Stop People-Pleasing Behavior through Individual Counseling

Individual counseling can help you to understand and unlearn the people-pleasing behavior known as fawning. Fawning is a trauma response in which the individual seeks safety by deferring to the needs and wishes of others and forfeiting their own in the process. 

This compulsive mirroring of the expectations and desires of others causes the traumatized person to become detached from their own sense of identity. They essentially forget their own needs, rights, preferences, and boundaries in order to feel secure and be in their relationships.

Individual counseling can help you to understand and unlearn the people-pleasing behavior known as fawning.

How Is Fawning Behavior Learned?

Fawning often develops in early childhood when a parent or primary caregiver is the cause of trauma or you don’t feel safe with your caregiver. This can occur with physical violence, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, or neglect. Or by wanting to calm your parent or family’s conflict and learning to be the pleaser to help the family. In teens and adults, fawning behaviors can develop in response to an abusive relationship with a partner.

A person who experiences events that cause you to feel unsafe in a relationship may learn to fawn and try to keep the other person happy and appeased. In the process, they neglect their own feelings and needs. This creates a pattern of learned behavior that is frequently carried into all of their relationships, both personal and professional.

How Is People-Pleasing Harmful?

Trauma survivors often have a scarcity mindset, meaning they believe they are not deserving of support, love, and resources, or that those things are not readily available to them. This has a profound impact on what they are willing to accept and sacrifice in and for their relationships, making them vulnerable to people with narcissistic personality types.

Even in otherwise healthy work and personal relationships, survivors who learned fawning behavior to cope with their trauma tend to put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own. This often results in feelings of low self-worth and depression that lead to other maladaptive coping behaviors. That is why it is crucial to address fawning behavior and the trauma it results from in individual counseling.

How Do I Know If I’m A People-Pleaser?

Signs of people-pleasing include:

  • Needing input from others to determine one’s own thoughts, opinions, and feelings
  • Struggling to identify one’s own feelings
  • Attempting to appease the other person at the first sign of conflict
  • Perceived lack of personal identity
  • Perpetually trying to please and appease others
  • Neglecting one’s own values and beliefs and deferring to those of others

Emotional responses resulting from people-pleasing include:

  • Strong feelings of anger and guilt toward oneself
  • Difficulty saying ‘no’ to others
  • Taking on additional responsibility, even when already feeling overwhelmed
  • Struggling to set clear personal boundaries
  • Frequently taken advantage of, particularly in personal relationships
  • Feelings of stress or discomfort when asked for an opinion
  • Codependency in relationships

Individual Counseling Can Help

Sharing your trauma with a professional can help you heal the psychological wounds that undermine your independence and autonomy. In counseling, we seek to replace fawning with approach-oriented coping strategies, which focus on managing emotions or changing the situation to make it less stressful.

Brain-based therapy allows us to use the whole brain to learn how to think differently, how to work with our body, and how to work with our autonomic nervous system. Trauma Informed Therapy can help you build upon your brain’s healing potential. 

At Take Charge, Inc., Terri Dichiser incorporates bottom-up approaches of EMDR, somatic experiencing, mindfulness, polyvagal theory, EFIT, and top-down approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to bring hope and healing.

For more information about individual counseling in Johnson County, KS, call Take Charge, Inc. at (913) 239-8255. To schedule an appointment, click here.


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