People pleasing, attachment, and writing a book: a car ramble

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Here’s what happens when I have time in the car to myself to think.  If you’d like to learn a little bit more about attachment and people pleasing, take a listen.  The first 30 seconds is me laughing at myself for setting rigid goals about word count for the book I’m writing.  See full transcript below.

NB: I was driving home from a training on parts work, so my brain was a little scrambled.

I think about the goal I had/have for 50,000 words, that feels like a very left-shifted goal. Words, how many of them, vs have you told the things you need to tell?

So I’m just thinking about the project or the task, the undertaking of writing this book and wanting to invite the qualities I am teaching into the process of writing, of being gentle, reflective, not pressured or forced.

Patience is an intervention.

Patience in parenting.  Patience reflects trust. Patience conveys a felt sense of safety because it shows “I trust this process, I trust you. There’s nothing you need to do at this moment.” Patience does not have agenda about what happens next. Patience requires or enlists a broad, deep cup of energy for holding, for waiting, for not knowing, and for curiosity, presence and trust. Trust. Trust.

Patience is an embodied practice of trust. When I think about how good it feels to receive the message from someone else, “I trust you. I trust you. I don’t feel a need to correct you, instruct you, teach you, force you. I trust you.”

I think about how shame is the opposite of trust— not opposite, but pretty far over on that opposite side somewhere. It’s ‘You’re doing it wrong, you are wrong, you need correcting.’

If you feel a need to correct someone, you don’t trust them. I mean correct as different than a boundary— a boundary is not contingent on someone else changing. Because we can’t control another person— ever. True. We cannot control other people. True.

People pleasing is a form of self-abandonment and a lack of trust in one’s self. And others. If one truly is on one’s own side, if one trusts oneself and trusts in one’s worthiness, which is what one would say is self esteem and good emotional health and all that— the gifts of secure attachment.

If one has that, one has trust in oneself because one’s caregivers looked at you and showed in all their mannerisms, their eyes, their delight, their curiosity, their boundaries, they said, “I trust you. I trust you. And I trust myself. I trust you in this moment, and I trust my ability to hold and respond to whatever comes next. If the dish gets broken, I trust that we’ll be able to handle it.’

There’s a resilience— trust cultivates resilience, and trust comes from resilience. It’s a ripple that moves in both directions. And I would say that trust is very much a representation of a felt sense of safety, so when you trust yourself, that’s a form of self love. It’s ‘I have my own back, I believe in myself, I believe in my worthiness, but also, I believe and feel and know that I have my own back, that I’m worthy of protecting and able to protect and care for myself. I deserve this and I know how to do it. And I also have a sense of trust in myself in my ability to learn and grow and make mistakes and that that will be okay. I trust life.’

And again, I think that comes from love bestowed and trust bestowed in parents to their children and this does not happen in disorganized attachment for obvious reasons. It doesn’t happen with disorganization [I meant to say dismissiveness here] more through the scarcity of I can’t trust what I don’t even know, I don’t know my feelings, I don’t trust them and they’re held outside of awareness, and so I can’t know your psyche if I don’t know my own.

If I can’t measure it, I don’t trust it. If I can’t control it, I don’t trust it and I don’t want it.

With preoccupation, it’s the helicopter parent, it’s intrusiveness, it’s unchecked parental anxiety that gets imposed on the child whether through pressure to perform (this can also show up with dismissiveness), perfectionism.  Perfectionism belies a lack of trust–there’s no safety to learn new things, no safety for error, no safety for play, it’s very much in sympathetic activation around performance not play. Polished, not progression and evolution of learning. It’s fixed, static, like a trophy that sits on a top shelf and slowly gathers dust.

So in preoccupation, the lack of trust is conveyed parent to child through parental anxiety, intrusiveness, and in the child in that they receive different parents at different times.

Sometimes warm and available, sometimes cold and disconnected and the volatility of that erodes and undermines trust in the bond and one way of coping is the checking. “Are you there, are you with me, are you with me?” … and the behaviors of checking can undermine future relationships and those bonds because it’s like pulling up a plant by the roots to check and see if it’s growing. If you do it enough, the plant will die.

In disorganization the trust is eroded in a different way, where the weathervane of the unpredictability and the chaos is more explosive, more violent, or has contempt or sadism. It has more extremes in it, it’s veined with some of the worst forms of abuse and neglect, and its the embodiment of terror and other undigested forms of trauma that leak out into the bond between parent and child.

A parent dissociating and a child watching someone’s vacant expression and knowing that nobody’s home— tucking a drunk parent into bed and caretaking believe that there’s something organizing in that role of caretaking that doesn’t have the chaos. The role is organizing in that the chaos is external in the family system.

Whereas in disorganization there’s no riding that bull. Like the havens are few and far between, being very good still doesn’t earn you safety the way that it can in a family system with more of that enmeshment and intrusiveness and preoccupation. You can’t earn safety in a system that’s laced with lots of disorganization in the same that you can with a family system that’s oriented more around anxious attachment.

There are rules you can pretty predictably play by in family systems– the first two— but with disorganization, you can’t. That’s why you never have a place to land, you’re constantly circling with no gas in the tank and no landing strip. There’s no place to come home to, so you’re just endlessly circling and circling and circling.

I think with people pleasers, unconsciously the flip side of the ‘I want control’ are the parts deeply wanting rescue, looking for a lap to climb into, looking for a warm nest, looking for approval. ‘Please approve of me, please love me.’ And the approval piece, if we approve of ourselves, if we trust ourselves, if we love ourselves, we are not bent by the whims of other people, we are not at the mercy of their opinions.

If we have parents who can tuck us in with trust in our younger years, we carry that with us, the gift of that secure bond. And it’s not just a bond between but a bond within, a connection to a sense of self that cannot be eroded, cannot be eroded by the difficulties of life, it is resilience in the face of that because it lives inside. ‘I’ll be able to handle this.’

There’s a sense of competence, agency, trust. Trust vs mistrust, autonomy vs doubt, industry vs inferiority, that right there, we’re talking about Erik Erikson.

Hey buddy, how ya doing? Alright, that’s enough for now.

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