I’m Beth Daniel Jones, founder of Healing Solutions. I was chronically ill approximately 17 years ago; once my health improved I started doing this work. One thing that I’ve noticed is that among people with chronic health problems there is an inability to consciously say ‘no’ and set boundaries with others, as well as accept boundaries from others. We all have our ways of saying ‘no’, even if we don’t use words. One of the patterns I’ve seen in my clients over the years, including myself when I was ill, is people with chronic illness are some of the nicest, kindest people on the planet. They never say ‘no’ to anything. Of course, it contributes to making them sick, but they say ‘yes’ to everything and keep no sacred space for themselves.
As my husband, a former clinical psychologist, reminded me, we all say ‘no’ one way or another. It may be in the form of chronic migraines, stomachaches, rashes, etc. ‘No’ can be said with a plethora of symptoms. Why does this happen? I think that many times as children we were invaded somehow – it could have been abuse, molestation, or control by a parent who was highly critical. The child had the feeling that it was never okay to say ‘no’ and it didn’t feel safe saying ‘no’. The child wanted to say ‘no’, but couldn’t, so the only alternative was to say ‘no’ with symptoms such as those previously mentioned.
If you say ‘yes’ to everyone around you all the time, you’re saying ‘no’ to yourself. You should set boundaries with your words and say ‘no’. It is difficult because many of us are kind, loving, gentle, sensitive people that have gotten the message that saying ‘no’ is mean. We get this message from society, sometimes religion, or our families – “You’re not supposed to say ‘no’ to anything.” Well, if we don’t verbally say ‘no’, we’ll do it in other ways. We need to practice setting boundaries and saying ‘no’. I educate all of my clients with chronic health issues on this subject because it is probably the most critical issue in healing from an emotional perspective.
The other part of this topic is being able to accept boundaries. If I’m really special in my illness and that’s my only identity, I have a hard time with people saying ‘no’ to me. It’s like “Hey I’m sick. I’m really special. You can’t say ‘no’ to me. I can’t accept your ‘no’. I can’t accept your boundary because if I do I’m not good, and then I feel like there’s something wrong with me.” This whole subject of boundaries needs to be flipped on its head so that accepting saying ‘no’ is healthy. However, remember that if you are the one saying ‘no’, it needs to be done in a loving way. You don’t want to act like a jerk when you say ‘no’; that’s not healthy either. Say ‘no’ in a loving way and lovingly accept boundaries from other people. It is necessary and required for the healing of chronic illness. Thank you.