Everything I’ve ever heard about communication in treatment is that you should always use “I statements.” You know the type: “When you do X, I feel Y.” That kind of communication has its advantages–for example, it’s supposed to make the conversation seem less confrontational. I’m sure there are a lot of situations where it helps defuse arguments because it keeps the people involved from feeling attacked.
Some of us, however, do it too much. It becomes a way of taking responsibility for other people’s hurtful actions, a way of apologizing for our feelings, a way of avoiding confrontations we need to have. It keeps us from saying, “You treated me badly, and I will not tolerate that.”
I was raised in an environment where most feelings, especially anger, weren’t allowed. If I displayed “bad” emotions, I was punished both physically and psychologically. My mother punished me even for looking at her with the wrong expression on my face. Growing up in that environment, I learned I had to apologize for my feelings.
Those of us who have had treatment for mental illness have often been taught that our emotional reactions are “symptoms” and therefore invalid. Everything we think, feel, and say gets pathologized. No one tells you this outright, but the implication is that we aren’t allowed to have feelings because we’re just crazy.
But now I’m an adult. I wont work with mental health treaters who invalidate my reactions, and I’ve gotten away from my family. I’m tired of apologizing for the way I feel. Sometimes, people need to be told in no uncertain terms that they have treated you badly and that it’s unacceptable. I don’t mean you have to be mean, just clear and assertive.
I statements deflate that. It makes the conversation about your reactions, not their bad behavior.
We may be crazy, but we still have every right to our reactions.