"Biting Back takes a compelling look at self-care, setting boundaries, and protecting ourselves from friends, loved ones, enemies, and sometimes even ourselves. Written in a page-turning and warm style, Claudia’s refreshing addition to the self-help shelves offers empowering solutions to effectively remind us to stop inviting troubleinto our homes and souls." -- MELODY BEATTIE, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF CODEPENDENT NO MORE


Necessary Lengths, Part 1


I have a vampire in my life that I think I'm trying to get to "see herself," but let me tell you what I mean: She may ask me to help clean her attic -- something I don't really want to do -- but as the very willing host, I try to get her to take the hint by doing these things:

  • holding my back as if to say "see how hard I've worked and maybe I should stop?
  • "Man, look at the time, I haven't had dinner yet, I better go home", etc.

I think that comments and gestures like this should get my point across, like, "See what you're doing to me? Haven't I done enough to help you?" But it's not terribly effective.

What are some words to use to this vampire?

Nothing is more draining and futile than waiting around for a vampire to take a hint. Just imagine someone trying to get a vampire off his neck by saying something like, "You know, I'm really starting to lose a lot of blood here..." Yeah, that's going to work! Because the vampire cares so much.

There are lots of reasons for not wanting to be straight with our vampires: maybe we don't like confrontations, or we're afraid they won't like us any more; maybe we feel sorry for them, or we're afraid they'll get mad at us. Perhaps we have an image of ourselves as "generous" that we don't want compromised, or we have an exaggerated sense of responsibility and power. I myself have a fear of getting yelled at by vampires -- they can be so scary! Whatever.

No matter what the reason for offering gestures and excuses instead of just telling them the truth, the fact of the matter is:

Vampires don’t take hints. It’s their special gift.

They are immune to innuendo.

And, for you who think they can still find a way around it, I'll add this:

100% of the time. Always and forever.

Here are some sentence starters that WILL NOT SUCCEED in getting the vampire off our backs:

  • I'm not sure...
  • I don't think...
  • I have to...
  • I can't...
Now, what do all these sentence-starters have in common? They do not engage the speakers will. We'll talk more about that in a second.

But first, here are some gestures that WILL NOT SUCCEED in getting the vampire out of our homes:

  • Starting dinner/picking up and dusting around the vampire
  • Looking at the clock/making references to things that will be happening "soon"
  • Getting ready for bed/talking about how early you have to get up in the morning
  • Turning on the television/intently watching the television
  • Taking phone calls/making phone calls
  • Seeming not to listen/showing no interest in the vampire
And what do all these gestures have in common? Right: They are indirect, nonspecific, open to interpretation.

Okay, that's it for today. I'll be back tomorrow with Part 2, to talk about the stuff that DOES SUCCEED.


jennifer said...

I think politeness can be used as an excuse for not taking the responsibility for our own feelings. If you are worried about hurting someone else's feelings, then you could also ask yourself, Is this person huring MY feelings?

Thanks for the specifics. The very direct language you advocate doesn't seem rude to me, when I read it: it seems very polite, but also very honest.

PVS said...

Yes, I have a Watcher who says, "Either I can have the resentment, or they can. Who's it going to be?"