I CAN TAKE IN GOOD THINGS –
& I decide what they are or are not
PREVIOUS: Not allowed to receive (#3)
WHAT TO TAKE from others – or NOT
ACoAs have a tendency to do everything in extremes, black & white, no room for fitting an action or emotion to the current situation. This applies to the issue of ‘receiving’. Because we think that taking anything is a form of manipulation, we don’t want to seem greedy or taking advantage of others. So, as with all mental health, we need a balance. NOT everyone is like our family, many of whom were selfish & stingy or insensitive & oblivious.
People GIVE – based on their state of mental health:
• healthy ones only offer what they legitimately have, can & want to do
• co-dependents usually give others what they want for themselves but aren’t allowed to have. They want to fix you (whether you need it or not) so you’ll be well enough to take care of them in return, hoping you’ll intuitively know to do that
• narcissists only extend themselves for whatever they like to do or give, having nothing to do with you. If their offer doesn’t suit you, say not thanks & don’t give it a second thought. If it does suit, don’t agonize & wonder why they’re doing it & what you have to do in return – just take it & smile. AND – they do love to be appreciated & fawned over!
a. START from the assumption that IF someone volunteers something, they have the ability & the willingness to give you what’s offered. Take it at face value. In general, people like to share what they know, what they have & what they create. They feel good about it & we have the right to take what is being offered.
NOTE: unless taking what is suggested would in any way harm you or someone else, it is usually best to accept it – as a way of respecting the positive motivation of the giver. This is not co-dependence as long as you also feel free to refuse, when appropriate.
b. Exceptions – You can say “no thanks” :
— If it truly does not fit with your genuine needs & tastes – especially if you ask for something specific & are offered something completely different.
— When a gift or action is inappropriate for the current situation (‘too soon’, not ‘that kind of friend’, not age-appropriate….)
— If you already know that a specific person is manipulative, sneaky or will use it against you – based on your experience with them.
CAVEAT: Don’t get the a. & b. types confused! If you consistently have unhappy experiences with someone (a narcissist or bully), stop giving to them, expecting reciprocation. You’ll always be disappointed, then angry, then hopeless – and back in your childhood! This is the WIC’s denial of the abandonment: trying frantically to create reciprocity with someone who’s not capable – wanting/demanding to get a return on our investment, in an impossible situation.
Say NO to anything which retards our Recovery, & is:
• generally harmful / abusive
• something we don’t want, ever
• useless & a waste of our time
• not what we need at the moment
• not suited to our personality, or not our taste
• mentally boring
• something we’ve outgrown
• against our principles & spiritual beliefs
• not our right to have
• not suited to the state of the relationship
SAYING NO requires that we know enough about ourselves & our rights – to make the best choices. In some cases it also depends on who is offering us something & why. If the giver is a relative, a boss or important client, taking the gift may be the kindest, or wisest thing to do, regardless of our taste. We can always pass it on to someone else. But if it’s close family or friends who are supposed to know who we are – & they insist on giving us things that are clearly not appropriate or suited to us – then it’s legitimate to say “No thank you!”
EXP: Paula & Sharon were BFFs who lived in adjacent buildings & spent a lot of time in each other’s place. Paula was ‘earthy’ & preferred antiques, while Sharon like everything bright, shiny & new. For their B/days (one day apart) they exchanged lovely gift BUT Paula always gave Sharon things that were her taste & totally NOT Paula’s. After a few years of this Paula finally spoke up, asking to be considered correctly. The following gift yet again did not fit with what Paula wore or her decor, so with regret, she gave the gift back!
PS. Years later Paula developed another close friendship, also with an ACoA, who admitted to not knowing how to give appropriate gifts. They solved it by exchanging a short list of what each would like, to choose from. It worked great.
Say YES to:
• offers of aid when you most need it
• kindness, respect, positive attention, appreciation…
• complements about anything – our looks, skills, style, accomplishments, knowledge, talents, creativity
• freely given generosity – of money, help, provisions, short-term free services, lending something you need
• something frivolous & fun – just because!
• to new ideas, suggestion, other people’s experiences that we can learn from & benefit
CONSIDER: Rejecting someone’s good-faith offers of their time, kind words or small objects is a way to dismiss the person as unimportant & can un-necessarily hurt their feelings. It implies that what they are or have isn’t good enough for you.
EXP: In early Recovery Sean was reminded to be appreciative whenever he was complemented, rather than negate it by explaining at length why he didn’t deserve the acknowledgement. The sponsor said: “It’s insulting to the other person, who is giving you a gift, by throwing it back in their face. Just say ‘thank you’ & then zip the lip.”
He remembers thinking: “OK, I’ll just say thank you, but privately I don’t have to agree with the compliment!” Oh well, Progress – not Perfection! Eventually he was able to appreciate genuine praise.
NEXT: Healthy Give & Take (Part 2)