“Self, Other, We.” Part 4: The Pleaser

“Self, Other, We.”

Part 4: The Pleaser

If the Avoider could be described as self-sufficient, self-reliant and requiring little to no emotional reassurance from others, then The Pleaser would be just the opposite.

June was happy her husband was in such a good mood on their first Saturday off in two weeks. She had gotten up early and made George’s favorite breakfast of bacon, eggs, and waffles. As breakfast was finishing, June brought coffee refills to her husband as he finished showering. After breakfast, she watched her husband’s mood suddenly darken as he was gazing out the window. He bolted out the back-door muttering obscenities under his breath. Panic overtook June and she followed him onto the driveway. “What’s wrong George?” she screamed. George stood there motionless staring at the fluid puddle coming out from underneath his newly purchased SUV. When June saw the leak on the driveway she became nauseous and dizzy.

She hovered over George who by now was under the vehicle with rags and tool boxes. She kept trying to get some word of assurance from George but he had clammed up and was oblivious to her distress. “Here is a pillow for your head”, “I don’t need a #$@*# pillow.” Just then, his elbow knocked over a glass of water. “Who put that *&%@# glass there.” “I was just trying to help” June said sheepishly. “If I want water, I’ll get it myself! Leave me alone!!”

As June walked away, she thought to herself, “My day is ruined.”

Self: Whereas the Avoider is self-sufficient and seemingly not in need of others, the Pleaser in contrast is highly insecure about themselves. Self isn’t strong enough to manage life by themselves. Somewhere in their past they experienced fear, criticism, or confusion that lead to a hypervigilant fixation upon others for guidance, reassurance, and affirmation. Self simply isn’t enough, they need someone to hold their hand to help them walk through life.

Other: Instead of a hypo-dependence upon others like the Avoider, they have a hyper-dependence upon others telling them in one way or another that they are ok. Hence the Pleaser is ok only if Other is ok. Thus, June was unable to differentiate from George and his mood became her mood. How sad that her day was “ruined” because George was upset.

We: So, June could not separate from the distressing situation. In her hypervigilance, she kept trying to guess what would make George happy. Pillow? Glass of water? As sweet as these gestures may seem, they were vain attempts to do something pleasing so she could feel better. Her gifts were disingenuous. They weren’t for him, rather they were for herself. Her well-meaning but ill-timed intrusions only further separated them. “We” as gone. She was alone and scared.

Growth Goals: Not a pretty picture! Lest you feel my portrayal of the pleaser is too harsh, may I say that I was in fact writing about my own life (changing genders of course). It was a miserable existence and very debilitating. One day I became aware of the pattern and was sickened by it. I decided I had to grow up, become an emotional adult and leave the old me behind. The growth goals for the Pleaser are located on pages 326-333 of our book How We Love as well as ways to help the pleaser if you are married to one. Here are a few growth highlights that helped me.
• A decision to leave this broken part of me behind.
• Asking Kay to tell me when she saw the unhealthy Pleaser manifesting in relationship, thus, learning to tolerate criticism and disapproval.
• I had to learn to separate from the distress of others. I learned to see their distress but to not be undone by it. Over time, I learned to observe, comment and offer help and then walk away and wait for their request for help… If it ever came. Many times, they solved the problem themselves.
• I learned to separate from others to allow them to travel the emotional difficulties we all experience without going on their ride. As a result, I learned to be concerned but not consumed by the distress and fluctuations of others.
• I learned to be ok by myself and build self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and self-regulation when stressed and alone. I realized my scared feelings were the “little me” inside a grown man’s body. The inside didn’t match the outside. By tackling graduate school, triathlons, and martial arts, I learned to cope with stress and adversity, stand strong and prevail.
• Lastly, I leaned to tolerate being still and quiet for long periods of time. I learned to face the fearful emotions that bubbled up. And guess what? I didn’t die. Eventually I’ve become very comfortable with solitude and silence even in the presence of others.

Ironically, I’ve never felt closer to others.

Thanks for listening,
Milan (for Kay and Milan)

NEW – Therapist Training DVD Series!

We are SO excited to announce that we have a new product specifically designed for Therapists, Counselors and other lay people who want to learn Milan and Kay’s approach to using Attachment Theory in a counseling setting.

