There is, for most of us, nobody is better at “pushing our buttons” than our own family members. Typically, we grant this power to upset us to nobody outside our own family. When family members press our buttons, a normal part of every family dynamic, it can move from nuisance to especially problematic when dealing with recovery.
Can just a single telephone conversation with one your family members send you into an emotional tailspin that can last for hours or days? Does this speak to you?
I was thirty-five years old the first time I spoke up to my mother and refused to buy into her games and manipulation. I was terribly frightened and almost couldn’t believe I was doing this. I found I didn’t have to be mean. I didn’t have to start an argument. But I could say what I wanted and needed to say to take care of myself. I learned I could love and honor myself, and still care about my mother—the way I wanted to—not the way she wanted me to.
—Anonymous (Quoted from the book Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie)
When you are in recovery and family members press your buttons
Pressing the family buttons when we are more vulnerable. People in recovery are especially vulnerable. In recovery, you gain awareness of your cycle of actions, reactions and discomfort. This awareness and acceptance is part of what helps healing as we change and grow in recovery. It also makes us more vulnerable to family members pressing our buttons.
The process of detaching in love from family members can take years. So can the process of learning how to react in a more effective way. We cannot control what they do or try to do, but we can gain some sense of control over how we choose to react.
Stop trying to make them act or treat us any differently. Unhook from their system by refusing to try to change or influence them.
Their patterns, particularly their patterns with us, are their issues. How we react, or allow these patterns to influence us, is our issue. How we take care of ourselves is our issue.
We can love our family and still refuse to buy into their issues. We can love our family but refuse their efforts to manipulate, control, or produce guilt in us.
We can take care of ourselves with family members without feeling guilty. We can learn to be assertive with family members without being aggressive. We can set the boundaries we need and want to set with family members without being disloyal to the family.
We can learn to love our family without forfeiting love and respect for ourselves.
Today, help me start practicing self-care with family members. Help me know that I do not have to allow their issues to control my life, my day, or my feelings. Help me know it’s okay to have all my feelings about family members, without guilt or shame.
—Quoted from the book Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie.
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