'Fight or flight' and 'freeze and please' are the four signs that our antenna is up. This behaviour usually lets us know that there is perceived danger and when these guys begin to operate, adrenaline is released into our bodies to prepare us for fight or flight with a side helping of cortisol.

This is great if there’s a sabre tooth tiger about, but a lot of the time it’s a perceived threat of danger and not real.

 

Another response is people-pleasing and for those who are affected by this defence system, it can be exhausting.

I speak from experience as a recovering people-pleaser. I’m not recovered yet, but I’m nowhere like I used to be. Through therapy I was able to explore the reasoning behind my need to be liked by people and of course, as Freud says, 'It’s mother.'

As the joke goes, “It’s when you say one thing but you mean your mother."

When we deep dive we can see, especially within families, how we seek that attention, especially from mother. If we don’t receive that attention we up the ante and create numerous ways of gaining that attention, and for me as an alcoholic I sought that attention all the time from everyone and everywhere. My chosen method being people-pleasing.

CURTAIN CALL: Wish me well as I embark on a new theatrical career. I met this week with prolific performance artist Prof Alastair McClelland and Dr Cherie Driver of the Belfast Arts College to discuss my upcoming debut in Silent Lecture in the Duncairn Arts Centre
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CURTAIN CALL: Wish me well as I embark on a new theatrical career. I met this week with prolific performance artist Prof Alastair McClelland and Dr Cherie Driver of the Belfast Arts College to discuss my upcoming debut in Silent Lecture in the Duncairn Arts Centre

My belief was that people didn't like me and I was frightened by that scary feeling, rejection.

There are many more triggers for our people-pleasing. Another could be that we don’t like ourselves, and if we don’t like ourselves why should other people like us? But we know the map is not the territory and the best way for us to explore the territory is with a heart of compassion, kindness and, above all, love.

This journey begins from within, if we don’t go within we go without. We begin with self-compassion as a way of soothing and nurturing ourselves. Let’s keep this simple – like having a good massage, listening to soothing music, prayer and meditation, gardening, exercise, a good book, a movie, a dip in the ocean... the list goes on. Be creative, be curious, search within for what makes you feel good.

My favourite way of finding that wee boy within me is through cycling. As soon as I sit on the saddle, I’m filled with a sense of wonder.

Instead of the bad stuff, the adrenaline and cortisol being released, the good stuff begins to flow: dopamine, endorphins and so on.

The more I pedal the more is released, signalled by the smile on my face. A healthy smile is hard to beat – for ourselves and for others. Suddenly, as if by magic, we know what we can do and what we can’t do.

Most of all, we know when to say 'yes' when we mean 'yes' and 'no' when we mean 'no'.

What a relief that is. For it’s then that the feeling of needing to be liked leaves us as we find ourselves comfortable in our own skin.

There's a wee saying that I heard and love:  You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea — otherwise you’d be a mug.