No, Nope, Nada: Is no a Bad Word?

“No” is an important and powerful word. Its primary uses are for protection and self-care. Adults are quick to use it to protect a child, but many people don’t know how to use it to protect themselves and their relationships.

Many people are taught that they must say “Yes” and that “No” is not an acceptable answer to anything. They do not learn the essential skills of knowing when and how to say “no.

Think about this scenario for a moment: A young woman and I were talking, and she said “I say yes (to things) because I feel like an asshole if I say no. Then I go and do it, and I don’t want to be there. I think about the things I want to be doing instead. Then I feel like a bad friend because I am having these negative thoughts and feelings.”

By saying yes when she wanted to say no, she gives her Harsh Inner Critic an opportunity to criticize her. The situation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when her unhappiness shows in her behavior and she judges herself as being an asshole or a bad friend.

When you allow yourself to say “No,” you have an opportunity to grow. You can feel strong, and proud of the way you are taking care of yourself. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine whether the right answer in your situation, is “no”:

1.”How am I feeling?” A good way to determine whether to say yes or no is how you feel when you are asked. Do you feel happy and excited, or stressed and angry?

2.”Am I saying yes because I feel obligated, guilty, afraid?”

3.”What will I be sacrificing to say yes?” Do I have the time available to do what is being asked of me?

4.What will I have to give up that I want to do? Would saying yes cause me to feel deprived?

5.”What are the consequences of saying no?”

6.”If I say yes, will I end up creating distance in the relationship?” When you are feeling grumpy or angry, not only will you distance yourself, the other person will feel your unexpressed emotions and will also withdraw, perhaps without realizing it. For example: “The other night my sister and I were going to go out and have fun. I told my boyfriend and he wanted me to join him and his friends. I felt caught between two people I love. When I told my sister she got mad. I ended up staying home because I felt so bad and mad. I couldn’t please anyone, not even myself.”

7.Is there a way to say yes and feel good about it? Would it be possible to limit the time spend fulfilling the request?

As you think through these questions, the answers that are best for you often become clear. Also, you can try writing the answers down and discussing them with a close friend for added clarity. If not, make the best choice you can and be gentle with yourself as you grow.

Next week, we will talk about different ways to say “no.”

All I Want for Christmas Is for Christmas to Be Over!

Once again, the holiday season is upon us. It comes every year, whether we like it or not. Many people find it fun and exciting – they get into the holiday spirit, and are sad when it is over.

Then, there are people who dread the holidays. Everything about the season is torturous, from Christmas music in the stores to family meals, or perhaps the lack of a family. It’s no exaggeration – people who dread the holidays can become depressed, anxious and even angry. As Sarah Vine wrote, “Christmas is like childbirth: magical in theory; excruciating in practice.”

Since you can’t avoid the holiday season, here are a few steps you can take to make them a little less painful:

  1.  Figure out where you need help during the holidays. One way to discover your trouble spots is to write a list of all the things you dread this time of year, even the little things. For each item on the list, write an opposite activity. For example: “I hate going to stores during the holidays. They are crowded and the traffic is awful; therefore, I will order my gifts on line.” Consult a friend or a therapist if you need help with alternative options.
  2.  Remember that the holiday season will end. The longest the holidays will last for most people is January 2nd. Depending on your circumstances, they could end sooner.
  3.  Listen to what you think and say about the holidays. Do you consciously or unconsciously dwell on your misery? We can make things feel much worse that they have to be, by going over and over how awful it will be.
  4.  Think about your expectations for the holiday season and write them down. Look at the language, and then rewrite those expectations to make them more realistic. Replace your dread with positive language reinforcing that your experiences will not be awful.
  5.  It may not feel like it, but you do have choices during the holiday season. It is perfectly acceptable to say no, even if others disagree with your decision. Make choices that focus on what you want to do, rather than on obligations that could be real or imagined.
  6.  In situations where you feel you have no choice, limit your time. If family parties are difficult, keep moving and don’t spend a lot of time with one person. If you get in a difficult conversation, change the subject. Consider excusing yourself to the restroom. It is a great way to exit a conversation or situation, and have some socially acceptable alone time. Ask a friend to be on-call so you can make a quick connection with someone who supports you.
  7.  Is excess food and drink a problem? A glass filled with soda, soda water, or sparkling cider can be a good decoy for those who push you to drink alcohol. If you want to avoid overindulging in alcohol, drink a nonalcoholic beverage after each cocktail. That will slow your consumption of alcohol. Over eating can be treated the same way. Eating very slowly not only helps you limit your food, it also keeps food on your plate so no one pushes seconds. While eating, be sure to have a beverage on hand. It will slow your eating and help you feel full. Try putting your fork down between bites to stay aware of how much you are eating.
  8. Develop plans that you enjoy with people you enjoy. Look for activities that take you and your friends away from the holiday hype.
  9.  Last but not least, find some humor in these holiday experiences that you dread. YouTube is a great resource for humorous material. Watch funny holiday movies. Or pick up a humorous book, such as The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris. It is the story of his adventures working as Santa’s elf. Again, consult friends or a therapist to brainstorm options.

If you are having difficulty dealing with the holidays and finding it hard to find choices which will help you feel better, I can help. As a woman I work with said, “I no longer dread the holidays. I know what I enjoy during this time and I concentrate on that.” Call me at: 919-881-2001.

Internal Drama Triangle: Getting Off The Merry-Go-Round

Lets get off the merry go aroundEach of us has created an Internal Drama Triangle in our lives. It happens on an unconscious level to help us survive difficult situations. When we were children, it served us well in a time of need. Unfortunately, because it is an unconscious, it continues far beyond its usefulness and we don’t see it. This is a cycle designed to keep us from feeling our true feelings.

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The Internal Drama Triangle: Let’s all Get on the Merry- Go-Round

IMG_8846_resizeedThe Drama Triangle is a model of dysfunctional interactions, created by Steven Karpman. It happens both with internal thoughts, and in external relationships. Each point of the triangle represents a common and ineffective way to communicate and solve problems. This is a way of looking at how we talk to ourselves when there is an Internal Harsh Critic.IMG_0020 Continue reading