I just took some time to re-read last week’s post (“Is This A Bridge I’m Building?”) because I had a feeling that what I’m dealing with today is a continuation of what came up last week. I don’t often remember the details of what I write about from week to week, so it’s always interesting to go back and see the threads that run through my life, whether I’m conscious of them at the time, or not.
When I sat down to write today, I was very conscious of how pissed off I am today. I guess it’s been coming on for a while because I did speak about being angry in last week’s post, but in the past few days in particular, I’ve been very aware of how fed up I am with being on the receiving end of everybody else’s bullshit.
I think this is coming to a head because of some recent interactions I’ve had with my kids about the move and all the changes that will be happening as a result. In addition, I taught a 3-day Daring Way™ intensive this weekend which always serves to bring up some of my own issues and leaves me feeling significantly more vulnerable than usual.
This morning I was feeling particularly angry because it became clear to me that one of the themes that keeps playing out in my life is that I often seem to be used as the scapegoat for the people closest to me. Fortunately, my early childhood experiences offered me no other choice but to learn to stay calm in a crisis and and, since then, I have worked hard at building skills which help me to stay out of judgement, remain supportive, empathic and compassionate to others while they are in a very vulnerable place. I know how important it is to feel seen, heard, acknowledged and validated by those we love and so, throughout my journey, it has always been my intention to learn these skills so that these people would feel safe enough to share their deepest feelings with me… and even explode, if necessary.
In my work with clients or with my friends and family where I am not personally involved in the issue, these attributes have always proven to be very effective and much appreciated in helping people deal with troubling things in their lives. What I’m noticing now, however, is that when I am personally involved in the issue, being such a “safe” person to these people makes it easy for them to scapegoat me instead of taking ownership for their part in the issue at hand.
For instance, in the case of legitimate things that I have consciously chosen to do (such as deciding to move when nobody else wants to) or things that I’m not conscious of or simply not skilled enough to handle in that moment (such as not taking others’ needs into consideration; dealing with overwhelming emotions; dealing with my kids’ behaviour; making sound financial choices; etc…) it seems as if the people close to me are not able to practice the same skills that I practice with them and, even worse, they tend to blame me. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t mature enough, skilled enough or strong enough to deal with facing what they need to take ownership of in themselves, but regardless, I get dumped on and I’m getting pretty sick of it.
No one understands better than me that we all have our vulnerabilities and how important it is to be able to vent and express ourselves with the people with whom we feel safest. God knows, I’ve done my best to cultivate safety and connection in my relationships because I know how vital it is and is therefore a very strong value of mine. The trouble comes, however, when it seems that I am the only one who is doing the work to create the safety and preserve the connection. I begin to feel as if it’s a one-sided relationship with me doing all the work. I feel I invest so much in helping others get what they need and I end up not getting my needs met in return. As result, I feel taken for granted and I want to shut down, withdraw and distance myself from the very connection I have worked so hard to protect.
When the hell is it going to be my turn?
As you may have guessed, this is a “story” I’ve been playing out in my life since childhood. This “story” originated from the truth that there were many scenarios in my life where I had to play the supportive role, be the referee and, very often, the scapegoat in order to keep the peace so we could all survive. As you can imagine, this left me with some limiting beliefs about what my role is in the family and what I’m allowed to expect, let alone, demand from the people I love. I learned early on that it was easier and safer to simply take all the blame myself, assume all responsibility for making things better, acquiesce wherever necessary and get used to not having my needs met because nobody was paying attention to them or asking me what I needed, anyway.
Very quickly, I learned to be self sufficient. I found ways to meet my own needs so that I no longer had to be dependent on people who could not keep me safe and so I could avoid facing the crushing disappointment of having my needs marginalized, invalidated or even ignored by others.
Sometimes, if the emotional stakes were high enough, getting my needs met meant I had to become a bit of a bulldozer. How aggressive or stubborn I was willing to be depended on how likely it was that I would be met with some kind of external resistance. In order to survive, I would always find a way to get what I needed which came at the risk of being called selfish. To this day, being called selfish is one of my most sensitive triggers because, in my mind, I’ve devoted my entire life to making sure everyone else was okay, even if I had to sacrifice my own needs in the process. If I’m sometimes pushy or inconsiderate, it’s only because I’ve learned to believe that it’s the only way I’ll get what I need. I can’t take the chance that another person’s needs will trump my own.
After all, that’s the story of my life and, as it turns out, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The price tag for all this?
Shame, secrecy, guilt and resentment.
But I’m ready to challenge all of that now.
I realize that, as long as I keep telling myself the “story” about being the scapegoat, I always will be.
It’s high time I got angry and set new boundaries with all the people in my life who are and have been selfish, narcissistic, unsupportive, lacked empathy, taken me for granted and blamed me unfairly.
In the meantime, this is what I have to say to them:
I get it
I’m not perfect
I make a LOT of mistakes
I can be inconsiderate and even selfish
I FUCKING GET IT!!!
AND I apologize
AND I circle back to try and correct it
AND I give you an opportunity to vent your feelings DIRECTLY to me
I encourage you to get things off your chest and clear the air because
I WANT YOU TO FEEL BETTER
I do my best to stay out of judgement… and that is REALLY hard sometimes
But I do it because I WANT TO HELP YOU!!!!!
I want to repair our relationship
So we can feel connected again
So we can both feel safe again
Because I love you
Because I care about you
Because I want you to be happy
Because you deserve to be treated that way.
AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO HELP ME?
Seriously, ask yourself:
WHAT DO YOU DO TO HELP ME?
TRACY B. RICHARDS
Tags: boundaries, childhood, Guilt, Scapegoat, Self-love, Shame, story, the daring way