When we're young, we develop certain unconscious “programs” to help us survive. Continuing the example from last week's email, perfectionism is one example of such a strategy. “If I'm perfect, THEN I'll belong and be loved” (AKA: survive). Other unconscious programs including controlling, avoiding, distracting or people-pleasing, which I first read about in Heather Ash Amara's book Warrior Goddess Training,
Controlling: this is a strategy for managing the world and controlling our circumstances. The benefit of this strategy is that it helps us to organize, plan and create a road map to achieve specific goals. The drawback here is that controlling comes with attachment. We're continually looking at how to manipulate our environment to create a particular outcome. When I was in school, I was attached to the goal of getting good grades because, in my mind, grades equaled status. This strategy can be exhausting. It can also create distance between you and other people because if you're constantly strategizing for forcing outcomes with people, they're bound to feel manipulated.
People-Pleasing: when you use this strategy your needs and goals become secondary to the needs and goals of others. Pleasing people makes you feel liked, loved, safe and validated. According to Amara, “pleasers believe that they will only be accepted when they are helping others…their gifts are sensitivity and an aptitude for sacred service.” All good things, right? The downside with this strategy is that it can leave you feeling victimized, resentful, hyper-vigilant and distrusting.
For a while, these programs work well enough (or not!), but as we age, they can become harder to keep up, and can lead to feelings of disconnection, loneliness, and resentment. The reason is that they're all ways of being that keep us from confronting what's REALLY going on.
I encourage you to sit with these two descriptions. Assume you use both (most of us do) and ask yourself,
- “Where am I using these strategies?”
- “How do they manifest in my behavior?”
- “What’s the underlying need I’m trying to meet by controlling or people-pleasing?”
Let me know what you discover!