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The Pain of Saying No

Updated: May 22, 2020

For anyone who is highly sensitive, empathic, or who was simply groomed to please as most of us are in this culture, the pain of saying no is real.  I bring this up because in the spiritual community we don’t really talk about this much. We talk about the NEED to say no and have firm boundaries and that having firm boundaries is the key to a healthy sense of self and self love.  Yet, what is often missed in this picture is that when you are sensitive and you feel the pain or displeasure of others, saying no after a lifetime of saying yes most of the time to people's requests no matter how big or small is excruciatingly painful.  Someone reading this could say, “You don’t actually feel pain from saying no, come on.” But for me, saying no to someone I deeply love or someone that I know is going to have a really hard time from me saying no actually DOES feel painful. It can hurt deep in my chest, like a hand literally grabbing my heart and squeezing it.  

As someone that has been psychic and empathic my entire life, being sensitive and sensitive to the needs of others has been a blessing and a curse.  I understand things many people don’t about people, and can sense whatever it is they are going through without them even having to explain. Yet, what that means is that I can feel their pain as if it were my own.  And in many cases, especially in relationships, when you can feel someone's pain so viscerally, you want to do anything you can do so that they don't have to feel that pain. Usually that means compromising yourself, meaning your body, your needs, your voice, your preferences, your likes and dislikes- for theirs.  Yet when we do this- compromise our truth and our authenticity for someone else, a part of us becomes hidden from ourselves. The subtle denial of what it is that we truly want, creates a schism between what it is that we want others to see, or what we want the world to see that is more desirable versus what we ACTUALLY desire, which in many cases goes against the grain or at least the mainstream.

This can be described in several different ways, as beginning to create better boundaries, paying attention to YOUR needs instead of constantly paying attention to the needs of others, and simply saying NO.  Yet, what I am interested in focusing this article on is shining the light on the pain that comes with saying No to someone you love, because this is where the transformation of ourselves and where we can begin to return and rewild ourselves.  

Why is this process so painful?  Saying No, shouldn't it be simple, cut and dry, black and white?  You don't want to do something, so you say No right? That easy! Nope.  This has literally been one of the most painful lessons of my life, and I believe experiencing the pain and moving through it is part of the rewilding process, as pain itself is wild.  And to return to pure essence within us, we must dive head first into it our own darkness.

If we go beneath the “should's” of self-love and conscious awareness, and dig a little deeper, what we are essentially asking ourselves to do is to choose ourselves over someone else.  This shouldn’t be so hard either, right? Well if we dig a little deeper into that choice, We really have to come face to face with how we truly have been treating ourselves i.e. how we have been programmed by the collective culture, family, partners, friends, television, religion, etc.  to feel about ourselves. This is where the pain of what I am talking about reveals itself.

Because when you dig deep into this, and you ask yourself these questions, one may begin to realize that they don’t even know who they really are.  This is fucking painful. When you have created an identity that you show the world (your mask) and suppress your wildness (authenticity), your identity becomes that mask.  The USA is a culture of masks. It's a culture of striving, perfection, and competition that is inexhaustible and leads one astray from their deepest, purest, most potent desires.   Yet the more awake and aware you are you can feel that something is off. It reveals itself through the anxiety you feel constantly, the depression you feel, the deep pressure, the judgement you have of yourself and others, the anger you feel.  

This can create an entire breakdown of the psyche and soul.  So many of us have lived our lives in order to please others, simply put.  It is encouraged in our culture, especially for women. Under a system that was founded under institutionalized patriarchy (religion) the entire fabric of the culture at large is one of living a life ‘judged’ by God, an external force that is deemed Male, that is outside of ourselves.  Women and men are both victim to this system, as it has forced everyone to conform to an ideal that is never truly ever able to be met within any kind of true health. Within this system if men are too sensitive they are called “pussy's” and deemed weak and therefore worthless, and women are made to be subservient and in service without being overly aggressive.

Why is it that those that are the most “successful” in our culture, that have the highest paying jobs, celebrity, purpose, beautiful families, and attractive mates are on several different kinds of antidepressants, anxiety medications, and that have to take tranquilizers and xanax in order to appropriately function?  Why is it that those that have what seems like a seamless ‘mask’ are the ones that are suffering so intensely on the inside? These are the people that are contemplating suicide, battling depression, and processing crippling anxiety. This is the shadow, its the polarization of what we present to the world, and the manipulation and repression of what our soul actually yearns to express.  The wider the gap is between what it is we may actually want, and the life we are living in order to please others, the more intense the shadow becomes.

The pain of saying no comes from this history, it comes from a deeply rooted culture of “should's” in order to be deemed worthy, and “good.”  In this history if we operate from our souls, and are true to our own individual wildness we are wrong, selfish, ugly, unworthy. The time has come on this planet where these old structures and paradigms are now dissolving.  Women and men that have fell victim to this system are learning what it means to say no. Yet, we are in the middle of something, where the old is dissolving and the new is emerging so many of us are waking up to realize we may not really know who we are underneath all the “should's.”  

The best piece of advice I can give anyone that may be going through something like this is to allow yourself the time and space to grieve for your wild soul.  One cannot simply move forward after a lifetime of should's to all of a sudden stopping them and changing course. The more we allow ourselves to honor our process the better it is.  Serious grieving needs to happen, for the person that you have been putting away for so many years. It may come out as anger, it may come out as sadness, it may come out as apathy, however it comes out, acknowledging it and sitting with it helps to work through it.  What do I mean by “sitting with it?” I mean that sitting in a place where you feel the feelings of a time when you said yes but really wanted to say no, and allowing yourself to completely enter that memory and the feeling you had while doing that thing. It can be big or small depending on what you are ready for.  I want you to feel the resistance you had in yourself, the piece of you that felt kind of icky, like you knew in a way you were betraying yourself but had no idea how to move otherwise. I want you to feel the feelings of not wanting to disappoint that person, and how that feeling overtook the need to say no. Feel that ickiness in all of that, dive into it.  This is the part of ourselves that we have put to the side, that we stuffed into the shadows, that we forsake, and only by remembering it and remembering the times we could feel it calling to us can we begin to rewild ourselves and remember who we truly are.

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