Monday, April 25, 2011

"I'm Feeling Used."

"A member of my home group only ever calls when she wants a favour, and I'm feeling used.  I feel guilty if I say no, and anyway, a family member of hers only just passed. Any ideas?"

As a recovering rampant people-pleaser myself, this rings a chord with me. I've spent many hours helping people I wasn't even sure I liked, do things which bored me senseless, ate up my time off, and left me seething with silent resentment and frustration. Before Al-Anon, I was a profoundly conflicted person - the inner "true me," at war with the outer facade. I carried that facade like a shield held out in front of me, in the erroneous belief that it effectively hid my feelings. I hadn't an inkling that my anger was easily discernible, and I was a champion sulker.

I was in Al-Anon for quite a few years before I began to understand that I agreed to favours I didn't want to do, not because at heart I was a "nice person," but from fear. I was afraid that were I to refuse, I would spark someone's anger, be disliked or rejected. I had no understanding of what was reasonable for another person to ask of me, and no concept of appropriate behavior.

If I was trying to reason this out, I'd break it down into 3 separate areas:

1. I feel used.
2. I feel guilty when I say no.
3. I think I should agree, because this person has just suffered a personal loss.

1. Is this person trying to take advantage of me? How many times has she called to ask me to do her a favour? Once, twice. a dozen? Does she ever call me to talk, or is there always a request that I do something?
Am I feeling resentful about something else in our relationship, and this is how it's manifesting itself, or is the relationship consisting entirely of favours asked and granted?
Have I said to this person, "Call me if you need anything" and now that she's taken me at my word, and calling, I'm wishing I hadn't extended that promise of help? Perhaps I need to be more careful in saying that sort of thing, if I don't really mean it.

I've had to learn to sit on my hands, and keep my mouth firmly closed, so that I don't volunteer to do whatever it is, from unhealthy motives. I want to offer from a sincere desire to help.

2. Am I feeling guilty because I believe that I "should" want to help, and I don't? Do I believe that if I don't want to help, this makes me a bad person? Am I putting the other person's needs above my own, and then resenting them for my  choices?

I was raised in a family culture steeped in guilt; it was used to modify behavior, and motivate choices. In Al-Anon, I have learned that I can live with a little bit of residual guilt. What I don't want to live with, is the resentment I feel when I allow guilt to make my choices for me.

3. Does a personal loss make someone more deserving of help?  The death of a loved one is a massive earthquake - it rocks us to our foundations, shatters our feelings of safety, and changes our personal landscape in ways no-one who hasn't experienced it can imagine.
Any support, shoring up, reinforcement and help we receive, is a powerful statement of love, and one much needed at that time.

I believe it's acceptable to loosen our boundaries a bit in the area of favours asked and granted, to allow us to help out someone who is grieving. If we've had serious difficulties with boundaries with this person in the past, have finally established some that seem to be holding, and now fear they will collapse, and we won't be able to get them up again, that's a different matter.

We need to do what is going to work best for us. If we can't, we can't. Let go of our concerns about what other people will think of us, and turn it over to our Higher Power.

I need to be clear that "I don't want to do this" is a good enough reason, and I also  need to be sure that I can live comfortably with whatever choices I make.

I pray to be loving, without becoming a doormat. I pray to find it within me to give what I can, and accept when I can't, without lashing myself for my perceived inadequacies.


  1. Thanks for this post; hit home with me today.

  2. I have learned to say No. And I feel no guilt about not trying to be super human. I simply cannot be all things to all people.

  3. I don't have a problem saying no for some reason(well there are always awkward situations that make it hard to say no). I do feel guilty sometimes but I just seen so many people get the life sucked out of them by users.

    I myself try my best not to be a user either. I think I was at one point but not intentionally. I just thought "if they didn't want to they would say no." Little did I realize most people don't like to say no. Now, I often tell people who I ask a favor form "please feel free to say no. I don't want to pressure you. I will have no hard feelings." Though I still think people still say yes even when they don't want too. I try to be sensitive to that.

  4. I am not new to al-anon fact is I have been around for many years,in and out ,my son is drinking ,allot and then my wife started back up and left me for another guy,over Christmas,she spent new years in his arms .I guess ,I spent it all alone .Im 58 years old I had ,thought sometime to just relax .not so I have been stuck right back thinking like I did 38 years ago ,,I guess this time I do have some tools to help me through this.