From time to time I encounter clients who struggle with codependency and they often have no idea.
They are usually nice and wonderful people whose lives have been turned up upside down by those closest to them, whom they were simply trying to help. Codependency is usually thought of as when one person is needy or feels reliant upon the other. It often occurs when one person in the relationship has a mental illness or is struggling with substance or alcohol abuse.
One thing I have found across the board with every single co-dependent client of mine is that they struggle to say no to the chaotic people in their lives.
In this post, I discuss two cognitive strategies, that you can start practicing right away.
I remember years ago, a friend of mine casually asked to borrow my car. I knew she needed help due to her economic situation, however, I told her no.
” Why not? ” She demanded.
” I never let others borrow my car, ” I responded, reluctant to go into any details. She responded by hissing under her breath with a dejected look on her face. We were classmates and this conversation was taking place in the school library.
” Selfish, ” she quietly added as she picked up her bag.
I experienced a jolt of anger after she had said this, then I made a choice to do nothing and let the anger pass. I felt compelled to wish her goodbye, but decided against it, since she had decided to break the rules of social courtesy. Later she would call me to apologize for her behavior and I would assure her that it was water under the bridge.
The truth is that I wanted to help my friend, but I did not trust her. She had recently wrecked her car in an accident, and without car insurance, she was now without transportation. Further, for some time I suspected that she was habitually abusing an over the counter medication. I was actually prepared to tell her my specific reasons why, but since I still wouldn’t have loaned her my car, even if she showed me proof of insurance, and convinced me that she was not abusing drugs, I decided not to bother.
So why is this story important? It’s important because I hear similar types of stories from people who struggle to say no in their relationships. However, they usually say yes, and then they suffer the consequences of going against their better judgment.
So here are two strategies for you to practice in saying no, when you need to, regardless of how you feel.
Social Courtesy Is Relative
Most people are nice, and being nice is a very good thing. However what happens when you are dealing with someone who is pushy?
What I recommend is that you make adjustments in your rules of engagement. Too often we continue to play by social rules while the other party has dropped them. It’s as though we believe that if we try hard enough the other person is suddenly going to become more considerate.
In a situation such as this, I suggest you become more firm and blunt. Hold your boundaries and your self-respect.
In the story I shared, my friend really should have stopped at my initial response to her request. However she simply pressed on, and in return, I became more blunt. When she transitioned to becoming openly disrespectful, I simply ignored her. I maintained my values, I continued to regard her with respect, while at the same time sending her a firm message that I was not going to pacify her.
Rejection is a part of life, and pretending it doesn’t exist while it is happening to you is only going to make your problems worse. The human brain is designed to be congruent, so it helps to acknowledge to yourself that your boundaries aren’t being respected rather than behaving as if this is not the case. It forces you to take a firmer stance with the other person. The bottom line is that regardless of how guilty you feel, you have to be prepared to be just as blunt and honest with your self as possible. Being honest with your self allows you to make better decisions about who you associate with moving forward.
Ugo Uche LPC is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, professional counseling and life coaching service in Tucson Arizona. If you are struggling with anxiety, ADHD or other difficulties do not hesitate to call or fill out my contact form and click Send. If you are outside Tuscon or cannot make it to my office consider online therapy.