Soulful Connections: The Power of Saying “No” in Family Relationships
Soulful Connections A Column by Relda Hill The Power of Saying “No” in Family Relationships Boundaries are important in any kind of relationship, but especially in family relationships.
I grew up in a dysfunctional household where boundaries were not respected. There were no locks on any of the doors in our home. This kind of situation left me feeling unsafe and out of control. I constantly felt that I was losing my soul and identity. Consequently, I developed conflictual relationships with my family that left me in a weakened position in life, which spilled over into my relationships with other people I encountered.
I had problems saying “No” to others and found it difficult to set boundaries. I could not say, “I do not appreciate the way you are speaking to me—so stop it!” However, my world is quite different today. In this article, I will discuss my definition of boundaries and why they are so important.
I have two definitions of boundaries: the physical and the emotional boundary. My physical boundary is the length of one arm. When I define my personal space in this manner, I feel safe in my surroundings. I feel threatened and uncomfortable when people get too close to me, especially if I do not know them well.
My emotional boundary allows me to assert my Self by telling another person what is acceptable and unacceptable in my personal world. If someone uses profanity in my presence and I do not like it, I set the boundary by letting the person know that kind of language is inappropriate. I understand I do not have control over how the other person will react, but at least I know that I am protecting that small child within me.
Recently, my sister and I have been at odds over who will care for our aging mother. When she demanded I get involved with our mother’s caregiving, I asserted my Self by saying “No!” She retorted, “You have no boundaries!” This incident triggered something in me, but I knew I had done the right thing. I said “No” because I can barely take care of my Self, much less an old woman with Dementia/Alzheimers. I live in a one-bedroom apartment with two pets, and simply do not have the space to accommodate another person. On the other hand, my sister has a huge house with a basement that could be converted into a bedroom to accommodate our mother. In my opinion, my sister was being selfish and irrational. The ugly truth is she does not want to take our mother into her home because she rented the space to a woman who has a business in the basement.
Saying “No” gives me a feeling of liberation. In the past, I would retreat into symptoms. Now, I simply choose to embrace my pain and make decisions that are in my best interest. The reality is that just because my sister is a blood relative, does not give her the right to be abusive, or take advantage of me.
Recently, I had the painful realization that subconsciously I have allowed my family of origin to be abusive to me. I had erroneous ideas in my head about what a family was supposed to be like. If I was the supposed “bad” one in the family, which I was constantly told I was, then I had to “fix” things. This delusion led to me being masochistic. My life is much different today because of the work that I have done on my Self.
Much of my healing journey has been about reclaiming the lost parts of me. As I continue to do this work, I want every peer to know that no one has a right to abuse them, even if they are family. I am a person worthy of respect, just like any other human being. I am learning to transform my life by redefining what family means to me. I am releasing some of my most cherished yet distorted beliefs about family. These boundaries protect me from harm, which is why they are so important.
As I continue to recover, I will keep seeking healthy relationships which will help me grow and fulfill my potential as a human being.