Deconstructing the pleaser.
With gratitude to Genpo Roshi
and Andreas Wisniewski.
A major AHA moment happened for me last year whilst in Salt Lake City on a sesshin with one of my teachers; Zen master Genpo Roshi.
After 17 years of rigorous zen practise and a kick ass yoga schedule, I finally realised that there is after all, nothing to gain.
This realisation reverberates now on and off through much that I do, and has been responsible for what could be seen from the outside, as a withdrawal from the outer world, of doing, of doing to an inner world of being.
Becoming my own best friend was my goal, and I can tell you if I had a best friend like me, it would have been over a while ago.
Since that moment I have been dismantling the pleaser..this skilled and insecure drama queen that has had an enormous role in my life, inspiring me to great heights, yet also fucking up my life. Including my yoga practise which was for the last 16 years mainly associated with trying to please my teacher Andreas Wisniewski. And failing quite spectacularly.
My Buddhist practise consisted of desperately trying to penetrate the reality of what it means to be enlightened and being whipped, kicked, and generally whopped along the way (Token’ s 49 blows, folks,)
It’s only really started to sink in in the past 12 months. There really is no one to please. I mean people give a slight fuck, but not much.
With regard to yoga practise this is important. Examine the pleaser people. How much of your practise is about pleasing the teacher, or the guru, or the father, or mother, or society. And how much is about pleasing your ego.
To drop beneath all this, has been liberating. Very challenging too. But being released from the need to please ( by myself) has had a hugely positive affect on my life, and my health, and my yoga practise.
Really the more you try to please others, or some disembodied idea of Buddha, God, et al, generally, the less you please yourself. It’s so simple but it has taken me a very long time, and a lot of pain to learn. It has also cost my mother her health and her home. So she has been my uncsoncious bodhisattva. I am grateful Mummy.
There are many layers to the pleaser. It begins ( if you are from my generation) by observing that in the home, it was the man who was pleased, and the women generally revolved around creating this situation. Of course there is the repressed or suppressed aspect of this in the women that please. This plays out with food disorders, dissociation, depression, anxiety and massive disempowerment.
So it’s in a way less painful just being the pleaser until you have disentangled all the various aspects, or as they say in Zen circles pulled up or out the pattern by its roots.
The roots include :the little girl begins to please her father.
She is rewarded in this by the attention of the main male.
It becomes a habit, a pattern and a samskara.
Even now in yoga classes-retreats, I will see myself play out this role until I catch the pattern, and go below to the real truth of the teachings.
Then there is the sanctioning by society of the pleaser. Non pleasers don’t really do so well in society unless they can find a nice monastery to hide out in.
Before it’s possible to transcend this pattern and choose neither the pleaser or the displeased you have to spend some time hanging out in both.
Really see beneath, above, around, and in and out this one.
Even my obsessive continuous desire to be thin has been motivated by a subconscious desire to please. Not only my father, but also society.
To really pull this stuff up by the roots you have to see it and make it conscious. Be Cognitive.
Be aware that in yoga and Buddhism there are a hell of a lot of disembodied pleasers operating. It’s one of the reasons that female students have such violent responses to the behaviour of the male teacher who misbehaves.
It’s also one of the reasons that the #metoo movement is so fucked up.
I am NOT blaming women who accuse the men they have possibly previously been working with.
But really if you want to transcend this pattern, you have to look reality clearly in the face.
The women have been employing the pleaser, and then the emotions they have suppressed in the role play come tumbling out as anger, fury, revenge, disgust.
It is not so much an attack on the man who provoked the situation, but something bigger. A huge fury against the whole of society for forcing women to be in those roles. But there’s no way out through court action and accusations. Unless it goes deeper, it will just be perpetuated. We have to look at the biggest picture without blame. If not we stay stuck in the victim/ perpetrator /rescuer triangle.
In yoga I didn’t understand why my practise was starting to fell like a punishment, why I felt so numb, why there was nothing that felt pleasing. I was still working to the agenda of the pleaser.
Only since I have given up, with many overwhelming emotional and painful solitary yoga practises that I broke through to a place of more connection, more gentleness, more empathy. Pleasing myself.