Recently, while working with a client (I’ll call her Jane) who is the loved one of an addict, she made a significant discovery. We were talking about the importance of Jane’s self-care, an important subject I frequently discuss with all of my clients. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I don’t feel like I know how to take care of myself—I don’t know what I want or how to ask for it.”
“I don’t know how to set healthier boundaries because I don’t even know what those boundaries are,” Jane explained. “I’ve been steamrolled over for my whole life, mostly by family and friends who expect me to take care of them. No one takes care of ME! How would I know how to take care of myself? No one ever taught me that!”
I could appreciate Jane’s frustration. I was actually gladdened by her anger about this situation—because anger is a step up emotionally from the depression she’d been feeling. Many loved ones tell me they never get angry—or if they do, they don’t show that anger to anyone for fear of the rejection they’ll receive. Instead, they spend their time pleasing others, doing their bidding, squashing down their own feelings instead of sharing them—which often leads them to a place of anxiety, resentment and quiet despair. And because they don’t talk about these feelings, they’re unaware of how common they are among other loved ones who are caught in those same people-pleasing traps—often for their whole lives, remaining miserable and unhappy while those around them seem to benefit from the care being shown to them.
Something is very wrong with this picture! [Read more…]