Are you a people-pleaser?

People-pleasing is a type of addiction. A person uses it in the same way other people use drugs, alcohol, smoking, gaming, work, or shopping.

You see, when you go through life as a people-pleaser, you’re not living life in your own terms. You’ve chosen to hide your true self beneath the surface. By being nice and drama-free.

Rebecca is a severe people-pleaser. A real pushover. Even when people are already being rude to and manipulating her at work, she remains agreeable. Condoning. A sort of idolatry.

She thought it’s “cool.” To please and put other people’s needs first. But instead of being appreciated, she finds herself being treated as a doormat. She’s confused and depressed.

Where lies the reason behind one’s addiction to people-pleasing?

Often, it lies behind a person’s need to avoid being disliked, invalidated, or criticized. Any sign of discomfort of others’ disapproval can prompt a person to please.

Psychologists discover “childhood traumas” as a common factor that developed people-pleasing addiction. It’s linked to issues of parent-pleasing to avoid disapproval and abandonment.

Psychologist Dr. Leon Selzer, in his Psychology Today article, “From Parent-Pleasing to People-Pleasing,” writes:

“As children, people-pleasers felt loved only when they’re conforming to the needs and desires of their parents … when such children asserted their will contrary to parental wishes, these parents typically reacted critically and withheld from them caring and support.”

Thus, a child being dependent on the parents’ acceptance, he or she may become fearful of its being withdrawn from him or her. This is where the choice of parent-pleasing comes in.

According to Dr. Selzer, not to do parent-pleasing can risk parental alienation and produce feelings of guilt, humiliation, and shame.

He observes that the child may feel “it less hazardous to abandon the self than to run the risk of being abandoned by their parents” and “over time, this choice between self-abandonment and parental abandonment came increasingly imperative.”

From parent-pleasing to people-pleasing. Do you think the link makes sense?

Martha’s Intimacy

I wondered how Martha managed to find a fiancée if she evidenced such low self esteem and recurring depressive episodes. She’s even suicidal.

In-session, Martha’s self esteem was manifested always to an extreme to be based on what she thinks others think of her.

Constantly, she felt uncertain, helpless, and frightened on the inside. She disguised her low self esteem by efforts to impress others.

Despite her fears, Martha risked a romantic relationship. Eventually, she became “in love” and entered a “survival pact” with her boyfriend.

The trouble was, when she chose a mate, that Martha did not communicate her fears to her partner. She feared that her partner would not love her if she knew about her feelings of worthlessness.

Martha’s partner saw her as confident and strong. Yet she expressed misery about it. She privately expected and felt she must be what he thought about her.

In effect, Martha had actually put the other person in charge of her self esteem.

Therapist and author Virginia Satir writes,

“I have talked about choosing rather than acting from compulsion. When you feel that you have to live according to someone else’s direction or live so that you never disappoint or hurt anybody, then your life is a continual assessment of whether or not you please other people.”

In the context of intimate relationships, Satir further explains, if one has or both partners have low self esteem, each behaves as if he/she were saying …

“I am nothing. I will live for you.”

“I am nothing. So please live for me.”

With this unprocessed, will a relationship survive? Is it realistic? Can it be functional?

Healing the Family

She doesn’t know why she’s been severely depressed and anxious much of the time. Lita rarely socialize or get out of the house.

Lita experiences constant social anxiety when with people. In her mind, she worries that other people are silently putting her down or making fun of her.

As a result, her family hurts. The father, mother, and siblings came to me with sobs of sadness and pain about Lita’s isolation from them and others.

In the sessions, Lita recounted her family experience since childhood. She felt caught in the middle of her parents’ constant quarrels.

All that time during fights, both her father and mother vied for her support. She felt guilty for everyone’s feelings, including those of her siblings.

Virginia Satir, noted family therapist and writer, believes that a critical first step to the healing process is full or 100% awareness.

In her book, “Helping Families to Change,” she asserts the following goal for hurting families:

” … to see freely and comment openly on what you see, to be able to hear freely and comment what you hear, and to be able to touch freely and be able to comment openly on that experience – these comprise the restorative task.”

So, to heal your self and your family, here’s one master key: Stop pretending!

Based on Satir’s formula, there are skills or habits that need to be developed for total or 100% focus and awareness to avoid pretending.

3 things.

• seeing, not just looking
• hearing, not just listening
• sensing your touch

That’s what happens in my sessions in the initial phase. Progressively focus on these essential tasks.

Becoming aware – coming to your senses – is the first step to set you and your family free!

The High Price of Doing Nothing

People need therapy. Especially in severe, destructive, or unmanageable situations.

In fact, each one of us needs it for lifetime personal wholeness. No one is exempted from growing.

We all want to be happy. We strive to reach our goals. Our desire is to worry or stress less. We want peace of mind.

It’s one reality about the human condition that doesn’t change. Yet, for some reasons, many tend to resist therapy.

We can be fine spending thousands on gadgets, clothes, dinners, or travels. But still, many find themselves hesitant to spend on therapy … on “self-investment.”

Joseph and Carol were fighting in big ways. And have been ever since. He was smart and outspoken. As for Carol, she’s no longer caring to Joseph, but materialistic and know-it-all.

“You mean, we just talk. How long?” Carol asked asked during their marital session. She simply wanted to know how quick the process will be.

