talks about how we can view people pleasing as a way of responding to trauma. One of the ways we might have learned to stay connected to our caregivers growing up is through trying to always guess what they would want from us and how to behave and please them. Unfortunately, like most trauma responses (including fight or flight) it becomes maladaptive when our circumstances change and can end up causing us a lot of pain. I give some strategies here of how to start changing your response: http://tinyurl.com/ly734hq (Danielle Szasz, Mind Body Heart Therapy)
    honey badger likes this.
  6. MelG914

    MelG914 New Member

    You are NOT too old to change! I'm 57 and just now figuring myself out. We pleasers spend a lot of time worrying about what people will think of us if we say no. I've started taking my own advice I used to give my daughter when she would stress out over whether or not people liked her. I would ask her "how much time do YOU spend thinking about whether or not YOU like someone?" Most of us don't spend much time thinking about whether or not we like people. When someone says no to us we start thinking they don't like us-again the focus on yourself! So why do we worry so much? People who you really care about will like you faults and all. When that anxiety comes tell yourself you are not going to spend more time thinking about their opinion of you than they are! Does that make sense?
    zclesa and Tennis Tom like this.
  7. honey badger

    honey badger Peer Supporter

    Alan's post on people pleasing has left me stomped. It has given me so much to think about. I never thought about it, but it absolutely makes sense to me. And the two examples that he hits on are spot on for me: parents who fought a lot, and being raised with guilt. I have done a fair bit of work on myself, I like to think, but this realization that people pleasing is about avoiding anxiety (confrontations, etc) has really spun me around. More and more I'm discovering how much anxiety, or avoiding anxiety, has played a part in my life. There's anger too which I was surprised to find out was an underlying emotion in my TMS, but I could buy into that one more so. But anxiety ... now that one was one I'd really have thought was not a part of my life at all, yet it keeps showing up. Chances are I have that more repressed than my anger! Thank you so much for posts like these!!
  8. honey badger

    honey badger Peer Supporter

    Hi Sara_Cynthia, I don't believe any of us are ever too old to change. Something that I've been working on myself as well is figuring out what I want and saying it, or doing it. Because I'm a people-pleaser, or have this tendency, I find that what I'm struggling with a lot is setting personal boundaries. Like, a colleague asks if she can talk to me at work about something that's upsetting her, but I was just on my way to the bathroom. I struggle to say "can you hold on five minutes, I'll be right back." Instead I listen to her and provide support for her, and make myself wait to use the bathroom, putting my needs second. It's okay now and again, but not if it becomes a pattern because it erodes away at my own needs.

    What I'm learning that really made me want to address this is that when you're accommodating the needs of the other person, you're giving up a part of yourself and you're delaying your own personal development and recovery. That's the bad news, but it's not all that bad if it serves to make you want to change it. The good news is that you can change it! There are lots of ideas out there to help us set personal boundaries. This link is one I have found very helpful: http://liveboldandbloom.com/08/life-coaching/want-to-boost-your-self-esteem-10-ways-to-establish-personal-boundaries (How To Set Boundaries)

    With clearer boundaries, I am able to learn what I want and what I don't want (which I find hard!), and it helps me move from a life where I meet others' needs at the expense of my own, to a life where I empower myself and grow in confidence with who I am. Doesn't that sound great? I hope this helps.
  9. shmps

    shmps Peer Supporter

    Hi Alan, I had never thought in the direction your post takes us to. Anxiety is the by product of conflict. And we are not avoiding conflict, we are actually avoiding the bodily sensations we are having in that moment of conflict or thereafter, which is nothing but anxiety. As we learn to just observe the anxiety, we increase our tolerance for conflict, which means our motivation to please people is no longer existing.

    BTW, I am very interested to read your part 2 of this post :)
  10. Lily Rose

    Lily Rose Beloved Grand Eagle

    A healthy relationship between people must have boundaries. Otherwise, it is not a 'healthy' relationship. "No" is a very important word. Years ago, I had to teach this concept to a girlfriend. No matter what I suggested we do, she always said yes. I noticed this, and begin pushing more, just to see exactly where her boundaries might be. Finally, I hit her limit, and she said (timidly), "I don't really want to do that" (it involved performing music in public). I pushed a little bit more, and she said "No." I lavished this woman who is 15 years my senior with praise and love. She was baffled and said I was the only person she had ever met who got excited because someone said No to me. I told her that I needed to trust her boundaries, so that we could have a truly balanced relationship. This confused her, and she said she didn't like disappointing me, and she knew I wanted her to do this thing. I had to explain that just because I wanted her to do something, that was MY desire, but I wasn't attached to it. And saying No didn't hurt my feelings at all. Just the opposite. Saying No to me means that my dear friend trusts me enough to to still love her even if she doesn't always do what I want. After all, there are a lot of things I want. It doesn't mean I expect to get my way all the time.

