“The others”- the number one fear in our modern world and the number one requisite for our survival.
We are caught in this seemingly unresolvable conundrum: “can’t live with them, can’t live without them”, and pass our lives fluctuating between the two in an everlasting dance of victim-victor relationship. At times we get hurt, at times we hurt others; at times we feel superior, at others, we feel like shit.
We develop along the way navigational mechanisms to either protect or attack. In our quest for control of the outside world, we failed to realise that by getting out of the “house” and spending most of the time there; there is no one in to take care of what’s home (your inner world).
We have used our inventive genius to kill and inspire fear in thousands of ways hoping that this will earn us peace. We are honing competition skills at the highest level; we win matches, tournaments, wars abroad, yet we lose at home. In a split second, we realise that the spoils of our battles are not what we have thought. From victors, we discover ourselves victims of our make. And when the pain is too much to bear alone, we go back “out there” where we think the pain comes from, and point the finger, hold someone else responsible for how we feel.
It sounds familiar, no? Of course! We all make the same mistakes despite the cover-up story we may be telling each other, and is time we recognise this and set ourselves free from that rotten fear of others.
Let’s start with the basics: People do and will always do what they want and can from their level of understanding. The question is, how do we choose to be and engage the world?
- As victims? Are they the ones that pull your strings and press your buttons? Are you a puppet who responds to their acts?
- As co-dependents? Do you act in a certain way, dress, speak, hold yourself in a certain way waiting for their response to your efforts to then react to theirs?
If their response is favourable, you are pleased. You feel good, popular and open yourself more. They have fulfilled your expectations. They behaved the way you expected in response to either your impulses or your calculated actions. In other words, they have conformed.
As we can see, this screams: “control freak”, yet, how many are willing to admit it? We all have this issue, and this chronic need to control stems from a feeling of insecurity of our inability to control our reality, which boils down really to our inability to control ourselves, our impulses, reactions, desires… especially our feelings and emotions generated in us by the interaction with “the others”.
It is this lack of emotional and mental fitness that gets people to spend most of their time in one of the three typical responses: people pleaser, controller/manipulator or aggressor.
Pleaser – by going against our desires, willing to sacrifice our inner values just to obtain outer consideration: the others’ approval.
We engage in this type of behaviour because we know that we are emotionally unfit to deal with that dreadful feeling of rejection. Since we know what we fear, we do everything to avoid the situations facing us with our lack of emotional muscle.
Each segment of behaviour is somewhat overlapping with the others. In the strategy of trying to please others as a means to get our way, or at least to avoid pain, there is a very subtle level of control and manipulation involved.
As a pleaser, we have already predetermined how we expect others to respond to us: to like and approve of us. And that’s fine as long as both sides share common values and world-views. But when that’s not the case (and that happens to be most times), the pleaser becomes the wolf in the sheep’s skin. From apparent victims, we are in fact, subtle manipulators. What we subliminally say to “the others” is : “I’ll be nice to you because I want you to be nice back. I want you to like me, approve of me, validate me. All in all, I want you to make me feel good about myself.”
When we have the courage to brake-down into segments our behavioural patterns, we can see that what appeared to be a quality of being “Mr/Mrs Nice”, or at maximum, a personal defect who’s only victim would be, of course, ourselves, it is in fact an attempt to control the others’ responses by lowering their guard with our pleasing.
Let’s face it, it is a trade-off.
The only way we can heal our emotional insecurity is by developing emotional fitness, and only we could do that. Trying to get a fix from the outside world is equal to expecting to get the physical muscle, strength, and stamina from others doing the training for you, and you enjoying the end result.
When in a pleasing mode, people often find themselves “let down”. And no wonder! Very often the others are caught-up with their own insecurities, and when they meet with this subliminal yet strong demand for attention, they recognise it as a threat to the attention they have to give themselves, or as a similar pattern they are in. Meaning, needy, all ready for receiving and nowhere near for giving. So, naturally, they will move away.
The best checkpoint in identifying if we are in a pleasing or genuine mode is within ourselves.
