Are You Sharing or Are You Pulling?By Phyllis Stein, Ph.D.
December 31, 2006
Do you only feel okay when other people seem to approve of you? Do people tell you that it feels like you are pulling on them? Phyllis writes about how Inner Bonding can help us see our real intent and shift it to truly loving ourselves.
Those of us who are addicted to trying to get approval from others in order to feel okay may wind up, as I did, having a very hard time. I always knew that whatever I was doing, it wasn't working. When I did not succeed in getting the approval, the interaction would spiral downhill. I would become more and more desperate, as I tried to figure out some way to act that did not elicit the negative reactions that I was getting. The harder I tried the worse it got. When I began to get help doing Inner Bonding, I learned that what I was doing was called "pulling." Pulling is when we act like we are sharing, but our intent is to get someone else to make us okay. My little girl generally did not feel okay, because I was not there for her, so I was always looking for that fix. I tried to notice when I was pulling, but my initial reason for trying to notice it was to try not to do it, so I would not get the negative reaction. I could not see that trying to be okay in other people's eyes, instead of helping my little girl feel okay, was the issue, and that until she was okay because I was there for her, I would continue to pull. I could not recognize how deeply convinced I was that getting approval from others was the only way I could feel okay.
So, when I thought I was sharing, offering something, a comment, an insight or a joke, I was actually taking, trying to get people to make me feel okay by accepting and approving of me. It was like I was physically trying to pull it out of them. When I thought I was offering something, it was really just me throwing out a fishing line to try to hook the other person into giving me a way to feel better. Only when I began to feel how awful my little girl felt when I did this, and learned that she did feel okay when I was there for her, could I stop pulling on others.
Recently, I facilitated a phone session with Guy. His experienced paralleled mine. When people did not respond as he hoped and told him that he was pulling on them, he felt confused and picked on and yet he knew there was something important that he was just not seeing. I asked him to go back to a moment when someone reacted to his pulling. He said that he remembered when one woman, Jennifer, was talking about the abusive relationships that she had with different men in her life.
This was our conversation:
"I started feeling badly for her because, even though I was not that bad, I had treated women badly. I tried to apologize to her for how she was treated. She said my apology felt "Weird." And then I felt terrible."
"Guy, what were you feeling when Jennifer was talking about these relationships?"
"I was feeling badly."
"Guy, were you feeling 'badly' or were you feeling like you were a bad person?"
"I guess I was feeling like a bad person."
"So when Jennifer was talking about her experiences, you were telling your little boy that he was bad. What did you do about feeling like a bad boy?"
The light went on. "Oh my gosh, I gave my little boy to her! I wanted her to accept my apology so that my little boy would not feel so bad anymore."
Guy immediately saw that he had done this over and over again, trying to solve the problem of feeling that he was bad by getting approval from others. He had seen himself as a nice guy, offering his insights and compassion. Now he understood that his intent, rather than to be loving, had been to have control over others seeing him as "good." He also saw that the little boy who was being told he was so bad was just a terrified child, a beautiful little boy, who needed his love, not something from other people. Guy now understands why people said he was pulling. He is on his way now, able to truly set his intent to learning to be loving to himself rather than learning to get approval from others.
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Just as you would not think to give a cigarette, an alcoholic drink or a recreational drug to a crying child, consider not using substances to soothe your agitated inner child. An upset child, inner or outer, needs love. You will learn what to do to soothe your feelings when you are ready to learn about what you may be doing to cause them and what your inner child needs to feel loved by you.
By Dr. Margaret Paul