Most couples can describe their core pattern; a repetitive, reactive interchange that happens over and over. Many therapists try to modify the symptoms and complaints generated by this frustrating dance without understanding and addressing the roots. These tenacious cycles are created as each spouse’s attachment injuries collide in marriage. In our approach (Attachment Core Pattern Therapy) we help couples define the attachment wounds that drive the cycle and recognize the source of their reactivity. We help couples recognize the core pattern as the enemy, not each other. Breaking out of the core pattern and moving toward secure connection is the goal of ACPT Couples Therapy. Singles, divorcees, and individuals can identify their attachment style, deepen their self-awareness and understand why others react in predictable ways.

This 6 hour course includes:
Two DVD’s and 93 power point slides.
Syllabus 100 pages including
Six Attachment Styles
Explanations of the most common core patterns
Therapist and client friendly diagrams to identify attachment styles and core patterns
Evaluations
Handouts you can copy and give to couples.
A copy of the Vacillator/Avoider Core Pattern. This is one of the most common core patterns of couples seeking therapy and the file contains a diagram of the core pattern and a full description of this interaction with interventions and growth goals

For more information, including and introductory video from Milan and Kay, please click here.

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Also, please join us for our annual Therapist Training in Orange County, CA on July 28th, 2017. For more information, or to register for this event, please click here.

“Self, Other, We.” Part 3: The Avoider… Part 2

“Self, Other, We.”

Part 3: The Avoider… Part 2

I thought it prudent to pause in the series to respond to a great question from one of our readers named Olivia. I hope her question and my response will be helpful to many of you in your journey of love.

Your post https://howwelove.com/blog/self-other-we-part-2-the-avoider/17654/ resonated with me. I got to the end and really wished for a section on growth goals for *the person dealing with an avoider*. My husband is the avoider, and we are in a vicious cycle in which I keep pointing out ways in which he is not “there” for me, and he keeps trying to “make up for it.” But when what he does is a reaction to my disappointment/anger and not something initiated of his own desire and will, I can’t bring myself to accept it as a meaningful expression of his love. If you can’t tell yet, I’m the vacillator. Is he just not capable of what I want and therefore I’m continually beating him up emotionally for not doing the impossible? Please help.

Dear Olivia,
Thank you for your wonderful question. Here are a few suggestions that you can find in our book How We Love on pages 324-326 in the section “Helping Avoiders.”
1. Please understand that your anger at his inability to “see you” the way you want to be seen will be the primary precipitator of the vicious cycle you describe. In other words, your abandonment wounds fuel the rage you feel when he is not attentive to your emotional needs. This is the first area you must work on, if not you will permanently hold him at arm’s length and you’ll never become close because he will be afraid of you. Spend time in the Vacillator section of the workbook to work on your historical losses. Share your thoughts with him in a humble way and ask him for help in your recovery.
2. Stay Calm: Anger repels them and causes them to clam up. Share vulnerable emotions i.e. I’m lonely, scared etc. Being angry with Avoiders for their lack of emotional development is like being angry with your bicycle because it won’t go fast enough on the freeway. It simply can’t keep up with the cars in its present condition.
3. Give gentle feedback when they pull away. Let them know they just faded away in the discussion. Ask them where they went? Ask if they were emotionally triggered which led to shutting down. Empathize with their discomfort and pain. Give them time to recover.
4. Tell them you want to understand their history. There is a reason they don’t connect emotionally. They never learned how!!!! They were never asked how they felt or what emotions they were experiencing in life.
5. Don’t discount small efforts: The most consistent complaint we hear from spouses of Vacillators is “I can never do it right.” Your “lack of acceptance” of his attempts at love will only discourage and dissuade him from even trying. Learn to say “Thank you.”
I hope this is helpful, even if it is a small start. Kay is a fully recovered avoider, so I resonate with your frustration in the early years of our marriage. I had to follow these steps myself and they really worked!!!!
Thanks for listening,
Milan

“Self, Other, We.” Part 2: The Avoider

“Self, Other, We.”

Part 2: The Avoider

“Can’t you see me struggling? I do all the work of going to Costco, the least you could do is help me get these heavy boxes through the door! Are you blind? You just sit there staring at your phone. Don’t just look at me, say something!”

Carrie sat there motionless… her mind spinning and searching for something to say. All she could think of was how to get off the hot seat. No words came. She just froze and stared.

Finally, she got up and went to the car, filled her arms with groceries and made the first of three round trips. After going back outside to close the car doors, Carrie decided to get busy and wash the car. “Maybe that will make him happy” she thought.

