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Someone who is a people pleaser may have difficulty saying “no”, and I think this type of client warrants more attention, because so many people fall into this category.

You will be familiar with the trauma patterns of fight, flight, freeze. More recently there is talk of “fawn” or “friend”. This is a people pleaser. As a child you can be pretty sure that they were a good girl or boy, and got approval in that way.

The fight/flight/freeze response can come from a single event (a trauma for that person). In my experience the people pleasing behaviour will come from repeated patterns where the individual learns as a child that the best way to behave is to be helpful, or sweet, or to work hard at school and get good grades.

Good areas to explore might be childhood, and whom she/he had to please or keep the peace between.

People pleasing is a common trait where there is a dominant parent or conflict between parents, and is essentially a trauma response, but one that builds over time.

As adults, these people are often perfectionists, over-workers, high achievers and put everyone else before themselves. At their extreme, they can become doormats to a dominant partner or family member or boss (they are great employees because they work hard with little complaint), and are at risk of burn-out or adrenal fatigue. A history of glandular fever (mononucleosis) is common as are throat issues (difficulty speaking up for themselves).

Working with people pleasers can be delightful (and challenging) because they want to please you, the practitioner! They may exaggerate a drop in the intensity, to gain approval! They may not be 100% honest about the progress they are making.

The basis of healing will be around feeling safe to say “no”, and to express their needs, and to say “I’ll do that tomorrow/next week/never”.

I have many clients whom I’ve challenged to be a “naughty girl or boy”, which may equate to leaving the washing up in the sink until morning, or to leave the ironing this week. We’re not talking about joy-riding or shop-lifting here! They are always delighted to tell me about the “naughty” thing they did and how it felt really good.

By the way, probably 90% of the people I train to become practitioners fall into this category too, so it’s a really good idea to continue working on your own patterns of people pleasing and finding the events, and the core beliefs that you formed as a child.

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