The rights I’ve posted below are extremely important to me, because up until two years ago I didn’t believe I had many of them.
I think of an incident that happened when I was about 12 or 13. I was listening to a Morrissey tape when my Mom walked past my room. For those of you that are familiar with Morrissey, you know that most of his music sounds very depressing and fairly mellow. At least it did when I was listening to it in the mid-80’s. Mom happened to walk past at a particularly “drumm-y” intro and reacted in an unexpected way. I was raised in a very conservative home, so the drums were too much. She grabbed the tape out of the player, and started yelling at me about the horrible music. I remembered trying to explain that it wasn’t all hard rock like she thought, but back-talking was NOT allowed. I remember standing there so angry and frustrated at not being able to say anything. My mom was just as angry too. I remember her asking me (and not in a calm way), “Are you angry with me?” I knew her question was rhetorical, and I believe she wanted to hear me say, “No” but I thought to myself, “She’s ASKING me, and I’m going to be honest with her”… So I yelled, “Yes! Yes, I am angry with you!”
To this day I am grateful for two things. 1. That my dad was just outside my room where I couldn’t see him; and, 2. That there was a bed between my mom and I. Because she lunged towards me. I’m fairly certain she was angry enough to actually do some real damage, had Dad not stepped in and grabbed her back. I vaguely remember them saying something along the lines of not talking back to mom, my cassette tape being thrown away, and them leaving to go shopping in the city for the day. When they came back later, Dad came into my room and gave me the tape back. I also remember some sort of admonishment to not speak back to Mom and that was that.
I learned several lessons from that, and they pretty much shaped my relationship with my parents, and my life. First, you are not allowed to express your true feelings…even when asked. Second, when you’re asked a question, be sure you tell them what they want to hear. Third, you keep your “bad” emotions stuffed, because no one really wants to hear them or deal with them.
Of course, that kind of relationship blew up in all of our faces a couple of years ago, when I was 35. Through that learning experience I found a book “Healing from Family Rifts“ by Mark Sichel that had the Personal Bill of Rights in it. Sadly, most of those rights were a revelation to me. However, I’ve learned to exercise them and I’m doing better at that. Brad has been extremely helpful, in that he understands how I “work” and why I react the way I do at times. He gently reminds me that I get to feel how I feel and encourages me to remember my “rights”. These have also changed me as a parent, and I believe my kids are really benefiting from that. Particularly Megan, who now knows she may tell me if she’s angry with me, or thinks I’m being unfair, etc. She knows we’ll have a discussion about it, and if I’m wrong I will tell her so and apologize. I thank God for being made aware of these, as it is simply having respect for people as human beings.
- The right to feel good about who I am
- The freedom to say what I please and the wisdom to know when to say it
- The freedom to protect myself in a responsible and mature manner
- The right to ask for what I want, and the wisdom to know where and whom to ask
- The right to exercise my innate creative abilities
- The freedom to say no to a family member when dictated by my best interest
- The right to respectful and dignified treatment
- The right to know who I am
- The freedom to know what I want
- The right to choose the life I want
- The right to assert my likes and dislikes
- The right to accept myself for who I am
- The freedom to regulate my thoughts and feelings without the input of another person
- The freedom to cultivate interests and points of view
- The right to tolerate points of view that differ from mine
- The ability to accommodate another person without losing my own identity
- The freedom to assert my rights without fear of loss of love
- The freedom to assert my rights without fear of rejection and abandonment
- The freedom to assert my rights without fear of physical or mental punishment
- The right to say no
- The right to feel alive
- The right to believe I am likable
- The right to make choices in my life
- The freedom to choose my own friends
- The right to set boundaries that will be respected
- The right to follow my own interests
Maybe by posting these someone else will be able to find them helpful.
Living my dash (more freely)…