NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, May 26, 2023

How to Stop People Pleasing So You Can Reduce Your Anxiety and Increase Your Pleasure in the Bedroom

People pleasing, which is also known by the term "fawning," is often a trauma response (see my article: Trauma and the Fawn Response: People Pleasing to Avoid or Diffuse Conflict).

People who focus on pleasing others, to the detriment of their own emotional needs, often don't even realize they're doing it because it's such an ingrained trauma response from early in their life. 

How to Stop People Pleasing to Reduce Your Sexual Anxiety

They learned to focus on other people's needs to ward off conflict in family dynamics and to try to shore up dysfunctional family dynamics (see my article: Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families and People Pleasing).

As children, these people would extend themselves emotionally beyond what they were developmentally capable of doing, but they tried to do it anyway (see my article: Children's Roles in Dysfunctional Families).

A key component of the people pleasing involves feeling unlovable.  

Examples of Children Who Who Were People Pleasers 
The list below includes just a few examples of children who were people pleasers and who over-functioned in their family.

Children who were people pleasers in their family often:
  • Believed they had to take on the family problems in order to be liked or loved
  • Believed the family wouldn't survive unless they became people pleasers
  • Became overachievers and the family hero in an effort to please depressed, anxious or traumatized parents
  • Became pseudo-independent (i.e., they believed, erroneously, that they didn't need help or emotional support because they could take care of themselves--even though they were children
  • Sacrificed their own emotional needs for their parents and other family members
    • Agreed to do things they didn't want to do and lost touch with what they wanted and needed
    And so on.

    People Pleasing Children Become People Pleasing Adults
    Unfortunately, people pleasing (or fawning) doesn't stop when children become adults, and these behaviors often carry over into sexual activities so that sex becomes solely performative rather than being pleasurable to them.

    How to Stop People Pleasing to Reduce Your Sexual Anxiety

    Usually people with this problem are so hyper-focused on their partner's pleasure that they don't pay attention to their own sexual pleasure.  

    This creates performance anxiety because they're worried about whether they're pleasing their partner.  The result is that they can become cut off from their own emotions and bodily sensations so they don't enjoy sex (see my article: What is Sexual Anxiety?).

    Sexual People Pleasing and Performance Anxiety
    Sexual people pleasing often occurs when people are willing to do whatever they think their partner might like--even if it's not what they want or it has a detrimental effect for them--so their sexual partner will like or love them.  

    This creates performance anxiety for both men and women which can result in:
    • Worry or fear before, during or after sex
    • Negative thoughts or emotions about sex
    • Spectatoring (self consciously monitoring and critiquing their own behavior in bed)
    • Unrealistic expectations related to sex, especially with regard to their own sexual "performance"
    • Erectile dysfunction
    • Anorgasmia (delayed, infrequent, less intense or absence of sexual orgasms)
    How to Overcome People Pleasing in the Bedroom
    Depending upon the specific problems involved, overcoming sexual people pleasing often involves different interventions, including medical treatment to deal with possible physical problems or rule out medical issues, trauma therapy and sex therapy.
    • Medical Issues: If there is a physical component to the sexual problem, like painful sex or erectile dysfunction, possible medical problems should be ruled out first.  For instance, many women assume that painful sex is solely the result of anxiety.  However, although anxiety might be an important part of the problem, it's also possible that there might be medical issues that contribute to the problem--like pelvic floor problems, which must be diagnosed by a medical doctor and often requires the assistance of a physical therapist who is a pelvic floor specialist.
    Seeking Medical Help to Rule Out Physical Problems
    • Trauma Therapy: Since people pleasing is often a longstanding problem that originated in childhood, there is often unresolved trauma that needs to be worked through in trauma therapy. A mind-body oriented therapy, like EMDR therapySomatic Experiencing , AEDP and Parts Work/Ego States Therapy is often helpful to bring about increased bodily awareness and work through trauma.  See my articles:
    • Sex Therapy: Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy for individual adults and couples with no physical exam, nudity or sex during therapy sessions. Performance anxiety is a common issue that sex therapists help clients to overcome.  See my articles:
    How to Overcome Your Fear of Getting Help
    If you feel fearful and ashamed to get help for trauma-related sexual problems, recognize that you're not alone.  Many people have similar problems.  In fact, these problems are common.

    You can start by finding a licensed mental health professional who addresses both trauma and sex therapy.  Therapists who specialize in both areas can be difficult to find, but you can use a therapist directory to locate someone in your area.

    Getting Help From a Sex Therapist Who Specializes in Trauma

    If you're already in therapy, you can find an adjunct therapist who specializes in trauma and sex therapy to collaborate with your therapist so you get the help you need.

    Make sure the therapist is a licensed mental health professional, which is different from a coach or mentor.

    Start by asking for a consultation so you can get a sense of whether you feel comfortable with a therapist (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

    Be aware that it can take time to develop a therapeutic relationship with a therapist, so be patient.

    Once you have worked through your trauma-related sexual problems, you can lead a more fulfilling life.

    About Me
    I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

    I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

    As a trauma and sex therapist, I have helped many individuals and couples to overcome trauma-related sexual problems.

    To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

    To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.