I want to expand on the people pleasing article that garnered very thoughtful responses last week, where I named the pattern of people pleasing and called attention to motivation and the emotional dynamic it sets up.
Becoming an Adult
As I said, we learn to people please from an honest, and sometimes very necessary place. Many of us learn to people please as children so that we can protect ourselves. Our skill in “yesing” and doing what we are told is well-honed in order to keep the peace, avoid being hit or punished, or just to play the role we’ve learned to play in our family. It’s a defense mechanism we developed to protect ourselves and to cope with challenging or dangerous situations, and to keep relationships in tact when we feared losing them. Often, underneath the need to please is a deep fear of abandonment—that if we don’t do it “right” or do as we are expected to, we will lose something or someone.
All of us develop defenses as children and if we do not work on our habits and patterns we will take them right into our adult relationships and reproduce the same dynamics. We will find the perfect match: The control freak will find the people pleaser, the quiet one will find the one who stretches themselves socially and will care for the shy at heart, the aggressor will find the passive non-resister.
Having adult relationships that are fulfilling and meaningful means working on these patterns. We might have to experience several more relationships where these dynamics are ever-present so that we can work our way out of it. Or we might just stay there for the rest of our lives wondering why it’s Groundhog Day again until the end.
It’s a developmental adult task to deconstruct these dynamics and change them so that we can show up differently in relationships. This is not special to anyone—we are all charged with the adult task of learning how to be in our relationships. Yet, many people will never do that work. I firmly believe that it is absolutely the MOST IMPORTANT WORK you will ever do.
Shining a Light on Shadow
It’s not an easy task. It requires support to see where you are burying things, the ability to look at the shadows following you around that you can’t see, and consciously changing the way you communicate or where you go emotionally when you feel hurt, scared or in shame.
Sex and play are great healers in this way. Many people will turn their real life emotional struggles into a role-play where they can act them out and heal them on a deep cellular level. Many people do this consciously, some are fairly unconscious about it. The things that show up in our fantasies are often not who we want to be in the everyday world. That sexual playground is an opportunity to be in service if we have a penchant for people pleasing, to play a bully and get out our aggression if we work hard to keep that part at bay, to be the empowered pursuer and coerce someone in a way we would never do without permission.
Our fears can come out and have a platform in play. I absolutely love the creativity that we can use to play out a new scenario or take on a role we don’t want in our lives, but that would allow us to experience a deeper part of ourselves—and a compassion for others that might not otherwise be there. What does it mean to play a whore? To be treated like filth? Or to call all the shots and name your price? Some will get off on it. Some would run the other way. How would that change your ideas about sex workers, people who provide an important service to others?
There are absolutely endless ways to do it and the empowerment a person develops when they really step into the parts of themselves that scare them so that they can understand them or heal them is unprecedented. I have trained as a Shadow Work ® facilitator for this reason: that work is so profound in getting to the root of why we have created the patterns that show up in our lives.
Healing the Shadow
When we heal a pattern it doesn’t have to be in shadow anymore, and we can be freed of our shame about it. Or if we do feel a feeling of shame come up, we can learn to name it and not stay alone with it. We can choose to do something new. And sexually, maybe we’ll find that we love playing the whore, or the servant or the bully or the queen bitch, or the wizard, and it will just be a part of the repertoire that allows us to expand our experience of ourselves, of sex and play and of our relationships. Not everyone will do it this way, but to CHOOSE to is a very empowered choice. But choose carefully and do it with another who can really go there with you in a way that is aligned.
As for people pleasing, it’s about looking at your motivation. If you are still people pleasing to be liked and to build your self-esteem, how could you end that pattern and learn to love yourself in another way—and to allow others to love you for WHO you are rather than what you will DO for them?
Sometimes we need to begin to ask ourselves totally new questions in order to have a new experience.