The Power of Naming
Heal Your Life Blog
The Power of Naming
If you watched my newest PBS special, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, you heard me talk about the power of naming your needs. Here’s an excerpt from the revised edition of my book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom that gives you a little bit more information on this important topic.
A first step toward making a positive change in your life or your health is to name your current experience and allow yourself to feel it fully—that means emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Back in the 1980s, it was crucial for me to see how often I used the caretaker and rescuer role as a way to get my need for recognition and reward met. It was crucial for me to name this behavior “relationship addiction.” Before I did this, I looked to others to affirm me and tell me that I was okay. I took their cues for how to act, feel, and look; I was always seeing myself in terms of other people. I believed that if I said no to someone who needed me, I wouldn’t be valued and loved. Looking back over my life, I see not only how persistent this pattern has been but also how much it has improved through insight and behavior change. My own life and health have improved enormously as a result of naming and changing this behavior. Simple. Not easy.
I came to see that my tendency to rescue people in need, my acquiescence to others, and my saying yes to everyone came out of my attempt to exercise a form of control: I believed that if I said yes, I would earn their love and approval. This wasn’t good either for me or for them, since by putting myself in the position of being other people’s rescuer, a substitute for their own higher power or inner guidance, I allowed them to remain out of touch with their own strengths. My behavior actually helped to create victims who needed me. Now when someone says he or she needs me, a red ﬂag immediately goes up. I wait, check out the situation, and see what my inner guidance tells me before I decide how to respond. I’ve learned that if my answer is not an immediate and joyful yes, then almost always it should be a no.