    If someone withdraws their affection because you have set a boundary, then they really aren't your friend at all.

    And if you know someone who has trouble setting boundaries .... begin 'training' them ;) Let them practice saying No to you, and then flood them with positive reinforcement.

    You are valuable and worthy. Those who are genuinely caring about your well-being will love you no matter what. Those who inflict guilt for not doing what they want, they are toxic.

    It takes practice to build the confidence. Just practice. And practice. And practice.
    You can all do this!

    .... with love and gratitude ^_^
  11. honey badger

    honey badger Peer Supporter

    [QUOTE If someone withdraws their affection because you have set a boundary, then they really aren't your friend at all. [/QUOTE]

    Thanks for this Lily Rose. Your post could not come at a better time. I just had an email 'fight' with my sister and it is over boundaries. We live far apart but always communicate by email. I finally set a strong boundary with her, and try as I may, I could not get her to see that I just wanted her to stop requiring me to meet her needs. It was TOUGH! And I'm pretty sure it's going to be the end of our communication, possibly our relationship.

    It has been a long time coming. I originally had reached out after our relationship had been broken for a few years, and all along it has felt like I have been solely responsible for keeping it afloat. I would say to myself, "oh well, at least we're talking now". But with all my TMS work and in taking a closer look of how I take care of myself, or don't, over the past few months I have begun to see that this relationship drains me. And that's one of the signs when the relationship is toxic or you don't have sound boundaries. I knew it wasn't going to work much longer when I just returned from a 3 week holiday (no pain at all during holidays by the way!), during which I was unplugged, and I wasn't looking forward to writing or hearing from her. I stuck to my guns and kept looking over the webpages that have advice on setting boundaries, and it really helped.

    In the end, she was angry because I refused to give her what she felt she needed from me to meet her needs. I tried to get her to see that we're each responsible to meet our own needs, but it didn't work. We went round and round. So we're not speaking anymore and I know it will not mend easily this time because I am no longer interested in holding this relationship afloat. I am, of course, saddened to lose this relationship but I'm also very angry. For me, usually, the anger subsides after a while and I'm left with the sadness. But this time, because I was so taxed by seeing how little she gave and how much she demanded, I think I will be in a better place to move forward from this. I will keep my self-care at the forefront of my healing, and I'm hoping that's what will pull me out.

    Any thoughts or advice from other TMSers would be great! Thank you again Lily Rose.
    plum, Lily Rose and shmps like this.
  12. Kat

    Kat Peer Supporter

    This is such an interesting post – as I had never understood that I was a people pleaser to avoid anxiety! But now that I think about it, it makes so much sense. As someone had commented, I think that some of us - and definitely me - do this to avoid abandonment, as I fear that if I don't do this, the person won't want to be my friend, or like me. I know it's important to tolerate the idea of someone not liking me, but for some reason I find this extremely difficult. And another issue is that sometime I really don't know what I want - this can be quite hard to decipher. But I like the idea of delaying a response, taking some time to get back to someone. What to do, however, with the toxic people in our lives? As I can't be the only one with parents who have not been great parents. I have 2 very narcissistic parents, who have made me (probably unbeknownst to them) feel that my thoughts and feelings aren't valuable or interesting, and they are both terrible with boundaries. I moved countries so now am far from my mother (the most unboundaried) but now live near my father and step-mother who are always telling me what I 'should' and 'shouldn't' be doing/acting/looking/etc. and find it difficult to navigate this, especially with my step-mother, who loves conflict and shouting and criticizing people quite brutally, whereas I am quite gentle and sensitive and find myself bullied (or feel bullied) in some of my interactions with her. When someone is verbally attacking me, I suppose the anxiety prevents me from thinking clearly and defending myself in a constructive way. Any advice for these difficult people? Sadly, I have to still see my step-mother, if I want to see my dad and half-brother. So I'm not able to avoid her.
    honey badger and Lily Rose like this.
  13. honey badger

    honey badger Peer Supporter

    Kat, I struggle setting boundaries too, and can completely empathize when you mention getting overwhelmed and not being able to respond in a constructive way in an confrontation. What has helped me, the times that I"ve been able to do it, has been to concentrate on taking small steps. Like, a really good one is identifying what I want to do, or whether I agree with what she is saying or not. I don't even think about the response at that point, just how I feel or what I want. I have a pretty hard time knowing what I want (and even what I feel) because I am always aware of what others want/feel. So for me, it's really important to try to look at the situation (whether it's a confrontation or not) and check in with myself and see how I feel about it. Maybe my heart is racing, maybe I hear my thoughts saying "no, no, NO!" Whatever it is, I just try to connect with myself. And if I find that the person is too overwhelming for me, I make up an emergency, like: I'm sorry, I just HAVE to go to the bathroom (I've done this with a particular colleague, and because I'm a teacher and have very restricted times when we can go to the bathroom, it is a reasonable excuse for me. It is easier to do on the phone, so maybe that's a good place to start. You can say, "oh my goodness, I think I have to take the roast out of the oven" or "I think there's someone at the door. Let's continue this conversation another time." I have gotten to a place now where I don't need to make anything up most times, unless the person is really scary to me. Voicing how I feel and saying what I want to do feels even better than an excuse because I honor myself and show myself that I'm more important than that stupid person who is bothering me. I might say, "I find this conversation is making me really tired ... or sad ... or overwhelmed. Let's talk another time when I'm feeling more up to it." You don't even have to say when you'll talk again, just at some other point in time ... which often never comes! I don't know if that would help you but it could be a place to start.

