The Search for Approval

Excerpt from Chapter 10 - Psychology

Our childhood trauma knots propel us to act differently, to act for Mom and Dad in ways they want us to act, to win their approval to the maximum extent possible. We bend ourselves all out of shape in this search for approval and usually continue to do so well into adulthood. For those who never really examine themselves, this skewness will continue until their deaths.

Our continued search for parental approval leads to much group-against-group belligerence today. "That group should approve of me the way Mom and Dad should have approved of me; and if they don't, they must be in the wrong." My never-explored anger and grief (about my search for approval) drive my anger at targets of today. I fail to see that the real problem is my continued search as an adult for parental approval, a search started in childhood. If I am currently searching for others' approval, I have lost my personal authenticity, an essential ingredient of high self-esteem.

Searching for others' approval (performing for others) is insidious and incredibly widespread. Often our behavior is so automatic that we do not realize that if we followed our own real desires we would act very differently. Furthermore, we deny that we even have any negative feelings about such performing-for-others behavior.

Toilet Performance Routines. Most of us received training in washing our hands after using the toilet. One survey was done recently in a woman's rest room (by a woman in an out-of-the-way stall while keeping her feet well above the floor). The survey revealed that if women thought there was another person in the bathroom, 90% washed their hands. If they thought they were alone, 10% washed their hands. Would it be reasonable to conclude that most of the women in this survey group who washed their hands did so to make a favorable impression on others, instead of from a sense of personal authenticity?

Removing ourselves from the search for others' approval will yield many happiness dividends, but it is one of life's more difficult growth tasks. (Despite many years of awareness, this author finds himself even today performing for others occasionally.) A typical growth path follows:

1. We become aware that some of our actions arise out of old childhood needs for approval.
2. We try for a time the exact opposite.
3. We try to find a middle ground.

This growth path does not include an examination of the trauma(s) behind the search for approval and therefore may not be successful. For better chances of success, read on.

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© 2008 by Thayer White
Finding Your Soul in the Spirituality Maze

 

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