Every so often when I am planning a post, more perspectives come to my attention. I am continuing addressing the different ways that are obvious and not so obvious self-care issues from CPTSD/PTSD. This is the link to the original article:
Today’s discussion is from #6 To stop always saying “sorry” (for nothing) and “people pleasing.”
Lilly links these two behaviors together.
This is Judy’s perspective. https://theprojectbyjudy.wordpress.com/2017/11/07/self-care-6-of-25/ Judy does an excellent job of describing how we were raised.
Then yesterday, Roland Bal sent an email for the article he posted on this same situation of people pleasing. https://rolandbal.com/complex-trauma-and-the-dynamics-between-a-narcissist-and-a-pleaser/
Roland Bal is a trauma counselor that I get regular updates to his articles. I appreciated that he shared a more therapy type of perspective to the struggle of people pleasing. For me, he nailed exactly what my issues are and something I was discussing with DH; my need to do for others to validate my existence.
Yes, if you read all the links it might take a little longer than usual. However, if you feel challenged with “people pleasing” behaviors it might be beneficial to read all 4 different perspectives.
I break up the two but I do see how they are related. I think in some ways that continually saying your sorry is a part of “people pleasing.”
My teenagers pointed out to me that I kept saying sorry for things that were not my fault or anything I could do anything about. Judy shared how we were raised with the need to “please” others by apologizing for non-existent crimes. When they pointed out my tendency, what did I say? You guessed it; I said, “I’m sorry.” Yep my teenagers were totally exasperated with me. My counselor spent quite a bit of time explaining why it was a matter of survival for me to trot out an automatic apology. He also explained about what was and Was NOT my responsibility. This took many sessions because I was conditioned to accept blame for things I did not do. My therapist described my childhood as being raised in an insane asylum and learning to adapt. Now, I am out in the real world and I need to let go of the need to apologize because I don’t need it any more. Most people do not expect me to apologize for their mistakes. I still run across a few but this is where setting boundaries comes in. I do believe very strongly that if I make a mistake, I will apologize with the added feature of checking in to see how I can repair damage and improve that relationship. I say, “I’m sorry” less frequently and I mean it when I say it.
“People pleasing” was a tough long chunk of therapy. My first issue with “people pleasing” was my abusers blended and blurred the meaning with service. Also they used my naturally tender heart to care for others as a way to control me. For purposes of how I differentiate “people pleasing” and service, “People pleasing” is fear based. The running undertone, ‘If I don’t do what they want, they won’t love me/will hurt me/will ostracize me/will humiliate me.’ Service is loved base. I am doing for the other person because I love what I am doing or love the person. Service has no tone of “do it or else……” Now, that you know the two different meanings for me here is what I learned so far. Please remember, “People pleasing” was ground into me as a basic survival tactic that kept me safe and alive for many years. Letting go of this mega shield was and continues to be terrifying.
As I mentioned, “people pleasing” is a fear based conditioning that gave me the illusion that my existence might be validated…no guarantees. A carrot held out for me to strive towards in the hopes of a few crumbs of acceptance. It was brutal and demanding costing me every ounce of energy I had trying to meet impossibly high standards. So how did my counselor set about teaching me to break this conditioning? One assignment was the 5/50 challenge. Every day do something for someone else that takes less than 5 minutes and cost less than 50 cents. Candy bar cost more than 50 cents. I was to do one thing every day then report back what I did and evaluate. I failed. Oh I did the one thing every day but my report back was “I am not doing enough to help others.” Envision counselor doing a Star Trek face-palm. Nope, I was supposed to learn that I am a good kind person. Yea, he had to draw a picture for me. So then he gave me other tools. Setting boundaries. Nothing pisses off an abuser more than for their door mat to stand up and say, “You can’t treat me that way any more.” It was a rough few years. During this time I had a nasty unpleasant boss so my counselor taught me to do experiments on setting boundaries with him and documenting each encounter. Eventually the stresses at work came to the notice of higher ups and with my 30 pages of documentation, I got a new boss. Setting boundaries is powerful. I read two books on it. The books are listed on the resources page: https://ptsd-acceptingcopingthriving.com/resources/books/ I needed both books to help me figure out this very important skill that was lacking from my upbringing.
Another important part of breaking the chains of fear based “people pleasing” is learning what I like. When I learned what I like to do, I decide if I want to do something for someone else because I like what I am doing or I like the person I am doing it for. Wow, this was a major paradigm shift. I remember the first time my counselor asked me what do I like…what brings me joy? I looked at him like he was a two-headed monster and what was he trying to do? The following week I brought in an Almond Joy bar with a huge fish hook through the o in joy. I figured the only reason he would want to know what I liked was to use it against me. He was stunned by the lethal visual. He took time to reassure me that knowing what I like is not dangerous. He asked again, “What do you like?” I didn’t know. He then assigned me the movie, Runaway Bride. The poor bride didn’t know what eggs she liked because she always adapted her answer to someone else. She mirrored her current boyfriend instead of having her own opinion. My job became to figure out what I personally liked. I can honestly say that was the best assignment ever. I knew as a child I had very definite ideas. I remember as a 5 year old going to 31 varieties of ice cream and always ordering Plain-Old -Chocolate. I learned at age 45 to know what I like.
Learning that I had rights as a human being and I should be treated with respect that I deserved was and is a deal breaker for abusers. No way do they want their doormat to stand up for themselves. I will say, if you are planning to do this, do so with caution. It can and has caused violent reactions from abusers. Reading other people’s accounts of standing up to their abuser and my own experience I can tell you this is probably the most dangerous information I learned. If you want more information this is a post a shared before…. https://ptsd-acceptingcopingthriving.com/2015/06/18/i-have-rights/ Seriously, proceed with caution. Final result for me was going no contact with my mother because she would scream at me every time she saw me trying to force me back into the role she wanted for me. I walked away. I’m sad but not sorry.
I still do things for others because I love doing them or I love the person. I still give service out of a place of love. My DH helps me catch myself when I start slipping back into “people pleasing” behaviors that are detrimental to my mental and physical health. The powerful tools my counselor taught me boundaries, have an opinion and I have rights as a human being helped break the strangle hold of “People pleasing” on my life. Breaking an ingrained habit takes work and changes you. Forever. Final quote on this subject, “If you always do what you always done, you’ll always get what you always got.”
Breaking out of my ‘people pleasing’ prison.