April 25, 2009

Deadly Shoulds: "She should appreciate me for what I do for her."

(Note: This particular "she," while sparked by a recent incident, could fit any number of people in my life, past and present.)

"She should appreciate me for what I do for her."

Is it true?
No, she doesn't seem to.

How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought? I expect payback, or at least acknowledgment of how nice I've been. I want her to refuse my efforts if she's not going to appreciate me. I resent her, feel used, see her as taking advantage of my generosity. I see her as a taker, a sponge, even a psychopath, someone with no feelings. I am hurt and I make my hurt feelings abundantly clear by being passive-aggressive, nasty, whiny, needy.

Sometimes I do even more things for her to try to garner love and appreciation.

I treat people as if there's a contract: If I do something for you, you will fawn all over me and/or do something for me. You will always include me, think of me, be indebted to me.

I want to warn other people about her. I see her as unkind, unfit to be a friend, unfit to be with people and I want everyone to know.

I see myself as a martyr or a patsy, like someone who is not lovable unless they buy love. I beat myself up for being so naive. I stop trusting people. I consider revoking all friendships.

I don't give to her, or anyone, with an open heart and hand.

I discount everything she's ever done for me.

I regret ever having done anything for her.

The thought first occurred to me when, as a child, I excitedly bought gifts with my allowance for my parents on Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays...and if they didn't like the gifts I felt hurt, angry and regretting having sacrificed my time and money on them. I felt they were rejecting me personally.

I remember being kind and nice to other children at summer camp, and then they turned on me or left me out.

Underlying belief: People should be grateful. It's wrong to receive without giving. I need people to be loyal to me. I need to be included.

Why do I hold this belief? To protect myself, so that she and others won't ever walk on me, disappoint me or leave me out again (though it doesn't appear to be helping as I had two more incidences of such things within a week's time).

Who would I be without that thought? No regrets Remembering how great it felt to do things for her, to give her something, to include her, prior to the thought that I needed something back. I would be my generous and open-hearted self and we'd still be friends. I'd notice that whenever I have done anything for anyone, I have done it primarily for myself. I would therefore not hesitate to continue to be kind and generous to others without trying to secure my future with them.

Turn the thought around:

She shouldn't appreciate me for what I do for her.
1. Not if she doesn't. I can't micro-manage anyone else's behavior towards me.
2. Not if I did things for her with ulterior motives.
3. Her not appreciating me leaves me with myself to validate me.

I should appreciate myself for what I do for her.
1. Yes, truer; I should love myself for giving and doing when I know to do that, when I do it out of love.
2. I should appreciate myself for knowing that this person does not always reciprocate or even acknowledge what comes to her, and yet not going against my giving nature and continuing to be generous with her even when I felt hurt.
3. I should pat myself on the back for doing what I did for my mother for the rest of her life after my father died; it was the most difficult thing I ever did, "unappreciative" is an understatement for how she was, and I knew it was the right thing and rose to the occasion.

I should appreciate her for what she does for me.
1. I should appreciate her for not appreciating me. It really shows me where my Achilles' heel is and where I have work to do.
2. I should appreciate the many ways she has encouraged me and held my feet to the fire when I was too tired, sad or righteous to do my inner work
3. I should appreciate her for inviting me to and showing me around her hometown, introducing me to some of her friends, arranging meetings for us, teaching me some great exercises, sending me photographs, driving me places...the list goes on. I haven't always appreciated these things and in fact expected some of them as my due.

I should appreciate her for what she does for herself.
1. Not only do I appreciate it, I'm jealous of it. She is really independent and self-sufficient, needs no one.
2. Because she does things for herself, she is low-maintenance, a great house guest for example.
3. I should appreciate that after I did something for her, she was done with me and thought only of herself and her desires, because it was unmistakeably what I needed. It really turned out okay; I was shown a lot of love and affection and caring that week and also had some good alone-time to see things about myself and my assumptions that I really needed to see.

©2009 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.


Jon said...

Hi Carol,

Was thinking about this concept of "appreciation" while out running this morning.

Playing with Q4, "who would I be without the concept of 'appreciation' in my life / in this world?"

Realizing how life would seem easier, lighter, not looking for it from others, but also not feeling a pressure to give it either, to myself or others.

Then I got thinking about what the opposite of 'appreciation' is.... denigration, depreciation?

Going into the turnarounds:

She should denigrate/depreciate me - as if it is being done deliberately, for my own good - like some kind of Zen master smacking me behind the knees :-)

Just thoughts.

Marianne said...

My Christmas gift this year was finding out my attachment to the thought: I should be included. I found this gift when I was invited to a party (I was thrilled) and then UNinvited the next day by the same person via phonecall (I was devastated). I couldn't enjoy the rest of my holiday with my boys. I cried and complained to my husband who patiently listened. After some time has passed, I see that I was spared spending time with someone who really didn't want me in her house...I feel a little bit more grown up now.

I also want to say that I think you have a generous and kind open heart and I appreciate all that you give to me ~
You are my rock star of love.

Carol L. Skolnick said...

Jon - just thoughts, all of it. Of course!

Marianne - well, it happened again this morning on a smaller scale. Friends wanted to see me today, they said. They asked, do I want to go to church with them? Afterwards they're going to another place. I understood this as an invitation to join them, which it turns out it wasn't. I want to see them and I'm interested in the other place, not so much the church. I said I'd go with them to church and do the other thing as well. Today they inform me I'm only invited to church, that they made plans with another friend to do the other thing. Why wouldn't they want me there as well? I have no idea, not my business. If I hadn't done this work I might have said, okay, I'll go to church with you (which to me is not really a visit), and find my own way home, and I'd have then been upset with them for leaving me out of the "good stuff." I realized this morning that this wasn't what I wanted at all, and if they really want to see me, we can figure out something else another time that feels better to both of us.