They never returned to continue their therapy. About a year after, I received a text message from Carol. Her husband had become an alcoholic and been having sex with his secretary.

There is no quick fix in mental and emotional healing. The cost of doing nothing is heavy and long-lasting.

“Men are disturbed not by things but by the view they take of them,” said the ancient philosopher Epictetus. His implication is that our feelings are caused by our thoughts.

When you think of Therapy as “quick fix,” frivolous, or a waste of time and money, you’re not seeing life as it really is. You’re not fully aware of your thoughts and how it harms your reality.

Life, as in therapy, requires us to show up. We “do work” developmentally over a period of time – over months or years. There is no magic, miracle, or overnight cure.

Consider the high price of doing nothing.

Where will you be a year, 2 years or 5 years from now, with the same old wounds and patterns stealing your happiness now? What’s the cost of inaction or remaining stuck?

Clinical and anecdotal evidences show that the “costs” are really high. Much higher – financially, relationally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – than temporary therapy processes.

What is your health “worth” to you? Can you put a price on your life?

Do you really want to be free?

Therapy is freedom work. It affirms and protects everyone’s God-given right to be free.

Yet I found that a lot of individuals, couples, families, and even cultures still choose to remain oppressed. Even when they realize they need to be free.

Slavery and oppression has become their home.

“I’ve a right to do whatever I want to do with her, she’s my wife,” said Ric in a marital session with his wife, Donna, of 20 years.

All throughout their marriage, Donna endured her husband’s physical beatings and verbal abuses. Sexually, she’s often overpowered and forced.

For such a long time, she never knew how or had the courage to set her self free. She made her husband’s slavery and oppression of her her home.

Slavery and oppression are of various kinds. This case is domestic/marital.

Other kinds are: political, economic, psychological or emotional, addiction, racial, parental, religious, corporate, informational, injustice to the poor, among others.

I find it appalling to see how much an oppressor, dictator, or slavemaster is able to control and dominate a victim’s life. He abuses and suppresses the victim down.

And the victim just submits and thinks it’s the way it is to be. Until the he or she feels at home to remain an oppressed slave.

I’m reminded of this man enslaved by drugs and vices. “I can’t help it!,” he claimed. When he lost everything, hit bottom, he finally chose to find ways to rehabilitate.

No oppressor wants a slave to be free. The slave has to awaken and fight to be free.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once declared, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Never Too Old or Too Late

Age moves. It cannot stop. Each age, we’re called to adapt. Otherwise, we fall or get stuck.

Archeology says, during Stone Age days, 25 was a ripe age. That’s too soon, isn’t it? Interesting, just a little over a century ago, 50 is already considered elderly. It’s a different number nowadays.

I’m in my “second wind” these days being in my 50s. I just feel different. A radical departure to an old script in which it’s assumed everything goes downward for those advancing in age.

Traditional model of retirement does not apply to me. I seem to be hitting my greatest strides only this later portion of life. For I continue to do visible, productive, and relevant work.

I constantly ask my self as a psychotherapist, “Am I effectively capitalizing my life experiences, knowledge and wisdom, in helping others?”

This perhaps may sound arrogant to you. But the clients – individuals, couples, and families – I’ve so far helped appreciated the wisdom and lived experiences I shared with them.

They expressed how much they value that they know their therapist is real.

Now, this is not to brag or I love talking about myself. I just want to share with you my own journey of finding a special discovery that could be helpful to you as age advances.

Longevity scholar Laura Carlstensen believes that humans catch the “second wind” once they hit 50 in which …

“the first 50 years could be spent learning and shaping ourselves into the kind of people who can spend our next 50 years giving back to our community”

The “second wind” is reinventing one’s self. A time to decide how to make a difference with your limited time, given your strengths, resources, and natural limits.

It’s never too late or you’re never too old to live your best, meaningful life ever.

As C.S. Lewis put it, “You’re never too old to set another goal, or to dream a new dream.”

The Benefit of Suffering

Lots of people say they choose what they want in life. Yet in reality, they’re not choosing what they say they’re choosing for their lives.

Why? What’s the matter?

Mary and William became restless after hearing an infidelity treatment assessment and prescription from their therapist.

The life recovery plan entailed focused work and taking responsibility for their individual and relationship recovery.

Both of them knew what they wanted: to save their wounded, dying marriage. But at a point of really choosing what they choose, a problem arose.

For some reason, they were trying to avoid getting well – the very thing they say they’re choosing for their marriage and family.

Both felt uneasy with strong urges to “escape” what’s difficult.

At this point, I saw what the problem is. Most avoid things they really want to have (not choosing what they choose), unconsciously avoiding painful and uncomfortable situations.

Dr. Rollo May, one of the world’s noted psychotherapists, once wrote:

“People should rejoice in suffering, strange as it sounds, for this is a sign of availability of energy to transform their characters. Suffering is nature’s way of indicating a mistaken attitude or way of behavior, and … to the non-egocentric person every moment of suffering is the opportunity for growth.”

Heraclitus said, “Where there is no strife, there is decay: the mixture which is not shaken decomposes.”

Scripture affirms what they say. “… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which had been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Sufferings and difficulties are doorways. To wholeness. Character. First-hand knowledge about life. Healing then is to quit trying to avoid the challenge of hard tasks.

There lies what’s profoundly positive, meaningful, and joyful in our lives … and truly choosing what we say we choose.