Relying on others for reassurance

A reader said:

When people rely on the reassurance of someone else it can be very dangerous for everyone involved.

realsocialskills said:

It depends a lot on the context.

I think there are different kinds of relying on others.

There’s relying on others when you know that your perceptions in some areas are unreliable:

  • If you know that you often think things are awful when they aren’t, or that you’ve done something horribly wrong when you haven’t, checking in with others who you trust to have a more reliable perspective can be a good strategy
  • You have to be careful who you trust this way
  • It has to be someone who is both trustworthy and genuinely willing to do this for you
  • And when one or both elements are missing, this can go badly wrong.
  • But this is a strategy that works really well for a lot of people, under the right circumstances

Then there’s the kind of relying on others that’s about needing universal approval:

  • Sometimes people have a self image that depends on other people constantly approving of them
  • And reassuring them that they are good and what they are doing is good
  • This gets really bad really quickly
  • And often leads to people on both sides of it manipulating each other in destructive ways, and pretty much always leads to one or the other person doing so
  • It’s important to be able to accept that not everyone will like you, and that even people who like you will not always like what you do and will be upset with you from time to time
  • People who can’t accept this cause a lot of problems for themselves and others

These things are very different, but they tend to get conflated.

Seeking reassurance isn’t always a bad thing

Do you think that reassurance-seeking is always a bad thing? Because some of your posts seem to imply it.
realsocialskills said:
I didn’t realize my posts sounded that way, but I see what you mean now that you point it out.
No, seeking reassurance isn’t always a bad thing. It can be really good to seek reassurance, and I think everyone needs to do that at least occasionally. If you are afraid that something is wrong, it’s ok to want to check. And it’s ok to do that with the expectation that things are probably ok and that you just need to hear it.
What’s bad is when people seek *unconditional* reassurance. When people seek unconditional reassurance, they want to be convinced that things are ok at all costs – even if things are horribly wrong. That’s dangerous, and destructive. (And particularly dangerous if the thing that’s wrong is the result of something they’re going, but it’s destructive even when the problem is in no way their fault).