Thursday, March 29, 2018

When You Are A People Pleaser -Living With Trauma

I am a chronic people pleaser. I despise it and am doing my best to overcome this aspect of my personality, but deep habit's rooted in trauma are not easily over come.

I wasn't aware how ingrained my people pleasing was, until I became the parent of children with attachment disorder's of varying degree's. Suddenly I had a little person, or people as is the current case, doing their very best to show the world that their mom has some serious deficit's. Worst of all, they have super sweet charm on their side, while I play into their plan with my fumbling answer's and explanation's.

As everyone who is parenting a child with an attachment disorder is well aware of, you sometime's have rules that seem totally irrational to those outside the family. Explaining why you implement those rules doesn't help because, as one wise mom told me, "Our brain's doesn't work like that of a traumatized child so don't even try to figure out it out!" In other word's, an emotionally healthy child wouldn't need such extreme, well spelled out boundaries because their brain isn't constantly trying to come up with ways to build a barrier that will effectively keep their family from getting close and loving them. They fear love. They view love, which is the first step towards building a relationship, as serious as a death threat.

So what does this have to do with my people pleasing problem? Simply this: I want to appear competent. I want people to like me (cringe, but it's the truth) and my children's lack of attachment sets me up to fall on my nose time and time again. 

One child has well defined boundaries, and he can overstep them and still appear well behaved. He knows full well that he isn't following the rules, and as a result, he quickly becomes overstimuled if we don't step in and reinforce the boundaries. Guess what this looks like to others? Mom is picking on him, poor boy, so we will try extra hard to give him some special attention. That is where the attachment disorder pops up and hypervigilance comes into play. No one need's to say a word, the attention giver may not even be aware that they are playing this "game," but my child knows! He soaks it up and when we are once more on our own, we get to clean up the mess. Worst of all, my child has this person marked and he will always put his best foot forward in their presence and up the charm.

Another child has people charming down to a science. He would never dream of showing his true side in public. It is all smile's and grown up action's....when anyone is watching, but behind the scene's he is egging on his sibling's, then stepping back and watching them get in trouble. When mom steps in to rebuke the charmer and let's the "problem maker" off the hook, guess what it looks like? Yup, mom is being unfair and picking on one child while letting the other get away with a bad attitude. My people pleasing get's a sharp whack on the head from that one. Not that it hurt's me, but oh, how I despise it! This child is knows full well that when he does this, it makes other's think he is someone he isn't while making mom and his sibling's look bad. This is called dividing a conquering. He knows what his actions and moms response look like to others and uses that to add another layer of concrete to the wall around his heart. Most people aren't even aware that anything has happened, but my children know!

Knowing all this, one would assume that as the mom, I would do my best not to get into situations that give my children an opportunity to add to the wall around their heart. Two things come into play here: one is my people pleasing. I don't want anyone to think badly of us so I go against my better judgement and allow my children to do things that I know will probably cause problems down the road. My mentor told me I need to be more assertive, and I know she is right. I know I am not helping my children heal by allowing them to do things that I know will provide an opportunity to hone their manipulation skills.

The other problem is this, my children can, and will, use any interaction with other's to their advantage. It can be as simple as the mailman dropping off a package. My child will give him a big smile and cheery, "Hi!" The mailman will return the greeting, perhaps commenting on my child's good manner's and the damage is done. He drives off, and my child goes into his room and destroy's something. 

This happens with people who aren't strangers even more frequently because the stakes are higher. My children know if they can make mom look bad in the presence of family and friends, they will have succeeded in driving the wedge between them deeper.

I hate these interactions with a passion, so I put on my happy face (now who isn't showing true feelings????) and hunker down to weather the storm I know is coming. 

My dear friend and mentor told me I must learn to be assertive. Stand up for what my children need and bury my people pleasing tendencies. With God's help, I will do so.

Anyone else out there with this struggle? Anyone who has overcome it? If so, I would love to hear from you!

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  1. Hi! I've read your blog from time to time! I can relate to this post to some extent... We have a little one that struggles with boundaries too. It's a work in progress and I'm excited to see the progress we have made in a year!! I struggle too not assigning motives and blame on our kids for their bad choices. But everytime I get in that mindset, my relationship with my kids gets ugly. Suddenly it's me vs them instead of me and my child vs the behaviors. Our kids don't want to feel and act the way they do, but they are doing strategies that they have learned for survival from the pain and trauma they suffered. It doesn't make it okay, but until we can teach positive coping strategies and they can recognize that they are safe and loved, we can't expect them to change what had worked for them in the past. I would love to talk with you more about this if you are interested... One thing that has helped me when I'm struggling to feel love for my kids are to take my child out on a special date were we can enjoy each other. We all need reminders that we are special and loved. I struggle with people pleasing too. I find the best thing that helps me over come that is being in good relationship with my child. It sounds funny, but it makes the world of difference to me.

    1. Thank you Lauren! Keeping the right mindset is so difficult for me, especially with several children who struggle. We are working on helping them feel safe and loved, but it is difficult since they have experienced traumatic experiences, even in our home. Thanks again!


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