This is What Your "No" Muscle Can do for You

May 25, 2020

"Your safe people need to point out to you that you aren’t really 'present' when you can’t bring your differences to a relationship."

In most adult children of controlling upbringings, the will to be self-directed and separated is undeveloped. We all need the ability to decide what we love and don’t love, like and don’t like, want and don’t want. However, the children of controlling upbringings often can’t separate their feelings and values from those of the significant people in their lives: mom, spouse, or friends, for example. They aren’t able to be distinct in their relationships.

The process begins by first owning a “no muscle.” We can’t really know who we are until we know who we aren’t. That’s why babies go through the “no” stage first. They must first become aware of their differences from their parents before they can explore their own traits and characteristics. In the same way, you need to permit, encourage, and provoke your distinctions.

This is difficult, as you are probably afraid to disagree or state a different opinion. You will most likely either agree in order to be accepted, or simply withdraw when you have a separate will. But your safe people need to point out to you that you aren’t really “present” when you can’t bring your differences to a relationship. This part is what makes you valuable. As the saying goes, “If you and I agree all the time, one of us isn’t necessary.”

Twenty-eight-year-old Amber was the ultimate “yes person.” She had lots of friends and was a genuinely caring individual. But she was so easy to get along with that her needs often got pushed aside in her relationships. When she joined a support group to deal with issues of character growth, it soon became apparent that Amber had little will to be different from others. With her permission, her group began helping her with this.

One night, an opportunity arose. Trent, an outspoken member of the group, went too far in disagreeing with Phillip, another member, and became hostile and cutting. Amber was visibly disturbed by Trent’s aggression toward her friend, yet she said nothing. Another member, however, noticed her discomfort. “Amber,” she said. “It looks like you have some feelings about how Trent just talked to Phillip. Would you mind sharing them?”

Amber was stunned. She knew she was angry at Trent, yet she could have never said so. “Well, people have different ways of discussing issues, I guess,” she responded, diplomatically.

“Look, I got angry at Trent just now,” another person said. “He was out of line and hurtful. I’d really like to hear your thoughts.”

Amber was still doubtful until Trent joined in. “Amber, even I know that I blew it. I’d really welcome your feedback.” Amber hesitated, then said, “I guess I didn’t like what you said to Phillip, Trent. It seemed mean to me.”

Her confrontation was greeted with warmth from everyone, including Trent. They were just as happy about her big step as they were concerned for Trent and Phillip’s situation. Amber was amazed. She’d confronted someone, and her world hadn’t fallen apart. Trent and others hadn’t shamed her or even had their feelings hurt.

Let's take the next step together and work on this.