What about me? When’s it my turn?
Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual, Couple, and Family Counsellor
Being in my family is never-ending work, doing one thing after another for everyone else. I am unhappy, I don’t like it. I just want to scream, “What about me? When’s it my turn?”
Learning to make ourselves happy, to take care of ourselves, is a basic necessary life skill in any relationship. The fact is that we can make ourselves very unhappy.
One of the ways to make our selves unhappy is to consistently forget ourselves or deny ourselves. Let me explain.
Without really thinking about it, some of us assume a structure of personality aimed towards constantly pleasing, taking care of and doing things for others.
We have been doing this most of our lives. Very early, somewhere in our family, we learned that it was a right and noble way to be. It may have been a special “role” we assumed. We received a lot of strokes or acknowledgement from others for being this way. It felt good back then.
However, now as an adult, this way of being can be a path to festering resentment. And holding on to resentment is one of the most destructive emotions in relationship. It’s a little like drinking poison and hoping the other person will get sick - we are really hurting ourselves. Yet in our relationships we can find ourselves feeling this way.
What is going on here?
Robert and Jean Bayard, in their book, “How to Deal With Your Acting-up Teenager,” present an explanation.
They say everyone has a signal-giver inside, an inner voice that is constantly sending daring thoughts such as “I want, “I could,” “I wish,” “I need”.
Ideally there is a strong positive relationship between you and this signal-giver. You hear it repeatedly, care for it, honour it, trust it, and rely on it. However, they suggest, many of us learn very early in life to ignore, even fear, this inner voice.
Instead we rely on messages from outside ourselves to guide what we want and do, what we “should do” or “shouldn’t do”, even what we should think or believe. The result? The signal giver feels more desperate and smothered the more its signals are ignored. We become alienated from ourselves. This creates spiralling unhappiness.
Frustration and resentment, the author’s say, are caused by a person’s betrayal of their signal giver.
It can be a little shocking to realize we have something to do in fashioning our own unhappiness.
Donna, what about a new point of view? What about taking care of yourself as well as you do others? I’m not talking about being selfish but simply placing your self on an equal level with the others around you - considering yourself and your needs in the mix.
When you are looking after your self, and the happier, less resentful you are, the happier everyone around you will be; you positively elevate the quality of life for everyone in your family.
This view calls on a new kind of sensitivity towards yourself. Get back in touch with your inner signal-giver. Begin to listen to yourself carefully and when facing choices ask yourself questions like: “Is this what I really want?” “What do I need in this arrangement for it to work for me.” Are there ways to do this without me?” “Am I free to say no?”
When you are clearer about what you want and need then you make requests alongside your willingness. E.g. “Ill take you to school this morning. First I want you to clear the dishes”. “Okay, you go golfing Saturday afternoon and Ill visit my sister sun evening.”
Donna, the most important thing you can do here is to devote yourself to a whole new practice – the practice of being loyal to, of nurturing, your own well being.
Committing your self to master this skill produces a new and exciting project in your family. So don’t give up. Have some fun with this.
Paul Beckow is a marriage counsellor in the West Shore and can be reached at his e mail PBeckowLETSTALK@shaw.ca or Paul Beckow Counselling at 250 721 2477.
For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.