Sound familiar? Of course! We have all encountered emotionally avoidant individuals who seemingly cannot “see” others very well. How does the Avoider love style relate to the concepts of “Self, Other, We?”

Self: Having grown up in a home where they did not experience emotional and relational connection with an attuned parent, they were inadvertently trained to believe they were on their own. Just like the 1099 contractor who operates independently and rarely consults with others, the Avoider’s natural perception of “self” is that they are on their own to figure out life. Operating out of this self- sufficient base, they correspondingly assume others are similar and will eventually figure out how to go it alone just like they do.

Other: Because they were never trained to examine their own emotions, they lack self- awareness and self-reflection skills. As a result, they are unskilled in correlating the link between their indescribable emotional states and the reactions they produce. For when Carrie was emotionally distressed, all she knew to do was to busy herself with the task of washing the car. She had no awareness that emotional stress was animating her behavior. Most importantly, she did not know how to take her stress into relationships for relief. Because of her own deficiencies, her ability to detect distress in her husband was non-existent. Because she could not see into her own soul, she was unable to anticipate the emotional needs of others or have empathy for their struggle.

We: Lastly, the self-sufficient person doesn’t need others. So why would her husband need her help unload the groceries? She had learned from an early age that others were of little practical use, so she’d had grown used to not needing them. So why did her husband need her? “We” is complicated and messy, so “me” is all I need!

After washing the car, Carrie returned to the kitchen and asked, “So what’s for lunch?” It never crossed her mind to talk with her husband about the earlier altercation.

Growth Goals for the emotionally avoidant individual: Should you decide that you’ve experienced the above scenario one too many times and that you are tired of the pain it creates here are some steps you can take every day for the rest of your life that will yield better relational outcomes.
1. Remind yourself daily of your decision to not stay the way your family your shaped you. Back then you were not a voting member, but now you have a choice to transform your life toward a more secure connector which will open new relational vistas.
2. Carry a feelings word list with you wherever you go. When you’re uncomfortable inside, find the word(s) on the list that best describe your emotional state. Write them down in a small pocket journal along with the date.
3. Say the words aloud to yourself several times throughout the day.
4. At the end of the day when you are reunited with loved ones, take a deep breath, and share your emotional words with your family (age appropriate).
5. With the Soul Words list available for others to see, take another deep breath, and ask each family member what emotions they felt throughout the day. Get ready to have a meaningful conversation. Don’t fix anyone, just listen, repeat back what you heard and validate to them how difficult that may have been.
6. Group hug.

Thanks for listening,
Milan & Kay

Next Week: The Pleaser

“Self, Other, We.”

“Self, Other, We.”

When she was two years old, Lindsey had learned that when she was uncomfortable or distressed, she could turn to Mom and Dad for help. There she would find relief and comfort from attentive and attuned parents. Additionally, their soothing touch and voice tones would settle her agitation and she would feel peaceful. Though pre-verbal and unable to comprehend the attachment process that was taking place, powerful lessons were being deposited deep into her soul that would become an imprint that would last a lifetime.

As she graduated from college at twenty-two years of age, she found herself facing a difficult challenge. Stay in her college town and pursue a relationship with her boyfriend whom she deeply loved or accept an offer to attend a graduate program at a university five hundred miles away?

Acceptance letter in hand, her first phone call was to her Mom and Dad who arranged to meet with her and process the pros and cons of the decision as well as the strong emotions accompanying both choices. Though she knew she would have to make the final decision on her own, she found wisdom and emotional comfort from her parents that was reassuring and helpful.

What Lindsey had unconsciously learned at two years of age and then consciously applied in adulthood was a healthy and vibrant dynamic between Self, Other and We. Regarding “Self” Lindsey knew deep down inside that she would be “seen” or acknowledged by “others” and was of sufficient value that Mom and Dad would welcome her request for connection. She instinctively knew that the community of “we” was a valuable commodity, and the notion of an isolated life as a “me” never crossed her mind.

This healthy balance between independence, inter-dependence and dependence is called Secure Connection. It represents the model to which we all aspire as a friend, spouse, or parent. However, the insecure attachment styles of the Avoider, Pleaser, Vacillator, Controller, or Victim each falls short of this balanced model. For the next few weeks, we’ll discuss each of the love styles and the choices they can make to become more securely attached to the people who are of greatest importance.

