If I say “no”, they’ll be furious

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A man sat with me on skype, far away in another time zone by distance, but fully present that moment to a deeply painful belief: if he said “no” to his father, his father would go ballistic with rage. 

He had proof. From his childhood. 

He was so upset with himself for feeling the same way for over forty years. 

“I’ve been such a people-pleaser. I’ve kissed ass, I’ve bent over backwards for my bosses. There’s no way out of this, I never change. I’m just too scared.”

He spoke the words of someone who feels hopeless. 

I could relate.

While I didn’t have a father who went ballistic with rage, and fortunately came from a household growing up where physical violence was rare, I had that same automatic reflex of wanting to be pleasing to others and not make them mad. 

Especially parents, people I believe I needed. 

If I said “no” they’d get really angry and stop talking to me, or punish me by withdrawing attention or support. They’d make it clear I was “bad” or “wrong” with my no, and maybe even tell other people who would also reject me.

Byron Katie talks about three things we humans tend to become crazed for: love, approval, appreciation.She calls it LAA for short.

It doesn’t feel so la-la when you’re desperate for it, right? 

Your thought is that person doesn’t love you, and you neeeeeeeed their love, approval or appreciation. The mind thinks “I can’t stand someone out there NOT LIKING ME!”

I thought this about siblings, romantic partners, parents, friends, co-workers, bosses. 

If I received a disgusted look, a critical remark, a dismissal, a sarcastic comment….oh no, here it comes: I can’t say “no”, I can’t express my own opinion, I need to be pleasing, I need their appreciation, I need to repair this, I need to get them to like me again.

Just like the dear inquirer who sat with me, let’s do this.

Is it true you need their approval, love, appreciation, acceptance?

Yes. I hate not having it. Except…..no. I will not die without their acceptance. 

Even in the case of this inquirer doing The Work where he thought because he said “no” in the past, his father would hurt him, he realized he survived. He was OK. He even ran out the front door. 

He then moved away and grew up. Reality was actually kinder than his expectations about it.

How do you react when you believe you need them to like you? You need them to approve, accept, appreciate you?

Ugh. 

It’s a horrible, endless effort to get what I think I want and need from them: Their smile, them saying “we’re so alike and you’re so brilliant” (or whatever I think I enjoy hearing), their hand reaching out to me, their praise. 

When I believe I want it, and I’m not getting it, I definitely don’t say anything I think they won’t like. 

Like, “no”. 

I don’t want to disappoint them.

I feel sick.

Maybe, I eat, smoke, drink, spend, watch TV, go to the internet, try to grab some kind of pleasure or avoidance somewhere else.

So who would you be without the belief “if I say ‘no’ they’ll be angry” or even more importantly “I need their love” (and disagreement means I don’t have it)?

It doesn’t mean you’d be a cold, heartless beo*%ch. 

At least that’s what I’ve noticed. Because I still see a human being who wanted time with me, who wanted me to say “yes”, who wanted it the way they wanted it. 

Just like me.

Without the belief I need anyone’s love, approval or appreciation….I simply tell the truth. 

I don’t feel afraid of people’s questions or requests or suggestions. I respond with interest, curiosity, and my own questions if I have them. I feel like there’s solution possible, even if we don’t know it yet. I don’t feel despair or like giving up. 

Turning the story around: 

  • If I say “no” they will love me. I don’t need their love. Could be just as true. Can you find examples? For me, I’m aware the person I say “no” to still accepts or appreciates me. Perhaps they’re disappointed, but it’s because they love me, not because they don’t. 
  • If I say “no” I won’t love myself. I need my own love. True. I see the other person’s upset, and I quickly decide it means something about me. I forget to love myself, and feel my open heart towards them even as they have a tantrum (LOL). 
  • If they say “no” I won’t love them. They need MY love. Also could be true! I’ve been angry that person didn’t give me exactly what I wanted, er, I mean demanded. Yikes! Perhaps they only wanted something, and I refused to give it, and just like me they perceived this meant I didn’t care, love, appreciate or approve of them.

“Suppose your hand moved for no reason, and he found that unacceptable–wouldn’t it be obvious that it was all his show? If he criticizes you, and you take that personally, you’re the one who hurt you. The story you impose onto his criticism is where the pain begins. You’re arguing with reality, and you lose.” ~ Byron Katie in A Mind At Home With Itself 

Woah. So, if I see that person upset when I’ve said “no” (or anything else for that matter) then I upset myself when I take it personally.
Who would I be without that story?

Free to say “yes”, to say “no”, to be honest and kind in the presence of anyone, and everyone.

Much love,Grace

P.S. If you’ve felt like you’re bracing yourself against the one who was once connected, and now is NOT (separation, break-up, divorce) and all the associated stressful beliefs that rise up around this person….you may love the upcoming class “Divorce is Hell: Is It True?” starting Sundays in January. Sign up here.

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