Life is a Highway, I Wanna Ride it all Night Long

Saturday, August 20, 2011

People Pleasers and Hurt People, Hurt People

I am a known people pleaser, always wanting everyone to get along and enjoy each other together.  While that maybe a tall order to some, an exercise in futility to others, and idealistic and unrealistic, even over expectatious to a large group, I remain who I am and believe it can be accomplished if we will first put on a sensitive and appreciative spirit towards others.  

The challenge as it goes with people pleasers is that they are steady, supportive and encouraging UNTIL, we get hurt by the another person.  We then lash out in pain, and it seems to others that our reaction is a contradiction to who we are and is therefore often misunderstood.  

You see in a people pleaser's world we see things as temporal - tomorrow isn't just another day, we aren't promised tomorrow, so resolve and harmony is very important today, this hour, this minute, this second, because you may not get another chance.  In a people pleasers mind we don't want others to hurt and while that isn't always possible, then we will settle for resolve and quick resolve. "Why?" you ask.  Because you see a people pleaser knows what it is like to lose someone prior to making things right again.  That pain is so unrelenting for them, they live it out daily and therefore don't want anyone else to experience the same pain ever. 

When a people pleaser is hurt by someone, they will work to overlook or go to immediately resolve it.  If it keeps happening they will finally do one of two things "lash out, OR retreat"  I know it seems like a contradiction.  After all, other's DO have a right to feel their emotions, however they don't have a right to act out on those emotions in a way that hurts others.

I found this piece (See below) by a counselor named John Alston.  His article really hit home with me, and I wanted to share it for others that maybe also dealing with hurt.  Please take away from it what you need and give the credit to Mr. Alston.

It's just me, Val.  Ciao!

Hurt People, Hurt People
By John Alston
Dec 13, 2005, 10:36Hurt people, hurt people." In other words, people who hurt others with their actions and words are people who are hurting inside themselves! When someone lashes out at another person, they are expressing their hurt in a destructive and irresponsible manner. Feelings of hurt and pain are normal parts of everyday life. Therefore, it is important to find solutions to our problems that are constructive and responsible in order to enjoy the pleasures that life has to offer, as well.

Feelings never tell us what to do. They only tell us that something requires our attention. So negative feelings can play a positive role in our lives. We must put ourselves in control of the painful emotions rather than be controlled by them. The first step in taking control is to ask the question, "What is causing these feelings?"

Sometimes the cause of the feelings is from recent events-job loss or health decline. Other times, the cause is a manifestation of negative emotion from long ago-unresolved issues of adolescence. Take the time to ask the question, think, and seek answers. This is important whether you are the one who is angry or the one who is on the receiving end of an angry person's wrath.

If you are angry and find yourself hurting others, here are some things that should help you deal with your feelings in a more constructive way:

1. Be mindful that you are entitled to the full range of feelings that life has to offer, one of which is pain. Make up your mind that you are not entitled to hurt others with those feelings. It is normal to feel pain. It is unacceptable to inflict it.

2. Take note of what makes you want to act ugly, sullen, and resentful. Is there a pattern? Do your assumptions about people and life need adjustments so that you're not so upset by (often unrelated or minor) irritants?

3. Remain current with your feelings and needs. Don't put off taking care of yourself. Feel pain, acknowledge it, and search for solutions. Reactions that are solution-oriented help you find good ways to deal with hurt.

4. Change you attitude about hurt. This allows you to avoid hurt in the first place. By this, I don't mean you should avoid things that make you feel bad. Adopt a personal policy not to let negative emotion control you. When you decide to take control, pain can't fester into an uncontrollable monster.

5. Don't choose the pain. I hate to say this, but some people hurt, because they choose to hurt. They decide that something is worth suffering over and believe that they need to "dwell here now." That's not to say that you should no longer discriminate between right and wrong. However, be more discriminating about that on which you're willing to expend mental energy.

6. Approach people and situations with patience and understanding. This causes you to slow down and act less impulsively. Imagine that a child spills milk at the table and an adult goes bonkers. The adult hasn't stopped to think about the fact that when children are growing up, the latter are clumsy at different developmental stages by nature, and that the spilt milk was not intentional or the result of laziness.

7. Look for non-destructive ways to express your anger. Being current, as previously mentioned, is one way. Others include, but are not limited to, taking slow deep breaths, biting your tongue, holding in your stomach, counting to ten, meditating, contemplating and praying. All of us do better when we control our impulses when expressing anger.

If you're someone who finds yourself in a hurt person's line of fire, you need some tools to manage their feelings as well as your own. Some options include:

1. Let them vent. Listen to their frustrations before you speak or act. Never interrupt, because until you hear their story, you know nothing. Find out as much as you can about the source of their pain and you'll know why they're angry.

2. Assess your level of responsibility in causing their pain. If you are directly involved, take responsibility and make things right. However, often you will find that you are not the target or cause of the pain. If you were just in the right place at the right time, don't take it personally.

3. Adopt an attitude of forgiveness. Try to understand that when people are hurt, they don't always think clearly and they say things that they don't really mean. It's easy to be consumed with reciprocal anger, so avoid the urge by forgiving them.

4. Be mindful of how you respond to them. The goal is to make things better, not worse. Sometimes they just want someone to acknowledge their pain. You can do so by saying something like, "I don't know just what to do to help you right now, but I want you to know how sorry I am about this."

5. Take control of your own feelings. Don't give up your power to them by allowing their words to control the way you respond. Their pain, even when directed at you, does not define you.

Hurt people can only hurt others if allowed to do so. With adults, know that you can judge the size of a person by the size of the things that they allow to make them angry. Yes, we've all had initial feelings of hurt as the result of others' actions and words. But, when we take a moment to really look at the situation, all of us have the power to draw the line and refuse to accept another's hurt.

Remember that people say and do boneheaded things from time to time without thinking. People forget, lose their tempers, underachieve by our standards, break promises, cheat, lie and do other things that disappoint us. Make allowances for people's differences. Human beings make errors. Values amongst us are varied. If you keep your standards very high, you are subject to be more sensitive around people with low standards. If you have low standards, you will feel offended and slighted by those who have high standards. That said, the bottom line is this: when someone is hurting someone else, they are acting from a place of pain and hurt. Diminish the hurt to make room for enrichment. Instead of hurt people hurting people, you then have enriched people enriching people.

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John Alston, CSP, CPAE is an internationally known Performance Strategist whose programs have lifted the spirits of millions of people worldwide. He works with people who want to improve their lives, and with organizations who encourage personal achievement and character development. Even off the platform, John's insights captivate audiences through four books he's authored: Life is a Gift, Don't Trash It; Talking with Teens in Turbulent Times; Goodness Must Be Taught; and his latest, Stuff Happens (Then You Fix It!). For more information about John Alston, visit his website at

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