Based on the glimpse I gave you into Susie’s heart and thoughts (last week’s blog), what is Susie (Sunshine’s) greatest fear?
…Susie is terrified of being rejected.
Obviously, she’s afraid of being rejected by her spouse and other people, but she is also afraid of displeasing and being rejected by God. On the outside, she looks like she has it all together. On the inside, she is dominated by fear.
For this reason, when someone does something to offend or hurt Susie, she finds it difficult to express her anger. Perhaps in the past any expression of anger was seen as rebellion and dealt with harshly or abusively by a parent. Maybe she has been incorrectly taught that all anger is sinful. Perhaps the only anger she has ever seen was very hurtful and sinful and she has vowed never to let herself be that way. For whatever reason, even when anger is appropriate and necessary, Susie is unable to express (and sometimes even feel) anger in a healthy way. Of course, Susie does feel anger—even if she can’t or won’t identify it as anger. So how does an angry person act when she is afraid of being rejected, condemned, or hurt (physically and/or emotionally)?
The Susie Sunshines I have met typically deal with their anger with what I call the “TNT approach.” Susie will take and take and take abuse. She will be put down, belittled, controlled, manipulated, and lied to for long periods of time—always rationalizing behavior and making excuses for her husband (and others). Eventually, though, all of the anger that she has been pushing down into her soul in an effort to respond “spiritually” to her husband or to keep from getting hurt will come flying out of her in a magnificent explosion. Kaboom! The explosion usually only lasts a few minutes and is followed by an emotional meltdown complete with tears and remorse. Usually the controlling man she is married to is able to use her fear of rejection to manipulate Susie’s emotions, and she will find herself apologizing profusely for her angry outburst and doing everything she can to make it up to him.
Susie Sunshines also usually struggle with passive aggressive anger—undercover anger—because it is less intense and seems less sinful. Susie may not even be aware of passive-aggressive behavior in her life, especially if she is still denying a problem in her marriage. Susies also tend to withdraw from relationship when they are angry, and they may struggle with depression and physical ailments as their unexpressed anger eats them from the inside out.
We’ll talk more about Susie Sunshine in future lessons. Others have referred to her as an avoidant/compliant enabler. I like to refer to her as a damage controller. Her life is spent rescuing and caring for others in an attempt to meet her own needs for love and acceptance and significance. From the outside, she looks great. Of course, she has to— since what people think really matters to her. From the inside, she looks like a scared kid desperately looking for love. Her motto is: I can endure anything as long as you keep loving me.
–Melissa Haas, The Journey: Book One