Game of Thrones is more than just great television; it provides much food for thought.
Politically, Westeros is a complex and hostile world. The forces of chaos are always threatening to encroach and often when least expected. The main players jockey for position, employing ‘niceness’, guile and good old-fashioned bloodlust to get what they want.
With the Red Wedding scene, we see a departure from the usual Hollywood schtick. The Starks are the ‘good guys’: the loyal ones, the honest ones, the nice, ‘people-pleasing’ ones. Their ‘niceness’, however, proves to be their undoing. The Starks are manipulated by those possessing more guile and more worldliness. They believe they are safe at the wedding ceremony (one rare occasion when the law of the realm forbids killing.)
Unfortunately, for the Starks, they are not, in fact, safe; the Freys (and co-conspirators the Lannisters) do not play by the rules.
I was shocked by the massacre.
A YouTube search of ‘Red Wedding Scene’ revealed that I was not alone in my displeasure. Clips taken in various living rooms across the country chronicled the shock and horror felt by faithful viewers as Robb and Catelyn Stark are assassinated by House Frey. Some viewers screamed in horror. Others sat in stony silence, ashen-faced, as their favorite heroes bit the dust. ‘How could they do that?’ another girl screamed, rocking back and forth.
My yogis and yoginis, there is a moral here. How many times have we been ‘nice’ or ‘pleasing’ or ‘friendly’ only to get used up, or depleted or, metaphorically-speaking, knifed in the back?
How have I used ‘niceness’ or ‘people-pleasing’ or ‘playing by the rules’ as if they were some sort of magical talisman meant to spare me the hurt or pain or chaos of life? And at what cost?
Overextending and over-caring is, in fact, what brings many of us to yoga class for the first time. Tired and tight and achey, we relish that precious hour of ‘me’ time, to get back in touch with our bodies and souls that this ancient healing art can provide.
We don’t know how we got this way, we’re just trying to do good by everybody else. So we’ve forgotten ourselves a little.
Isn’t that what everybody does?
Haven’t we been taught by the venerable institutions of family, religion, schools and workplace that we should turn the other cheek or try to understand where the other person is coming from, that we should compromise or shut the hell up?
Well, kind of. And kind of not.
What are the signs of people-pleasing gone awry?
1) Constantly feeling as if one ‘should’ be doing something else.
Do you feel like you ‘should’ be doing something else during yoga? Work? Cleaning the house? Paying bills? Anticipating others’ needs?
2) Failing to love and protect yourself as you would a cherished friend or family member (also known as: the dreaded doormat disease).
As much as possible, attempt to distance from manipulative or controlling behavior when it is dished out like a shit sandwich from other grown-up adult people in full possession of their faculties. If you ain’t gonna do it, nobody else will do it for you.
The troubling part?
Sometimes this shit sandwich seems dished out on a silver platter, accompanied by caviar and Cristal and rare goji juice from a secret cave in the Himalayas, accompanied by beautiful mantras. Sweet succor.
Then, cruel reality dawns. You awaken to find your bank account drained and all of your secret collectible ceramic animals gone. Suddenly your world is half-eaten Big Mac and some soggy fries on a wrapper in the corner. The guy in the apartment above is blasting death metal at ear-splitting volume — and you have nobody but yourself to blame.
Do not be overly desirous of another’s approval, especially before really getting to know him/ her.
Some people can be very sweet when they want something — like, maybe you’re good at baking cupcakes for parties, or consoling those beset with relationship drama or fixing broken gutters or forming garden bushes into elegant topiary-esque trees. Whatever it may be. When you may need a favor or an ear, they’re outta there like a White Walker.
Learn what triggers your people-pleasing buttons.
Give from your heart and, truly, give to those in need…but, please, don’t continually give because you feel as if you must be the ‘nice’ and ‘giving’ friend every hour of every day.
3) ‘Niceness‘ as a series of behaviors (rather than authenticity) is really about control.
But guess what? The world isn’t always fair. Things don’t always add up. A squared plus B squared doesn’t always equal C squared. Cheaters? Sometimes they do prosper.
I know. We have all been taught that we need to be taller or shorter or thinner or fatter or more exciting or more laid-back and all of our dreams would come true. Perhaps the perpetrator of these lies was a former teacher or Aunt Ruth or that mean boy behind us in math class. Maybe ‘they’ said we should have more friends or fewer friends or wear our hair parted on the right rather than the left or work harder or slack off more.
Unless you’re more self-assured than I, there are certain moments when we still pull the ‘nice’ card. Usually, I am feeling triggered by something.
I know when I’ve done it. It’s the self-betrayal equivalent of three vodka martinis and half a cheese pizza. I feel it in my bones.
The truth is…..drum roll…..
There’s only one of you. As much as possible, try to approximate that in your life. It will mean fewer headaches, fewer heartaches and more glowing, radiant skin and, quite possibly, increased energy.
4) Aim for respect and kindness, rather than ‘people-pleasing.’
‘Niceness’ creates distrust for the recipient. Much of human communication is non-verbal. Body language gives you away when you try to be ‘nice’ Your voice changes when you lie. Your face contorts. You may think the sides of your mouth are curled up into a smile. To any viewer, your visage resembles that of an angry iguana. And that’s not all! Your shoulders tighten. Your blood pressure raises. A pit grows in your belly. Your body knows!
People-pleasing hurts everybody. Being ‘nice’ (rather than kind or compassionate) is a bad idea, a worse idea than attempting to seduce Jon Snow or trying to take down Arya Stark in a sword-fight.
To reiterate: nobody wins with a danged people-pleaser.
‘Niceness’ of the people-pleasing variety, quite unsurprisingly, creates as much a burden for the recipient as it does for the giver, who may ponder, with horror and trepidation, whether the individual in question actually enjoys his or her company or 1) just feels as if he/she must put up with him/her, .) wants to get the codes for the secret file drawer, 3) wants to seduce him/her, or 4) needs somebody to drive them to the club in Philly on Friday night or 5) wants to find out where they keep their secret dragon eggs.
5) …everybody needs to figure out his or her own stuff.
Part of having respect for others means allowing them to negotiate their own paths. Many of us stumble quite a bit, to get where we’re going.
It is an energetic law of the universe: Those who have much to give will often find themselves surrounded by those who, consequently, have much to take. Give too much, with too little expectation of reciprocity, and you will end up surrounded with people like Joffrey Baratheon.
The truly narcissistic will prey on people-pleasers. Closing off that energetic channel will bring greater health and happiness to all.
6) Learn how to say no.
No. Non. Nyet. Nicht. It’s a tiny little word with a great impact. Use it judiciously to bring yourself greater peace of mind.
7) Give to those who are in most need.
Many people in the world live in great need. Give freely, kindly and honestly.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
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