A Line in the Sand

You say it's very hard to leave behind the life we knew
But there's no other way and now it's really up to you
Love is the key we must turn, Truth is the flame we must burn
Freedom the lesson we must learn, do you know what I mean?
Have your eyes really seen?

·    Love Song - Lesley Duncan © 1969


“Teach people how to treat you” is a phase coined by Dr. Phillip McGraw in his book “Life Strategies”. With this phrase, Dr. McGraw illustrates that, as difficult as it may be to hear, in whatever relationships you are in (boss, spouse, friends, etc.), you have taught them both the rules and the boundaries of the relationship.

Boundaries play a primary role in teaching others how to treat you. If you weren’t taught as a child how to require respect from others, you must now develop the ability to take ownership of, or responsibility for, your own needs. Boundaries help you determine what is your “property” (physical, mental, or emotional) so that you can take care of it; not so that you can use it against other people. Simply, boundaries help you define what's OK with you, and what's not OK with you. Boundaries include things that other people may not do around you, do to you, or say to you.

For example, most people have the boundary of “it’s not OK to hit me”. Some people take that boundary even further by saying “it’s not Ok to touch me” without my permission.

As you look at your relationships, be careful not to lie to yourself about them. It is much easier to blame others, and it’s definitely not easy to accept that you are even partly responsible for being mistreated by someone. Your commitment must be high in this area. If you talk about change, and then don’t follow through, you have only taught that person to be patient; that what you say you don’t mean, and that you will give in. Dr. Phil McGraw gives us a good example of how we “teach” people unwanted behavior. “For example, if your partner pouts when you don’t comply, and you give in: bingo, payoff for pouting. Now they know how to treat you to get their way.”

This isn’t a game. You are not trying to control another person. You are not saying things for shock value. You are not saying things that you don’t mean. You are a valuable and lovable person who respects him/herself enough to insist that others treat you with the same respect. This is not a license to be rude. In fact, just the opposite. You must be will to also treat people with the same respect that you expect to be treated with.

Perhaps what you request of others may be unpopular. Many times in your life you may do things that are unpopular with the rest of the world. While you are certainly glad if others think well of you, and it is a good thing to learn the personal skills that are beneficial to being liked and appreciated by others, it is destructive to think that you must become a door mat in order to make everyone endorse you and everything about you. Jesus himself wasn’t loved by everybody, and still isn’t.

You have to be able to acknowledge what you need, and then ask for it. Before you can ask for something you have to know what it is you want, and you have to believe it is possible to get it. It is very unlikely your relationship partners will ever know what it is you want unless you have the courage to specifically ask for it. If it is hard for you articulate what your own needs and wants are, how is anyone else suppose to know?

Spend some time getting to know yourself, and defining how you expect to be treated. Then ask those you have a relationship with to treat you with the respect you deserve. You know what's right for you...be willing to stand for what's right for you.

- Kathy Gates

 Kathy Gates, This week's Guest Author

About the Author

Kathy Gates is a Life Coach who believes that "Life Rewards Action". It's what you do today that will make a difference in your life tomorrow. She can help you set priorities and goals, build healthy relationships, and take control of your life. If you would like more information, please email kathy@reallifecoach.com, or call 480.998.5843

You know, I've heard about people like me,
But I never made the connection.
They walk one road to set them free,
And find they've gone the wrong direction.

But there's no need for turning back,
'Cause all roads lead to where we stand
And I believe we've walked them all
No matter what we may have planned.

·    Don McLean, Crossroads

Learning To Say 'No'

Just over two years ago, I observed, "As children, we learn to measure our worth in proportion to what we do rather than who we are. The more we do, the more valuable we feel - the more valuable we feel, the more we seek to do. We become do-more-better people, not enjoying what we do, and evolve into do-more-better-faster people, making work a chore. And we do-more-better-faster for so long that we will not stop. Even the fun stuff becomes work. We are afraid to lose our value in the estimation of others, feeling that the moment we stop doing more better and faster, we will lose the value we place on ourself. All of this leads to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual imbalance." This lesson has come back to roost in the life of one (or more!) of my readers this week, and I feel it necessary to cover this ground again.

Boundaries are walls, agreed, but this need not be a bad thing. Such limits are necessary to determine the activities in which I will or will not participate. When I say 'yes' instead of 'no' I may be letting things into my life that shouldn't be there, expending more energy than I may have, dividing my attention and extending my commitment beyond what should be important to me. Saying 'yes' when I mean 'no' means I have given up control, by active or tacit agreement, of what I feel is good for me - food, people, or activities, by way of example. It is difficult to say 'no,' especially if it results in disapproval - fear of losing a client, a friend, a lover - who wants to risk a rejection or a loss? So I decide that their approval is more important than the commitments I have made to myself.

According to Peter Block, my ability to say 'yes' is only as good and viable as my willingness to say 'no.' Being grounded and clear about what I am not willing to do commands the respect of others, especially when I am graceful and compassionate about it, sharing the reasons why I won't say 'yes' if necessary. It is important that I allow no one to make demands of me. What they need from me may generate some physical or emotional discomfort, a good signal that they are invading a boundary. It is not my job to make the troubles of others my own, unless I actively and intelligently choose to because I am able and willing to help them, and choose to do so without resentment. Good boundaries attract good people to my life. It is possible to learn and practice the art of the graceful 'no' and still maintain my relationships.

One of the most difficult limits I have had to set was the boundary that removed me from destructive relationships, and in my "former" life, I had quite a few. I struggled with the idea that I could remain "friends" with one individual, but eventually came to the conclusion that I needed more distance than that. Friendship is possible only when both parties have fairly good ideas about what is private and not common ground. Separation in the physical sense also required a separation in the emotional sense, too. Casual contact sent the misguided and unconscious message that the former relationship would continue as usual. Doing so hindered me, prevented the process of grieving over the losses, and getting on with my life. It was a form of strategic amnesia and creeping denial that caused me to disregard the reasons for separation from these individuals in the first place. One of the biggest hooks back into a destructive relationship is the sense of guilt about the pain I have caused by the separation. It was necessary to ignore the pain I had caused them, even though I could relieve it so easily!

My decision in this case was not based solely on love or hate, but upon a determination of how best to take care of myself. It was hard to come to grips with the fact that I could feel love for someone, even while I was pushing them away, across to the other side of that boundary, where they now belonged. As much as I wanted to let this individual help me to get through the process of grieving for the loss, because they understood me so well after a 20 year relationship, it created an unendurable and impractical paradox. At the same time, I could not share my grief and loss with those friends we shared in common. It was necessary to involve the services of a reputable therapist, which I highly recommend if you find yourself in a similar situation.

If you were raised in a dysfunctional family like I was, you may not realize that 'no' is a complete sentence.

No. No. No. (How liberating!)


email: Michael@N-Spire.com

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