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Who Are You Trying to Please?
by Art Ticknor

When I was a young child I wanted to please my parents. I don't recall feeling stressed about it, probably because I felt secure in their care.

As I grew older and went to school, I wanted to please my teachers. Again I felt no stress since pleasing them came easily.

As a teenager, though, life became more complex. I still wanted to please my teachers, but there was more pressure now with the variety of teachers and subjects. And there was a new element: wanting the approval of my schoolmates. Winning that approval was more abstract and demanding, with a pervasive pressure to intuit and conform to unarticulated expectations.

Life seemed much easier when I was out of school and raising a family. I was back to the easier to comprehend task of trying to please authority figures – now the boss at work – and the wife and children I adored at home. The need to win peer approval was no longer part of the equation for me.

In the background, though, through all the changing circumstances of life a program was running whose purpose was to please itself – i.e., to weigh the multifarious fears and desires that bombarded the mind and to react according to the program's dictates. I was that program.

piano playing Sure, I identified with this ("my") body and these ("my") thoughts and feelings. They were my property – not yours. But I felt and believed that my innermost self was that decider/doer program … until one day I saw it operating in slow motion, like an accident about to occur.

Your wanting-to-please history is probably like mine in some respects and different in others, and I suspect you have a similar behind-the-scenes program that you've felt, and may still feel, is your innermost self. But since you're at least marginally aware of its operation, it's not the essential – the aware – you.

Living life to please or appease that program is like worshipping your pituitary gland, or the hypothalamus that controls it. Sure, it regulates much of your body's functioning … but is it your innermost being?

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