Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"You are unwilling to change"

This piece is the second in a series called "The language of Mercy".  Please click on this link to read my disclaimer.

Throughout my recovery, I have benefited immensly from various cognitive therapies as well as improving my communication skills through boundary awareness.

CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) helped me to become aware of faulty thinking patterns.[1]  Among them are mind reading (assuming another's motives or thoughts), "black-and-white" thinking (polarised good/evil, all/nothing mindsets) and emotional reasoning ("i feel ______ so strongly that it must be true").[2]

Healthy and functional communication involves being able to share the impact of another's behaviour, or hear the impact of your behaviour, in a mutual, boundary-respecting way that is free of emotional manipulation or control.  Using "I" statements ensures that we take ownership of our own thoughts, feelings, beliefs and wishes when expressing them to another.  Healthy communication is clean in that it distinguishing between objective observation and subjective experience of that observation so as not to enmesh the two.

When communicating, a person with healthy boundaries might say "when I did not see you look in my direction when I said "hello", i felt sad" rather than "you made me feel sad when you deliberately ignored me".

A highly respected book called "Boundaries"[3] written by two Christian psychologists taught me that I was entitled to my own thoughts, feelings and opinions, and for those to be interfered with or overridden by another's subjective experience (for example, an accusation of having a particular thought/feeling/motive) would constitute a violation of my boundaries.  This book also discussed manipulation and what this might look like in various settings.  Ironically, we worked through this book and its study companion as part of group therapy at Mercy Ministries.

"You are unwilling to change"

In this piece, I discuss the dysfunctional and oppressive nature of the communication style used by Mercy Ministries staff which can be captured in the phrase "you are unwilling to change".