Ken McLeod talks on Facebook about “the disease to please”. But this approach can be applied to any habit: from anger to numbing out. Its the approach of working with one’s own mind/heart that I have been studying and practicing with Pema Chodron for 15 years and more recently for about 9 years as she has talked about “shenpa”. These teachings are incredibly rich and practical. Its not surprising that Ken McLeod’s website Unfettered Mind has the subtitle Pragmatic Buddhism and Pema Chodron regularly talks about these teachings as “news you can use”.
Q: I have the “disease to please” everybody, always! What to do? A: This kind of question arises when you begin to see a pattern. Congratulations! It’s an important first step, one of three.Whenever you notice the need to please someone, go to your body. What are you experiencing in your body? Rest there for a few moments, 20-30 seconds is a good start. Just experience what is happening in your body. Even if you feel nothing, feeling nothing is a sensation, the sensation of “feeling nothing”. Start there. Start with the sensations in your body (or the absence of them).
Do this again and again, whenever you notice you are pleasing someone or want to please someone. This is a practice, which is to say, you fail at it time after time. Your behavior doesn’t change overnight, but if you keep doing this, you begin to notice the pattern more and more, earlier and earlier. You see how pervasive it is. And then, bit by bit, you see other possibilities. It’s difficult to change behaviors. It’s not like turning a switch off or on. The pattern of pleasing has evolved in you over a long time. With your practice you are initiating a new path of evolution. It takes time to grow and bear fruit.
-Ken McLeod, Buddhist teacher and writer (Facebook post, 11th October, 2012)