Intense People Pleasing

Hey Brooke! So I’ve been digging around on my people pleasing – and it’s deep and weird. As an introverted elementary school kid with zero friends (and parents getting a divorce) – I remember we were shown a film in class called “Cipher in the Snow”. Here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia: “The story is about an ostracized teenager, Cliff Evans, who following his parents’ divorce has no friends and becomes a completely withdrawn “cipher”. Then on a school bus, he asks to be let off, and collapses and dies in the snow near the roadside. It is implied that his death was because no one loved him”. Now – the film was supposed to be a lesson to the rest of the kids in class to not ostracize anyone – but the lesson that I took away was “Friendless lonely kids spontaneously die”.

So it was not a surprise to me that when I did a model on the thought underlying my people pleasing that I equate “being alone” with the thought “I will die”. So, to me – alone = death … so it’s better to people please your arse off – because at least one human attached to you will keep you living. I’m not sure how literally I think this – but I do know that the few times I’ve actually been alone (1 semester in college and 1 month between separation with ex-wife and finding new Partner) – those were the most excruciating, buffer-filled times of my entire life. Other than that, I’ve been glued to the hip of whomever I found. Like SO glued to the hip that if someone sees my partner today without me – they always ask “Where’s your partner?”

One concept I like is that a belief is like a table. Evidence of the belief is like a leg on the table. The more evidence (the more table legs), the stronger the belief. I think because of the incredible pain I’ve felt while alone … plus seeing friends and family members who are alone as miserable – it’s really bolstering the thought that “alone = death”. So this belief feels like truth – even though I logically know it’s not.

What’s interesting is that I feel like I’m already living the original thought in some way. Meaning — I have this thought that if I’m alone, “I Will Die”… but then to secure my place with other humans… “I” have to die. I do die. Meaning – My wants, personality, desires, goals, dreams have to die. So “I” am already dying. I’m giving up who I am – so I at least continue to survive.

Does any of this make sense? I logically know today that if I were alone (thinking about it is already giving me the heebie jeebies.. the thought is… “I couldn’t stand it. That would be horrible”) … that I could survive physically. I could go to movies and dinner and travel by myself. But the thoughts swirl in that it would be unbearable and miserable and as close to being dead without actual death.

Do you have any ideas on how to combat this – because if I’m equating “being alone” to “death” – then it’s no wonder that I’m running off to get people’s drinks and holding them like a nice little lap dog. 🙂