My Inability to Say "No"
No Ė such a little word with so much power, however, the abused seem to have no power to utter it when needed. My next confession is that I have an inability to say no.
I have been keenly aware that uttering this word has been a huge problem in my life, especially when I know something is not good for me or someone is abusing me. There is no strength within me to utter the denial or refusal to protect myself. At times I really wish I could clearly understand why I have such a brick wall in this area. Frankly, I can make my own psychological assumptions regarding this problem in my life. Itís connected with my childhood sexual abuse.
When I think back to those moments when the teenage boy abused me at such a young age, I can remember the fear I felt inwardly. My mind can clearly see his white briefs and his bulging sexuality before my eyes. I knew something was not right when his hard erection pressed against me, but I didnít say no. The Hershey candy bar was enticing, so I relented to what he wanted to do. I kept my mouth shut, when I should have screamed. I laid underneath him, when I should have fought for myself because it hurt. Instead fear ruled and I felt powerless and speechless.
Fast forward the years ahead when I became involved with individuals who were abusive and lived in situations that were unhealthy. Did I learn from my childhood experience to say no? No. Once again, that word would not leave my tongue. My lips were sealed while my heart pounded. Afraid of what would happen if I said . . .no. Iíve been counseled to be assertive, stand up for myself, create boundaries, leave abusive relationships, and put my foot down when Iím being used by others. Yet, Iíve been helpless to carry that behavior out. As I look back at my life, so much of my own misery came about because I couldnít say no.
You may not have this problem and are having difficulty comprehending. I can only say that when I am faced with a situation where I should utter this word, something inside my mind shuts down. I feel like a deer caught in the headlights. There is no movement on my part. My lips part so air can enter, but nothing comes out. My mind goes blank. My heart pounds within my chest. Nerves prick me, and instead of asserting myself, I relent, surrounded by a false sense of security. I let the situation or person run right over me, like a car would a deer in the middle of the road. And no one suffers for it, but me.
After all these years of dealing with this problem, I have come to at least understand it thoroughly. I recognize afterward that I should have said no, when instead I was silent. Often, my behavior turns to complaining to myself in private, or maybe bitching to a friend or coworker, while feeling utterly helpless. Like, Rachel, I rag on myself for my weakness.
ďOkay.Ē Iím feeling the usual deer in the headlight syndrome. I canít think of anything to say, because my brain is frozen. He gets what he wants, and I canít say no.
ďOkay, five oíclock in the lobby,Ē I repeat.
ďSee you then,Ē he replies and hangs up.
Immediately, I feel like Iím on the verge of a panic attack. I hate doing things I donít want to do. Now Iím mad at myself for giving in to his offer and want to throw up. I wander back to my desk clutching my phone with a death grip. I donít want to do this, I moan again to myself, but now Iím committed. Stand him up, the cowardly little voice inside suggests. No, I canít, I dismiss the taunt.
On rare occasions, I muddle over the situation, go back to that person, and somehow, by the grace of God, tell them with great fear that I do not want to do what they are asking. However, that doesnít happen often.
Iím not sure if any of you have the same problem, but I suspect if you have been sexually abused that you do. Well, once again, be assured you are not alone.
It amazes me how two letters in the English language can have so much power over an individual. We either overcome or succumb to our ability or inability to use ďnĒ and ďoĒ together. After all these years, that sick feeling is still in the pit of my stomach when I need to utter the word in response to an uncomfortable request. One of these days, I hope it leaves.