Archive for April 18th, 2011
Street Angel – House Devil
Here is still another Variant of the Pleasing Lifestyle. Let’s call him Larry. He and Diane have three children. At home, Larry is a tyrant, he can be cruel and vicious, his criticisms of the children cut to the bone, he demands perfection and is angry when he doesn’t get it, which means all the time.
What confuses the children is not their father’s bullying, it is the complete turnabout that he makes in public. At church socials, grownups tell them how lucky they are to have such a kind, generous, good natured father. The kids look at each other in amazement. They usually conclude that their “badness” is the cause of their father’s severity. Father seems to be getting on so well with everyone else. It must be their fault. They blame themselves for their own victimization.
Larry’s two roles are not mutually exclusive or inconsistent. He holds himself in contempt. He is angry at himself. He can only hold his wife and children in the same contempt that he holds himself, and he treats them pretty much as he was treated as a child. He never relieved the anger from his own soul-destroying childhood.
People who are not his own flesh and blood are another matter. They are not worthy of contempt. They are worthy of respect by virtue of the fact that they are not flesh of his flesh. He works hard to please them and win their favor. Not because he is truly good natured or compassionate, but to relieve his anxieties and insecurities. His “good humor” is not sincere, it is a phony charm that he can turn on and off like a porch light.
Both aspects of his nature are extreme, and both are self-serving and unhealthy. There is no middle ground for Larry, or for his wife and kids, either. Wife Diane is no match for the negative strength of Larry’s character. He soon stopped wasting his “goodness” on his new bride, and quickly pressed her into the role of victim. The children rejected mother’s example, and found pieces of their father’s role that they could stake out for themselves.
One child may grow up and follow his father’s hot and cold example. A second child may specialize in emulating Larry’s viciousness across the board, not just at home. The third child may be so thankful to get out of that house alive that he counts his blessings, but he spends his life pleasing others so they won’t victimize him as his father did. He may even come to respect himself for having survived the ordeal of his childhood, for having the courage and the wit to make a life for himself in spite of his father’s joy-killing example. He may over-compensate by bringing extra joy and gratification into his own children’s lives.
Since these children won’t have an example of self-respect to follow, each one will have to find his own self-created solution to the problems of adult living. Since most children do not know how to solve such problems (beyond keeping themselves alive, which is bare minimum), their self-created solutions often turn out to be no solution at all.
The Problem Solver
Some Pleasers specialize in problem solving. They can’t stand to see people suffering, so they take other people’s problems as their own. Some of them have a knack for it, and they can give other people new insight into what is going on. They reveal new choices that they didn’t know they had.
Some Problem Solvers, however, have no talent at all. All they have are useless Good Intentions. They dither and blather but nothing useful comes out. They have an ulterior motive in wanting to solve the problem. They want to stop having to look at it.
There’s a volunteer problem solver in every office, every store, every Elk’s club. There’s one at every cocktail party, bridge game, every coffee klatch. Some of them get calls at 2 am, even calls from across the country. These callers do not really want answers, they want free attention and service from someone who is vulnerable enough to give it to them, someone they can count on not to say, “Don’t you know it’s 2 o’clock in the morning,” for fear of giving offense.
This is co-dependency, not friendship. Each party is using the other for pernicious reasons of their own. The problem is not the issue, the problem is feeling inadequate and invalid and the resulting need to get validation where they can find it. They get attention from their client, they feel superior even if it’s only for a moment. No one is getting better; these people cannot help themselves, how can they help each other? Neither one knows what self-respect is nor how to get it.
The Antidote is to realize that this person is not a friend, but a user. This person will not be there when you need help. The person who is a Crisis Junkie has nothing to give and wouldn’t give it if she could. That is not her agenda.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )