The need to please others is one of the most important social skills for all human beings. Appropriately pleasing one another keeps us connected and helps us to survive and thrive together. The challenge comes when your pattern of habitual pleasing is your only response to life.
We are familiar with this predicament. We were raised in families with completely different backgrounds, yet we both decided at an early age that being helpful and pleasing is a good way to go through life. It was so ingrained in our way of thinking that we often didn’t notice our internal chatter, constantly planning how to fix a situation or be helpful, even when not asked.
Playing the Rescuer role in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) ™, means you may have a hypervigilant voice that is stuck on focusing on the needs of others over your own, in hopes you will get love in return. Growing up you may have heard: “Don’t be selfish,” or “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” There’s nothing wrong with this guidance unless you are so rooted in a cycle of habitual pleasing you haven’t learned other ways of responding to life.
Here are a few habitual pleasing traits that drive the Rescuing role:
- Your personal sense of worth is determined by what others think of you;
- Conflict or seeing people unhappy triggers your desire to fix the situation;
- You jump in to help, even when you are not asked or it’s none of your business;
- You placate and ultimately withhold your real opinion so as not to rock the boat; and/or
- You often feel exhausted by the constant obligation to be helpful and a craving to be loved.
If a few of these traits describe your way of going through life, eventually the burden of constantly needing to help becomes more of an obligation than a joy. Even worse, when stuck in the pleasing trap you may become manipulative to get your way, and then justify it by saying, “I was only trying to help!”
For those of you that do not identify with these emotional needs, have compassion for those who do. Most likely you have other strategies to get love and approval. We all do.
Admitting to yourself that you are stuck in a habitual pleasing cycle is hard. It takes a lot of courage to see that underneath it all, there is a degree of self-righteousness that you are the only one that can fix a situation.
The paradox is that your motivation to be helpful will prevent others from taking responsibility and choosing their response to situations. Ultimately those you are trying to help will likely feel victimized by your intervening, reacting to you as a Persecutor.
When stuck in habitual pleasing, you may not understand your own needs. Even though you wouldn’t want other people to ignore their needs, you are unaware of how you have eluded yours. When someone suggests focusing on your own self-care, you may privately wonder, “What is self-care? I don’t even understand what that means. If I take a day off or even a few hours to myself, I feel guilty and everything will fall apart.”
Believing in the possibility that someday your needs may be met is balm for your soul.
When you see the truth about your habitual need to please, you are taking a powerful step toward your own well-being and escaping the DDT. There’s no need to over-react or worry that you will become selfish. Instead, see your passion and caring as a positive potential that you can build upon.
We encourage you to nurture your ability to be comfortable with conflict and simply notice your compulsion to “do something” about the situation. As you notice the urge to please arise, just observe it as your compulsion to fix things comes and go. Others will tell you what they need or want if you wait, and listen.