One of the most frequent issues I hear from clients is about their Chronic Need for Approval.
Us too! While writing about our personal struggles for the bios on our website *every single one* of us therapists chose some version of, "High expectations of myself," "Saying no," "Forgiving my shortcomings," "Disappointing people."
Why do we all need this approval so desperately? I'd say it's something about fear of abandonment, needing to be accepted by the pack so we're not excluded and cast away.
And what effects is this having on our culture? On us individually?
Last week, I devoured Dr. Gabor Maté's book, "When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress - Disease Connection."
Maté writes beautifully on the mind - body connection in health and adds a new layer I hadn't fully recognized:
★ The role of emotional suppression in the formation and development of illness. ★
"Many people unwittingly spend their entire lives as if under the gaze of a powerful and judgmental examiner whom they must please at all costs. Many of us live, if not alone, then in emotionally inadequate relationships that do not recognize or honor our deepest needs. Isolation and stress affect many who may believe their lives are quite satisfactory...
When we have been prevented from saying no, our bodies may end up saying it for us." - Dr. Gabor Maté
After decades of work as a family practice doctor and hundreds of interviews for this book, Maté identified several personality characteristics / types common in patients struggling with Cancer, Autoimmune Disorders, Irritable Bowel Disorders, Heart Disease, MS, and more:
- Chronic need for approval
- Habitual denial, suppression, or repression of fear, sadness, anger
- Compulsive sense of duty to others
- Inability to say no
- Inability to express emotion
- Self-imposed need to conform to society's expectations
- Discomfort asking for or receiving help
In making the link between repressed emotions and the development of disease, Dr. Gabor Maté invites people to look at their relationships:
- How much of your partner's stress do you take on?
- How much of a people pleaser are you?
- How nice are you to people no matter how you feel?
- How much do you take on the problems of other people & ignore your own?
- How well do you know yourself?
He also suggests abandoning so-called "Positive Thinking."
This "Compulsive Optimism" often excludes those parts of our reality that strike us as "negative." However, it is important to include ALL of our reality. We must develop the confidence that we can trust ourselves to face the full truth, whatever that full truth may turn out to be.
What, if anything, is this illness saying about the past & present? What is not working? What have I ignored? What is my body saying no to?
Of course, personality does not by itself cause disease; one does not get cancer simply from repressing anger or ALS from being too nice. A biopsychosocial model recognizes that many processes and factors work together in the formation of disease and in the creation of health.
Do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptors? Might they be connected to your physical health?