    Another really great thing that a friend told me about is having a plan B. That is, when you have to go see that person and spend time with them, especially if it's at their house, or on their turf, that can be really anxiety causing. So I try to have a plan B ahead of time, which I base on behavior I'm not willing to tolerate. It's hard to identify sometimes but I think of what's really upset me in the past (she said I was a no good X, Y, Z) so when she gets to the point of insulting me again, I will do Plan B, which is: I excuse myself and go for a walk, or take a drive to a local cafe and spend an hour giving myself a breather, or maybe go home altogether. Anyway, you'll see what works for you as you try things out, but I think putting yourself as a priority is key. And if sometimes you're unable to execute some plan of action, be kind to yourself and don't get hard on yourself for it. We can turn on ourselves and that's the worst type of treatment, I find. Hope some of this helps!
    Lily Rose likes this.
  14. Kat

    Kat Peer Supporter

    Thanks Honey Badger, that's really helpful! Good idea, to check in with myself, and make the response less important - as I always think I need to come up with the best retort to wittily put that person in their place, or somehow defend myself against their criticism, but yes, probably better not to even think of that at first, and just attend to myself. Interesting, as have never thought of this before - it's always been about what I should say back to the other person. Which is kind of more about what they think of me (and the other people listening). Food for thought!
    honey badger likes this.
  15. honey badger

    honey badger Peer Supporter

    So true Kat! I understand exactly what you mean when you say you feel that you have to come up with the best retort. And then we feel stupid that we weren't quick enough to think of saying this or that on the spot. It's hard not to beat ourselves up as perfectionists because we have that tendency. I mean, when you think about it, we're pretty cruel to ourselves because we have a negative interaction with someone, where they may have been mean or hard on us, and we walk away feeling terrible. And what do we do? We end up criticizing ourselves for not having been better about defending ourselves. Geesh! That's why now I try to say fuck it! If I don't start putting myself first, in the sense of self-care, then who will? There's a great quote by the author Byron Katie. She says, "It's not your job to like me -- it's mine." I really like that. The person we have the conflict with may not like us or may not treat us well because they are not invested in our well being. Fine. That's them. But what's my excuse for not treating myself well? At the very least, I can check in on myself and see how I'm doing and try not to critique how I handled the situation. I totally agree with you!
    Kat likes this.
  16. Memawjan

    Memawjan Peer Supporter

    How true. I just never realized it before until you spelled it out!
    honey badger likes this.
  17. honey badger

    honey badger Peer Supporter

    So glad what I said helped!!
  18. sadoromi

    sadoromi New Member

    So this is just fear, basically. It's not helping others and not being selfish that hurts, it's an underlying fear if conflict and anxiety.
    If this is correct, then good news are, you dont have to sacrifice your relationships in order to heal.
  19. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Exactly. Instead of sacrificing your relationships you get to transform them to the benefit of all. For most of us that involves some tinkering with boundaries and perhaps a closer look at power dynamics but essentially once you learn to face those fears/anxieties and find comfort in being yourself everything else pretty much falls into place.
    honey badger and sadoromi like this.
  20. honey badger

    honey badger Peer Supporter

    Sadoromi, I had to give your statement some thought. It seems simple but it's quite deep. I think you're quite right that helping others is not what's causing the problem, but for me, the problem is "encased" in my actions to help others ... not because I help them, but because I only think of them, and doing things for them, instead of tending to my own self-care, which I tend to neglect as a TMSer (hence the pain and other afflictions). I no longer see saying no as being selfish or being unable to help others. I now see saying no as a healthy way to give to myself when I recognize that I need to do that.

    My spouse helped me to see that when I take care of myself, I'm actually in a much better place to help others. When I give of my time or what have you after I've taken care of my emotional needs, I give with a much fuller heart. When I say yes now, I do it fully. Before I'd say yes but was not ready to say yes, so I'd be stressed out about doing this or that for a person because I wanted to avoid the anxiety of saying no, or letting someone down (which is how I saw it then). Not sure if I've explained my thinking clearly.
    sadoromi likes this.

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