Fear of disappointing others – what causes this?

Many people experience fear when they anticipate disappointing others. But is ‘disappointing others‘ the driver or is the experience (or anticipation) of the fear/anxiety so great that it just wants to be relieved? What do I mean by this?

Imagine a daughter who has been asked to help her younger sister write an essay. The older sibling has commitments and deadlines herself but when asked by her mother, says ‘I don’t want to disappoint her’. She changes her schedule to help her sibling and, in the process, causes herself enormous pressure and greater anxiety because of her own deadlines. She may interpret her actions as her values of ‘not disappointing others’ but what if it has nothing to do with values? What if it arises from associations of previous uncomfortable experiences that are triggered from the mother’s request e.g. – shame – other’s disapproval – self-doubt – potential conflict – argument and bad atmosphere.

What if the request by the mother triggers a response in the daughter which has nothing to do with the current request but re-lived emotions and discomfort from previous times? If you are asking what to do to avoid disappointing others, you may be asking the wrong questions. You may be asking ‘How can I stop trying to please others or learn to say no?’

The solution may lie in looking at the issue differently. Many negative emotional reactions are developed early in life through association of shaming, embarrassment, humiliation or simply ‘feeling silly’. A person may not even be able to remember specific experiences of this happening. Energy keeps that association in place and can only really be released by identifying its source and removing the association. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that this can be done at a thinking or intellectual level, since the associations are unconscious. That is why they may even seem irrational where the person says ‘I am tired of this – I shouldn’t be feeling this way and going along with others demands – but somehow I always find myself in this situation’. Counselling or personal development work can help an individual bring these associations into consciousness and extinguish them. As a result, you can more meaningfully choose to co-operate with others, ‘put yourself out’ or learn to say ‘no’ or ‘not now’ to others – rather than merely reacting to their demands. This has positive implications for psychological wellbeing and personal growth.

Fear of Anxiety and What to Do About It?