Favorite Defenses – The Pleaser

Pleasers and avoiders are alike in one way; they don’t like to engage in negative feelings.  Both pleasers and avoiders are allergic to bad news and negative emotions.  Avoiders think it’s all very unnecessary and pleasers are afraid of not being able to adequately fix the negativity and make it go away so they don’t feel anxious.


“Let’s go get ice cream and get your mind off of the blow up with your mom.”

“I’m not mad, she’s mean to everyone.”

Pleasers love this defense just like avoiders.  Both types have to minimize and deny anything emotional or negative.  Pleasers get anxious when someone is not happy with them.  A little minimizing and denial make the problems go away.

Reaction Formation: You turn the feeling into its opposite. This is just a fancy word for being overly positive and optimistic and giving the benefit of the doubt to an extreme.  Making the negative go away is still the underlying motivation.

I’m doing fine because I know he will find a job soon when he isn’t so depressed.  (husband has a history of unemployment)

Undoing: You try to reverse or undo your feeling by DOING something that indicates the opposite feeling. It may be an “apology” for the feeling you find unacceptable within yourself.  Pleasers apologize when they did not do anything wrong.  They undo negative feeling in themselves and others by being helpful and nice and accommodating.

“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Maybe if I have sex with him he will be nice.”

Passive/ Aggressive:  Actions, behaviors or omissions which are indirect displays of anger.

Pleasers have a hard time directly feeling, owning or expressing anger.  Over time they become resentful as they give without expecting much in return.  At some point they hope people will figure out it is their turn.  As resentment builds, pleasers have a tendency to display their anger in indirect ways.

“Oh, sorry, I forgot to pick up the cleaning,” (again)

Pleasers defenses keep them from ever having reciprocal relationships.  If you are always the giver, you cannot be the receiver.  If you are constantly trying to make negative situations go away, you can’t live in reality.  Making reality go away is a lot of hard work!  If you are a pleaser, make it a point to notice when these defenses take over and take a deep breath and begin to believe….you can’t make everyone happy.  Jesus had boundaries.  He said no.  Jesus had enemies.  People did not like him because he stood up for what he believed in even if he was rejected.

In addition, pleasers need to realize there defenses are in place to reduce anxiety.  Anxiety is often their primary feeling when they start to become self aware. Anxiety has feelings, under it.  Fear of making a mistake, failing, feeling inadequate.  Pleasers often realize they are exhausted and have lost themselves in their caretaking roles.

Copyright © 2009 Milan and Kay Yerkovich