There is hope for all of us! If we didn’t learn secure attachment in our childhood, then we can earn secure attachment as adults by learning new things and making healthy choices.

Thanks for listening,
Milan & Kay

Upcoming Event!

Hi everyone,

We are reaching out to let you know that Milan and Kay will be doing a How We Love workshop in North Carolina this weekend. For all of the event details, please click here.

We would love to see you there!

Also, we are introducing a new Core Pattern CD to add to existing ones. The Controller-Avoider CD is now available on the website. You can get it here!

We will have new blogs from Milan and Kay coming very soon. We appreciate all of you and your support.

No More Perfect Marriages

Hey everyone…we are excited for our friends, Jill and Mark Savage, who just wrote a book No More Perfect Marriages.

Mark and Jill’s marriage was in a black hole. A separation, an affair and years of a frustrating core pattern they didn’t understand almost destroyed their marriage. They share our hearts, vision and desire to see Christian marriages thrive. Mark and Jill have worked hard to build a marriage that is deep, rich and satisfying when it seemed their marriage was beyond hope. Take the four week challenge and see what you can learn!

Click here to take the challenge!

How We Love Couples’ Retreat with Milan & Kay Yerkovich

How We Love Couples’ Retreat with Milan & Kay Yerkovich
Located at the Beautiful
Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, CA

January 20, 21, 22, 2017
This event has limited space and will sell out.
$550 per couple
Sign up for yourself or consider gifting this retreat to another couple.

SIGN UP NOW
• Recognize the 5 love styles
• Reveal your own style – and your mate’s
• Reverse your predictable and damaging Core Patterns
• Receive growth goals and tools to end harmful patterns
• Realize your dream of a more passionate love

How We Love
Couples’ Retreat with Milan & Kay Yerkovich

Schedule
Friday, January 20:
7-9PM: Arrival
Workshop Session 1
Dessert & Coffee

Saturday, January 21:
8:30AM: Breakfast
9-11AM: Workshop Session 2
11AM – 6PM: Time on your own with your spouse for workshop content, relax and explore.
6PM: Dinner
7-9PM: Workshop Session 3
Dessert & Coffee

Sunday, January 22:
Check out at your own leisure

What’s Included
Your room for 2 nights
All taxes, fees and service charges
Porterage and gratuities
Overnight valet parking
Friday night coffee and dessert
Saturday morning breakfast
Saturday evening dinner

To sign up contact: lizlusk@relationship180.com
or call 949-830-2846

Exciting News!!

We are so excited to announce:

Our two day Focus on the Family broadcast titled, “Discovering Your Love Style” is scheduled to re-air Monday, December 19, and Tuesday, December 20, 2016 as part of Focus on the Family’s Best of 2016 programs.

On the scheduled airdate, the streaming audio of this broadcast will appear on Their broadcast page – www.focusonthefamily.com/radio – along with a brief description. Their Facebook and Twitter pages will also link to the website on the airdate.

After the airdate, the program will be posted here for 31 days (http://www.focusonthefamily.com/media/daily-broadcast/discovering-your-love-style-pt1 and http://www.focusonthefamily.com/media/daily-broadcast/discovering-your-love-style-pt2). Please note that this specific address might still be ‘under construction’ at this time, but will be complete by the airdate.

Also on the broadcast page, look for the Focus “Station Finder” to find stations that carry the program in your area. In addition, a downloadable podcast will be available on iTunes (just search for Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast).

Psychology or Biblical? – Part 2

Four Lenses of Diagnosing Problems.

General medicine does not make Christians too nervous. If you have a troubling symptom you go the Internist or Specialist and hope for an accurate diagnosis and plan of treatment that will bring you back to health. Many times this may involve a prescription. If we are told we have a thyroid disorder and need Synthroid, we go fill our prescription and take our dose. If we have high blood pressure we may need medication.

Let’s dive into a controversial subject. When it comes to a Psychiatrist and diagnosis of some psychological disorder and a suggestion for medication we often balk as Christians. Milan and I have had to beg, plead and cajole many clients into seeking this kind of help. Sometimes there is a flat refusal. Why is this? Somehow this kind of help is labeled unspiritual. If we had faith, a close walk with God (whatever exactly that means) and read our bible and prayed we should not be depressed, anxious, have mood swings, compulsions etc.

While all these spiritual disciplines and practices certainly help, sometimes they are not enough. Milan and I like to look at all problems; medical, psychological and spiritual though four lenses.

