Saying No!

                         (And what happens when you don’t)


When I come to the end of my working week, it is often a very useful exercise before writing this blog to ask myself what theme stands out for me the most. The answer is always revealing it terms of where I am in my thinking, but it is not always so obvious. This week’s theme is clear and loud: The importance of saying No! It is particularly difficult (for many of us) to say no, but the consequences of not doing so can be dire both for ourselves and for our relationships with others. So, below are a few scripts of Nos that are often not said, but the impact is experienced deeply and can be long lasting.

                                                          Saying No to:

                       Going to the pub or cocktail bar and having one too many


Your friends love to be wasted together when you meet and now that you are all older and busier and some of you with families you meet less regularly, which makes it even more special. Drinking to oblivion is what you did together when you were young and what brought you closer, but also what sometimes broke you apart. It is easy to forget the (many) casualties of your partying together. You no longer drink so much in your everyday life, unless you are with these friends, but what you dread the most is the day after and how hard it will be to manage it. Yet, every time you see them, you end up forgetting all this, as nostalgia prevails.

Inner voice:

I will be unpopular, a party pooper, if I don’t have as many rounds. I will no longer feel close to them, if I don’t merge.

Longer term consequence:

You see these friends less and less, as you hardly ever have time for the day after the night before. In fact, you find yourself resenting them or feeling contemptuous of them.


                                                            Doing overtime


Everybody at your office is working long hours. This was a concern when you joined, as you had a young family. You were reassured that you could leave at a reasonable and predictable time. But now that you are there, you can see how working longer and longer hours, elevates people to a hero status within the company, it is the token for being appreciated. Those who clockwatch are just clerks, the true members of the team are those who are passionate enough not to ever have to look at the clock.

Inner voice:

You can never belong. You are a loner. You will never be accepted. Unless you push yourself over your limit, you will be a failure.

Longer term consequences:

Work feels like a tight rope around your neck rather than a terrain for your development. Your private life and those who matter in your life fall by the waysides.

                                             An excess of connection and care


You are not out to be a people pleaser, neither are you scared to voice your opinion and set limits when you feel you need to. However, there are just too many people, things, places, hobbies you connect with. You want to go deeper, to give more to these people, to travel to these places, to show your love and care. However, there is only one of you and limited time and other important needs such as sleeping and eating and most importantly, resting and, sometimes, doing nothing.

Inner voice:

If you do all these things that you love at once, if you give more and more, if you connect with all these people and these places, you may forget for a while the reality of death and loss and incapacitation (This is what Melanie Klein called a ‘manic defence’). You may get so much pleasure from the things you can do, that you will not face the losses that feel unbearable. I find that therapists and those working in the creative fields are particularly prone to this type of failure in saying No!

Long term consequences:

Depression always wins over a manic state of mind and the fall in

to gloom can be steep and long lasting!

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