Any genuine feeling or emotion is existent independently of how others think, feel or respond to us. When we are friendly and kind to others because this is how we feel, there is no expectation from the others, and therefore, no manipulation of their reaction through ours. At best, there is hope that they will receive us well, at worst, if they didn’t, we had nothing to lose by being ourselves. We did what we felt like doing, respecting their freedom to do just as we did. If they don’t seem to be on the same wavelength as us, what would appear to the pleaser as a “rejection”, will be to the genuine, emotionally-fit individual just a matter of a responsible acknowledgement of others’ rights: “Hey, not everybody is the same. You can’t please everybody, and we don’t seem to have much in common; end of story.”
A pleaser will not be able to respect others’ rights to be the way they feel and want because, in their trade-off, they’ve sacrificed exactly this personal freedom. Their reaction will be that of entitled indignation: “How dare you! I let myself down to please YOU, and all you can think of is pleasing yourself? How selfish!”
The other didn’t buy into this trading of personal interests, and so the pleaser finds themselves at a double loss. First, for not honouring their true feelings, and second, by not having them honoured by the addressee of their expectations.
It is this self-made double loss the one giving us that shameful, painful feeling of “losers” when met with rejection.
You cannot be rejected by someone from whom you had no demand. How could you? More to the point, you could not be rejected by anyone! You are here, the way you are and still present, whether others like it or not. The only one who gets booted is your demand, your ego, not yourself.
The emotional fitness is nothing but an honest self-inventory of our behaviours and the true intention behind our acts, gestures and words. It is the result of exercising the inner muscle of self-honesty that will give us a better understanding of our own flaws while teaching us to be at peace with the others’.
How to identify these parasite behaviours
First, we have to understand that no one is exempt from falling into one or more of these parasitic patterns, so, as Jesus said, let’s leave the sentencing to those without a fault.
If for example, you don’t like yourself, you will most likely act in one of the three behavioural patterns here described:
You’ll either try to please others so they will like you in compensation; or
You will try to control others by manipulating their emotions into a state of dependence: love, attraction, unfulfilled passion, admiration towards you. This is the classic behavioural pattern of over-controlling mothers towards their sons and the typical pattern of serial flirts. The last ones are addicted to people proving them their power of attraction to a reckless point of disconsidering entirely the others’ feelings. From here, there is only a tiny step towards the most dysfunctional behavioural pattern of a narcissistic pervert.
Or, you would have developed an aggressive response to those who don’t seem to have it your way.
What we must see here is not the patterns themselves but the reason for us falling prey to them:
Not honouring our true feelings and emotions. When we are not true to ourselves, we feel pushed to do the same to others.
Not tending to our insecurities by first acknowledging them, and secondly, by giving ourselves that which we expect from others: love, kindness, appreciation, care, tolerance, be there for ourselves when we most need it, and that is most times. Instead of being “out there” too busy with conquering, charming and subduing others to our will, we ought to start home, with the person who needs the most all of the above: oneself!
It is from this emotional training that we develop our emotional fitness. It is from this clean and uncompromised inner state that we also get to understand things for what they are and not judge them for what they appear to be, and that includes the others, of course.
When we face these inner truths, we become wiser, and when we encounter these patterns, we respond to them with a tolerance inexistent before: “I used to do that too”. Instead of engaging in ego-clashes, we back-down without a sense of defeat or victory, but instead, with a feeling of compassion for the person we used to be, exhibited to us by the person in front of us.
It is in these magic moments of transformative awareness when we realise how futile and small our attempts to impress, charm, control and bully are. And we will encounter them again and again in others as a test of our proficiency of the lesson learned until we have fully integrated it. As soon as we have crossed that threshold, there will be no encounter with these behavioural patterns because there is no need for them and nothing more to learn on the subject. There will be others, and they will require the same level of self-enquiry until we develop each emotional muscle into the adulthood of the evolved human being we are about to become.
© GRAȚIELA ROȘU – CWS COACHING* 2018