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  • The Holidays — and The Psychology of Saying No

    The Holidays are here: the season of peace and goodwill towards all. That’s exactly why the psychology of saying no is so important at this time!

    psychology of saying no

    Now, why would I say anything so Scrooge-like? Have I no respect for the season? Actually I have tremendous respect for it! I think the message of love and acceptance for all has tremendous importance for humanity. However, in company with /a-midlife-transitions wiser than myself, I believe that the love of the other has to start with a fundamental love and acceptance for oneself.

    Does Being a Good Person Mean Saying Yes?

    We get lots of moral and inspirational messaging telling us that we should be saying “Yes” to what others want of us. They even take a semi-psychological form in urgings or pressure to be a “positive person” — often a spin on being a compliant person who goes along with the desires and agendas of others.

    These pressures take very tangible forms at the holidays. We can feel enormous pressure to invite Uncle Morris to the family dinner, knowing that he’ll arrive intoxicated, drink more, and verbally abuse others. Yet, it wouldn’t be “nice” to challenge the status quo. Or I might feel enormous pressure to have “that relative”, visiting from Waha, WI stay for ten days, who is hypochrondriacal and hyper-critical, and who makes me feel like a stranger in my own house.

    If I listen to my “gut”, my instinct, it tells me that giving way to these demands isn’t good for me. Yet I face pressure, internal and external, to be “nice”.

    Most of us are trained to be nice and make family gatherings conflict-free. But what about situations where ignoring my own needs concretely hurts me, psychologically — and perhaps also hurts my health?

    psychology of saying no

    The Psychology of Saying No: Why Do I Feel the Guilt?

    The situations described above, and a whole range of others, including pressure to spend money we don’t have at the holidays, or to entertain or go to social events when we may simply be exhausted, may make us feel something we don’t want to feel: guilt. Guilt feelings can be excruciating.

    Why do I feel guilt? Well, healthy guilt occurs when I’ve done something that genuinely is at odds with my own particular moral compass. It’s there to help us stay true to what we really value. Therapists know that it’s possible to have guilt feelings when we’ve crossed a social taboo, or haven’t met someone else’s expectations. Yet, just because I feel guilty does not mean that I am guilty. We owe it to ourselves to discern the difference between genuine guilt, and the guilt feelings that occur because we dare to violate the expectations of others.

    Individuation: Before You Can Say “Yes”, You Must Say “No”

    Jungians and /a-midlife-transitions speak of individuation, which Andrew Samuels defines as

    “A person’s becoming [him or her]self, whole indivisible and distinct from other people or collective psychology (though also in relation to these).

    In order to be oneself “whole indivisible and distinct” from others and from collective psychology, we often have to begin by clearly marking where we begin, and where the expectations of others and of groups end. This we call “saying no”. It is almost always essential that we say no in these ways, so that we can begin to say yes to our own fundamental being.

    Your Own Way

    Poet Gerard Manly Hopkins in “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”, writes,

    Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

    ‘Deals out that being indoors each one dwells:

    Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

    Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

    What I do is me: for that I came. The Holidays serve to remind us that saying “No” in some contexts, to imposed obligations and the expectations of others may be a very important way of saying “Yes”. Yes to our own being, our own real identity, and Yes to our own particular journey through life. Depth case studies is continually moving toward this fundamental “Yes” to the uniqueness and fundamental intrinsic value that we each in our uniqueness are.

    Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst


    PHOTOS: Attribution Share Alike © John Henderson ; marc falardeau
    © 2016 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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