There's a wonderful old Bob Newhart sketch in which Dr. Bob performs psychotherapy in three minutes using only two words: "Stop it." The client presents a number of phobias and for each one, Dr. Bob says, "Stop it." When the client wants to talk about her childhood and her disturbing dreams, Dr. Bob says, "We don't go there. Just stop it." [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow0lr63y4Mw]
Here's the thing. Sometimes we do need to just stop it.
This is why addicts go into the hospital to detox. They need to stop it, before they die. After they stop it, they can work on the underlying causes of the addiction and create a plan for long-term management. (Sorry, Dr. Bob. We do want to go there.)
It's clear in cases of addiction. Everybody can see that the behavior is BAD. Life-threatening. It needs to stop.
But I think there are other life-threatening behaviors that need to stop as well. Things like performance, perfectionism and people-pleasing. The Big Bad P's.
When you're into the Big Bad P's, other people can always count on you to help out with everything. You give 110%. You're totally committed. You arrive early and you're the last one to leave. In fact, you probably have the keys to the building. You're the nicest person anybody ever met.
The real problem with The Big Bad P's is that everybody thinks that these behaviors are GOOD. Hardly anybody will tell you to stop working so hard, doing so well, and being so nice.
But if you've lived with the Big Bad P's a while, you know the shady underside.
You know that for every "yes" you said to everybody for everything, there's a "no" to your own needs. And after a while, you can't figure out how to make your life work with all those "no's" in place.
You know that you're giving way more than other people do. But shame and punishment wait for people who don't do everything just right. What would other people think if you didn't live up to their standards? You can't quit.
You know that you're the nicest person on earth, but you're not very honest. Since you're responsible for the emotions of everybody else, you keep being nice. Except you don't feel quite so nice inside.
For me, living with the Big Bad P's was literally life-threatening. After years of perfect people-pleasing performance, I couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, couldn't think. I wanted to die.
To save my life, I had to "stop it."
I have had to learn how to say no. I have had to learn how to be a quitter and to let things just be. I have had to learn how to let other people be sad, mad, or scared when I won't do what they want me to.
It is still not easy to fight the Big Bad P's. I think it's going to be a life-long project.
But it's way better than being a kook, buried alive in a box. (And now you HAVE to watch the video clip to know what I'm talking about!)