Physical
Emotional
Spiritual
Medical

Most problems we encounter are a mixture of all of these areas. The difficult question is, what’s what? For example, years ago I saw a client who was 53 years old. We will call her Sue. The last of Sue’s four children had just moved out to attend college. She was an empty nester after being a stay at home mom for 25 years. She was not sleeping well. She was tired and unmotivated. She was a devout believer for many years and described her relationship with God as “close and life giving” until recently. Now her prayers seem to be “hitting the ceiling” Upon further questioning, I learned her best friend had died of leukemia the previous year. She described this loss as devastating and felt no one but God understood the degree of sorrow she experienced. Her husband was a high level executive and worked long hours. She loved him and the life style he provided, but longed for more emotional and spiritual intimacy in her marriage.

Let’s take these presenting issues and look briefly through our four lenses:

Physical: She is at a menopausal age. Her hormones are changing. Does she exercise?
How is her eating? Does she pay attention to nutrition?

Emotional: Sue has experienced a great deal of loss. She is in a major life transition
which is equivalent to a man retiring or losing his job. Who can she go to for
comfort? Is her husband willing to come in and learn to grow in his ability to
see and meet her needs for comfort and connection? How are her other
friendships? How has she dealt with this grief? Alone? Can she bring
her vulnerable need for comfort into relationship? What did she learn about
connection growing up? Is she a avoider, pleaser, vacillator, controller or
victim? How is her love style impacting her? Is she anxious? What is her
level of self-awareness? Is she a giver or receiver…can she be in both roles?

Spiritual: Is this a spiritual crisis/transition? Has she ever experienced this downturn in
her prayer life before? What is her church involvement? What is her level of
spiritual maturity? How much has she suffered? How does she integrate
suffering with God’s love? What is her level of vulnerable, real, connection
within her church setting and friendships? Where and how is spiritual opposition
operating? Does she know how to pray against the enemy?
Medical:
Are her sleep problems due to hormonal changes? Is her thyroid low?
When was her last physical? Is she depressed? Are her sleep problems due to
depression? Is there a family history of depression? Anxiety? Panic attacks?
What medications is she on? Are her symptoms a side effect of any
medication?

This is just a quick overview… the point is all areas are important to investigate. Leaving out one section means I may miss important information. In Sue’s case, what we discovered over time is that she was indeed depressed, but was uneducated about the symptoms of depression. In fact, as I explored Sue’s history, she had suffered post-partum depression after the birth of her last child but had never been diagnosed or treated. Her Father had serious alcohol addictions, which may have been his attempt to medicate depression or anxiety.

After three months of treatment addressing all four areas and no alleviation of her symptoms I suggested Sue schedule an appointment with my favorite psychiatrist and be evaluated for anti-depressant medication. (I prefer psychiatrist for this kind of evaluation because this is their area of specialty. Out of 20 or more possible choices of medication, a psychiatrist is trained to distinguish between all these options and select the best possible choice of medicine.)

I explained to Sue that depression can be situational and resolve on its own, or it can be clinical…that is caused by imbalances in brain chemistry. Most any condition for which we take pills or vitamins is an attempt to alter some chemical system in our body for the better. Initially, Sue resisted feeling she should be able to trust God more and that would help her feel better but after another month of sleeplessness, indecision, lethargy, frequent crying and anxiety she agreed to make an appointment.

Sue was astounded at the results. She said what I have heard so many clients say when treatment is successful… “The difference in how I feel amazes me. Overall, I feel I have my feet back on the ground and can manage stress so much better. I’m sleeping again and I can make decisions without agonizing. My head feels clearer and every little thing does not make me cry. I was afraid I would not feel like myself on medicine but it’s just the opposite. I feel like myself again.”

After treating her depression, she was in a much better place to work on her marriage. Her husband learned to understand the depth of her grief and learned to comfort her. This deeper level of vulnerability translated into some of her close friendships. She developed some new hobbies she had never had time to pursue. Spiritually, she felt more able to see suffering as part of the life of every believer and was more accepting of periods of stress.

I have heard a similar speeches countless times. Sometimes psychology (symptoms of depression) and medicine can make all the difference in helping someone regain their emotional health. To ignore this avenue of help can make suffering unnecessarily prolonged.
As Christians, we need to see life through all these lenses as we face trials, temptations, and stresses. God can use any and often uses all of these to help heal, restore and replenish a struggling believer.