Things Are Not Always What They Seem



As you will see in the short anecdote, anyone’s behavior can look positive at first glance but when you examine the purpose behind it, you may find that what it actually accomplishes is destructive to you or someone else. For example, behavior can appear to be Pleasing but actually be Controlling. Here’s an example.

Dick had been unhappy in his marriage for a long time. He’d also been severely depressed for about two years. He couldn’t understand why; his wife was so caring.

No matter what Dick needed to be done in his business, whether it was making airline reservations, renting a car, purchasing supplies or hiring services, Sally took care of it. In their personal lives, no matter what needed to be done, buying clothes or a car, planning a vacation or even buying their current home, Sally took care of it. Always eager to take the decision-making burden off Dick (after all, she said, he needed his energy for work), Sally helped out.

Dick saw Sally’s behavior as Pleasing. That view was reinforced by Sally telling him over and over again, nicely of course, how much she did for him. But actually, her movement was Controlling, not Pleasing. The hidden purpose behind her “help” was to make sure that she controlled their money.

On those rare occasions when Dick spoke up for something he particularly wanted, Sally tried talking him out of it. If he persisted, it became a major conflict. Since he hated confrontation, he’d quickly back down. Sally always had the final word.

When Dick met Peggy, a new coworker, they struck up a friendship. Through talking with Peggy he was able to see that Sally’s behavior undercut his personal power. As the relationship with Peggy deepened, Dick’s depression lifted. In time, he divorced Sally.

Peggy, now his wife, is good for Dick because she encourages him to make his own decisions based on his own wants or needs.

He understands now that for a long time Sally used him to achieve her goal of acquiring money. Did Sally, herself, understand what she was doing? She certainly understood that she had a high value on money but she could not admit to herself that she was controlling Dick so she could accumulate money. That idea did not fit with her image of herself. Years later, she still thinks of herself as a Pleaser, instead of a Controller.

And, because Dick divorced Sally after 25 years of marriage, she sees herself as his victim: “Look how he’s treated me after all I did for him.” How he treated her: even though Illinois is a no-fault state where divorces are usually 50/50 with respect to a couple’s assets, Dick gave Sally 65% of their assets because he felt guilty about the divorce. It was Dick who was the Pleaser.

When looking at your own or someone else’s behavior, develop the habit of asking yourself: “What is the purpose of my (or their) behavior?” And “What is the intent behind my actions?” The answer will tell you “Why” something is happening. That’s always more important than “What” is happening.

Has anyone ever used the “hidden agenda” process described

above on you?

Warmest wishes until next time,


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