by Jack Morin
Some of us are strongly influenced by a destructive pattern called the Nice Person Syndrome, which distorts or totally blocks effective communication. The Nice Person Syndrome is an exaggerated role adopted during childhood as a means of getting approval and affection. Nice People are carefully trained to be good boys and girls at all costs. They’re steeped too soon and heavily in the values of unselfishness, cooperation, and pleasing others. They grow up inclined to defer to the wishes of others and to put their own desires in second place, or ignore them all together.
I use the word Nice (capital N) to describe adults who still act like good boys and girls. Such people are often highly intuitive but they use their sensitivity mostly for the purpose of discerning what’s expected of them. They have a profound need to be liked and will violate, if necessary, their own integrity for even the possibility of love and affection. Ironically, they usually are accepted and well-liked, but they’re not satisfied because they know they’ve withheld something of their true identity. As a result, Nice People often live in fear that nobody will ever truly love them — including their imperfections and blemishes. They’re convinced they must be perfect yet they’re constantly and painfully aware that they’re not. Not surprisingly, they often exhibit bodily signs … of an unrelenting inner conflict.
Nice People operate on the basis of one central conviction: The only way to get what I need is to avoid upsetting anyone. They’re usually very good at getting what they want without asking for it, but there’s always something missing. Spontaneity is difficult since each interpersonal exchange is, in a sense, a performance. Keeping up the image requires constant vigilance, since all “bad” qualities — such as anger, selfishness, or competitiveness — must either be squelched, denied, or re-channeled in such a way that they at least _appear_ nice.
I’ve deliberately presented a somewhat exaggerated characterization. But in it you may be able to see aspects of yourself. If so, I suggest that you look more closely at the negative effects this pattern is having on your relationships and sexuality. The impact of the Nice Person Syndrome is typically heightened in the presence of a significant other. This helps explain why some men and women can feel very relaxed and safe when they’re alone, but tense up when they’re with someone. In fact, people who have trouble sharing … pleasure with a partner when they can easily give it to themselves often discover that playing Nice is getting in the way.
Nice People have trouble making straightforward requests. Instead, they tend to be manipulative, maybe dropping a few hints or else giving what they, in fact, want to get. One of my clients expressed his strategy for getting what he wanted from people as “nicing them into submission.” Nice People believe that if they’re just good enough, others will eventually discern what they want and give it to them. When this doesn’t happen they’re hurt. They would feel angry too — but that’s not Nice.
Nice People are usually “rescuers” who gravitate toward taking care of others. We rescue somebody each time we withhold or distort our true feelings to avoid hurting or upsetting the other person. We do the same thing when we go along with something when we really don’t want to. What we usually don’t realize is that in rescuing others we treat them as helpless victims who can’t take care of themselves. Rescuing, except in instances when someone genuinely needs help, is actually a subtle put-down.
Because Nice People have trouble expressing their desires, they tend to infuse potentially pleasurable situations with obligation and duty. After launching a sexual encounter they may feel compelled to go through with it to the bitter end. This is one reason why making requests and taking breaks is especially important, although at times exceedingly difficult.
All of the experiences suggested here can help you become more cooperatively selfish. Non-manipulative communication is the only way to remain simultaneously in full contact with yourself and your partner. Obviously, if you tune out your partner, touching can become an exercise in alienation. But what many fail to recognize is that if you ignore your own desires and feelings, then you have very little to share.
Excerpted from Anal Pleasure and Health by Jack Morin (Down There Press, 1998), pages 145-147. Buy on Amazon
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